Elizabeth Hurley has been wearing the pink ribbon almost as long as there has been a pink ribbon. The actress and model signed on as the face of Estée Lauder 18 years ago, only two years after Evelyn Lauder and then-Self magazine editor Alexandra Penney made the ribbon an international symbol of a disease that will effect 1 in 9 Canadian women in their lifetime. Hurley has been travelling the world, as she does each October, to keep raising awareness about early detection, as well as supporting Estée Lauder’s fundraising efforts, including the Evelyn Lauder and Elizabeth Hurley Dream Lip Collection–a pink snakeskin print clutch containing a Pure Color Lipstick and Gloss. We met Hurley at The Bay Queen Street in Toronto, where she sat down with us–wearing pink lace–to talk research funding, 20 years of the pink ribbon, and where she finds all her pink dresses.
You’re in pink again, today. I imagine you’re in pink all October
“I have a massive pink closet and we go through it every year where we pull out tops and we add to it. Some years, designers don’t do a lot of pink so we’re always begging people, ‘Could you make that dress in pink it’s for a very good cause!’ And they do actually. They’re very supportive.”
What’s new in the rotation this year?
“This is Monique Lhuillier. We’re wearing two of her dresses. The people at Michael Kors are always very supportive. [Roberto] Cavalli have been very kind to us this year. Sometimes we just pick stuff out from the high street, and just mix stuff into it, which is great.”
What’s your involvement with Estée Lauder’s breast cancer initiatives?
“Well most of our activities are based raising funds and raising awareness and they’re both equally important to us. So, when we go on a tour like this–the Global Illumination Program–[it] is awareness for women. Giving away the pink ribbons–122 million to date by the Estée Lauder companies–is part of our awareness campaign but at the same time we’re raising funds.”
Tell me about the lip gloss.
“It is that little pot of lip gloss there is called Pink Innocence and it’s, I mean just beautiful. This is the first time I’ve been honoured with a pot, normally I get a stick. It’s a great Christmas gift, it’s a great spoil yourself gift, and 20 per cent goes to help save lives, so it’s a good one.”
This year marks 20 years of the pink ribbon, but it seems like a bittersweet milestone.
“It’s very hard for us this year because we don’t have our founder Evelyn Lauder with us. She was such a driving force throughout the years. She really, really sort of gave the last 20 years of her life to breast cancer–raising awareness; raising funds. She started the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which has raised more than 380 million dollars. It’s an A-star rated charity and there aren’t very many of them. Which means that 91 cents of every dollar goes straight into research in this case, which is a phenomenal achievement.”
How has the awareness changed in your 18 years with the campaign? “When I started, there wasn’t much awareness. It was new. And Evelyn told me that she was so impressed and inspired by other activists working for other charities and work they did and she just said there’s just no one doing anything for women and women are dying. And even today 1.3 million women around the world will be diagnosed with breast cancer per year. So there’s still a very long way to go, but massive progress has been made in the years that I’ve been with the foundation. And they tell us that the only standing between today and a day where women have stopped dying of breast cancer is funding. So we need more funds.”
What else have you seen over the 18 years? “I’ve met many women who have had breast cancer, they haven’t all survived but many of them have. And in fact, at the lighting the of the Empire State Building two days ago, some Estée Lauder employees were very brave, they all came and stood up on the podium with us before the world’s press to say ‘I’ve survived breast cancer.’ I don’t think 20 years ago a group of employees would stand up publicly to talk about breast cancer, because people were quite rightly scared of it. But now there’s so much available information at everybody’s finger tips that I think women are being empowered by the knowledge that they can now get, and knowing that they stand so much stronger a change of survival if their tumors are found and treated earlier. We really hope that it’s made a difference.”
The Evelyn Lauder Dream Lip Collection, $35, is available at the Bay, Holt Renfrew, Murale, Sears and esteelauder.ca.