Jewel teams with ASPS to educate, empower women in need of breast reconstruction

Mike Stokes
07/26/2012 at 10:00AM

Editor's note: This is a corrected version of the article that appears in the July/August print edition of Plastic Surgery News, which incorrectly identifies the local charitable organization, Breastoration, to receive funds from the benefit concert in New Orleans.

Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Jewel will perform a benefit concert on Oct. 29 during Plastic Surgery The Meeting in New Orleans with proceeds donated to The Plastic Surgery Foundation and several breast reconstruction organizations. The event is part of a new partnership between Jewel and ASPS, in which the performer will also serve as the national spokesperson for the inaugural National Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day on Oct. 17.

"We are thrilled that Jewel will be lending her time, talent and humanitarian spirit to National BRA Day," says ASPS President Malcolm Z. Roth, MD. "We feel that her passionate voice will help bring awareness to this important cause, and inspire women who are on the road to recovery and a full life beyond breast cancer."

Plastic Surgery News contacted Jewel, who is currently filming the title role in The June Carter Cash Story for Lifetime Television, to discuss her new role as a spokesperson, the song she wrote specifically for the breast reconstruction campaign, and her upcoming concert during the annual meeting in New Orleans.

PSN: The general public often associates "plastic surgery" with cosmetic procedures, though many who have been helped through breast reconstruction and other procedures are keenly aware of the breadth of the specialty. When you were approached by ASPS to participate in a public education/advocacy campaign, what were your initial thoughts?

Jewel: It is such an honor to be a part of a campaign that will help improve the lives of women through education and awareness. I was shocked to hear that 70 percent of women who are eligible for breast reconstruction surgery are not properly informed of their options; therefore, [as few as] 20 percent of survivors who undergo mastectomy currently choose to have reconstructive surgery.

PSN: What makes raising awareness of breast reconstruction options important to you - and what do you hope will be the impact of your work on behalf of this cause?

Jewel: Cancer doesn't discriminate and women must do all they can to be their own health care advocates. The way to do this is to be informed of the options that are available. I hope that women will become part of this campaign by empowering themselves with information on this topic and gaining a better understanding of a survivor's options for reconstructive surgery.

PSN: So many families are impacted by breast cancer that, for many women, the possibility of developing the disease is often considered more of a "when" than an "if." With that in mind, do you see events like BRA Day as empowering for breast cancer survivors?

Jewel: Any time you take the initiative to learn more and fully understand a disease, you absolutely become empowered. That is what BRA Day is all about - empowerment through education.

PSN: Your life story is fascinating - from growing up in Alaska to living in a van as a struggling musician. How important were those experiences to honing your craft?

Jewel: Growing up in Alaska was a beautiful experience, but was definitely a rustic lifestyle! We only ate what we could can or kill, used a coal stove for heat and had an outhouse (with quite an amazing view of the Alaskan mountains). Being raised on a homestead in Homer taught me so much about life. In my late teens, a turn of unfortunate events left me jobless and homeless, living on the streets. You learn a lot about yourself and your character from struggle, and overcoming that struggle really reveals parts of yourself you never even knew existed. Just like your past, your struggle is a part of you. Those experiences impact your art in countless ways.

PSN: Many plastic surgeons relate to author Malcolm Gladwell's "10,000-hour rule" (10,000 hours of practice is required to become a master of any craft, which the author also applied to musicians in his book Outliers). What were the most influential periods among the countless hours you spent performing on stage and writing songs?

Jewel: I really believe you become a master at your craft by practice, practice and more practice. I started singing in bars and hotels with my parents when I was six years old - becoming a full duet with my dad at eight. That was when I started my education on how to entertain by reading and engaging a crowd. I still do that at shows to this day. I rarely make a set list before a show because not doing so allows the performance to be a live musical dialogue between the audience and myself. It makes the whole experience a journey that we share together, and for me that is the most special part about performing. But you can only hone that skill with lots of practice!

PSN: The song you wrote in honor of breast reconstruction awareness, "Flower," is incredibly moving. Can you talk a little bit about your creative process in writing that song?

Jewel: "Flower" is such a personal song to me, and it fits this campaign in such a special way. Often words and music develop at the same time through melody, much like this song did. The song is really about overcoming obstacles with grace, dignity and courage - and out of that transformation and struggle is pure beauty.

The lyrics say:
Challenges don't define her/
She is shaped by how she carries on/
Says this is her opportunity to decode/
Grow into the type of woman she wants to become/
And so with gratitude and the strength of humility/
She transforms pain into victory, digging her roots deep

Photo by Lynda ChurillaPSN: Of the songs you've written, what is your favorite to perform?

Jewel: Ah - impossible to pick a favorite! It's like picking a favorite child. Too hard to say, but there are a few songs that I perform at nearly every show and one of my favorites is the song "Foolish Games." Vocally, it's a challenging song, but I really love singing it every time. It's the type of song that can have an impact either with only an acoustic guitar or an entire 60-piece orchestra.

PSN: What was your favorite song to write?

Jewel: Again, so hard to say! I think lyrically the song "That's What I'd Do," which is one of the songs on my family/lullaby album series with Fisher-Price. I wrote the song for Kase, my son who's nearly a year old now. This fall it will be released as a children's picture book. Seeing the music and lyrics come to life as a beautifully illustrated children's book has been an amazing experience. I fell in love with the song in a whole new way.

PSN: What are your thoughts on performing during Plastic Surgery The Meeting in New Orleans?

Jewel: I hope that by being a part of this campaign more women will become educated on this issue and thus empowered. I'm thrilled that as part of the fundraising initiative, the campaign will be raising money for Breastoration, an organization doing amazing work by providing reconstructive surgery to those who cannot afford it.

PSN: You're currently on the set filming a biopic about June Carter Cash - is she a role model of yours?

Jewel: It was a huge honor and challenge to play June in this film. She deserves to have her story told and from her point of view. She was a talented writer, singer, comedian and performer in her own right - in addition to being a mother, daughter and wife - and this story is really hers. The best part about playing June was the physical transformation. The dark hair and blue contacts made it so very real from day one on the set. And for once in my life I had straight teeth!

For further details or to purchase tickets for the intimate benefit concert "An Evening with Jewel" at the New Orleans Convention Center on Oct. 29, visit the Ticketmaster website.

Photo credits: Jewel with flowers photo by Lynda Churilla

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