Mia Sharp’s personality is as bright as her cotton candy blue and electric neon pink hair. But even without the avant-garde wig she’s wearing, it wouldn’t be hard to spot the high school junior or feel the energy radiating from her when she smiles.
“It’s just motivational,” Mayra Sharp, Mia’s mother said. “She just reminds you that you can’t let this thing bring your life to a stop.”
That “thing” Sharp is talking about is cancer. 16-year-old Mia is battling pilocytic astrocytoma, or a brain tumor. It’s inoperable but that hasn’t broken her spirit or deterred her from playing tennis and managing to sing in a blues band through treatment.
“She’s not shy. She likes for girls to accept themselves for who they are and that’s part of her,” Sharp said.
That confidence was clear as Mia took the stage to model for the Visible Changes’ artistic team during the salon’s Fashion for a Passion gala October 15.
I was proud to be a part of the event as an emcee. The gala, held at Momentum BMW Southwest, was the company’s first fundraiser aimed at expanding its Thair For You program – a free service that gives any woman fighting cancer, regardless of whether she’s a client, a custom wig that is styled to fit her. According to Visible Changes co-founder, Maryanne McCormack, the salon has given more than 2,000 wigs since it started in 2011 and last year alone helped more than 750 women.
McCormack knows first-hand the value of feeling beautiful inside and out. In 2009, McCormack was diagnosed with cancer. That’s when she got the idea for Thair For You.
McCormack is now cancer-free and so is long-time Visible Changes client, Olivia Kaufman, who found out she had stage 2 breast cancer last year when she was just 26-years-old.
“When you get diagnosed with cancer you feel as though you’ve lost control of everything that’s happening in your life,” Kaufman says. “You’ve got a disease in your body that you can’t control. There are things changing, things happening to your body that you can’t stop.”
But one day helped change that, putting her on the path to getting her power back. Kaufman says she was sitting in the chemo infusion chair when a Visible Changes logo caught her eye. It was part of a poster describing Thair For You.
The next day she called her stylist at the salon that cut off 16 inches of her hair, which was donated.
“I was really scared about being bald, but they made me feel beautiful when it felt impossible,” Kaufman says.
Kaufman told me she has the same genetic mutation, BRCA1, as Angelina Jolie Pitt, who had a preventive double mastectomy.
As a breast cancer survivor, Kaufman says she’s now raising awareness by encouraging people – especially those with a family history of cancer – to get tested for the disease earlier in life.
Kaufman shared her story at the inaugural gala, which raised a little over $19,000. All proceeds went to Thair For You. To find out more about the program, go here.
The fundraiser also included a fashion show with looks provided by Sloan/Hall, who was also a sponsor.
All photography is courtesy of Kristen Eide. Click here to learn more.