28-year-old, Chicago native, Ashleigh Cortes is no stranger to cancer. Her late grandmother, a former Michigan Ave. luxury spa owner battled esophageal cancer. Ashleigh watched as her grandmother often remarked about the beauty products offered. Saying, “I will not use this dollar store lotion in here filled with chemicals. My hair is falling out, my nails have discoloration. I need my products from the spa.” From there, she and her grandmother bonded over beauty and self-care.
Following her passing in 2016, Ashleigh and her mother thought of what women with cancer needed. One that came to mind, was the need to feel beautiful. She then created beauty boxes, with all-natural products, and launched Stay Beautiful Foundation.
Ashleigh says that she is very mindful about what goes into each box. She said, “At the end of every year, we put together a campaign list. From there, we create different themes for the boxes that are going to our Beauties each month. Each box considers all the products that would be helpful to a woman. Both during her treatments or wherever she is on her cancer journey.”
To date, the Stay Beautiful Foundation has grown to 400 subscribers or “Beauties”. And has partnered with over ten health and wellness brands. Which include Vital Proteins, Milk Makeup, TGIN Foundation, Orange Theory Fitness, and Poo-Pourri. Of these partnerships, Ashleigh said that one of her most memorable ones is Lululemon.
“Due to the pandemic, we were unable to have our traditional packing party. So we shifted gears, and Lululemon sponsored us for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Both Black women breast cancer survivors and those undergoing treatment had a day of shopping at their Lincoln Park store. After that, they had a photoshoot called “Share your story, share your scars.” The women took topless photos which were later posted in the cafe of that store. So that was a powerful and strong campaign.”
Ashleigh also said, “Going beyond the box is also understanding the statistics. Black women are 42% more likely to die of breast cancer than any other ethnic group. That is a huge healthcare disparity. So with that partnership, we were able to share our mission with their consumers. More importantly, we shared the stories of Black women who have battled breast cancer.”
With the onset of COVID, Ashleigh was unsure of how safely continue to deliver the beauty boxes. Due to the vulnerable population that she works with, she wanted to take all safety measures. So she shifted from sending boxes to increasing her online presence. Of this change, she has been able to, “create an online community of women who have been affected by cancer.”
“One of the greatest impacts is being able to see someone’s story and be inspired. Something that we implemented during this time, is our “Takeover Tuesday.” These segments follow a day in the life of one of our Beauties. There, she is showing us her day. Whether she’s going to chemo, to work out, or going on a date. That helps bring a sense of community, and creates friendships.”
The Stay Beautiful Foundation plans to keep building its community. Ashleigh wants to create more strategic partnerships that could fund a community platform. “I want to have a private community for our Beauties. A space just for them. One where they can ask for resources or share whether they have had a good or bad day.”
The Stay Beautiful Foundation is based in Chicago but serves Beauties all over the world. For more information, visit https://www.thestaybeautifulfoundation.org/.
Contributing Writer, Racquel Coral is a national lifestyle writer and journalist based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Find her on social media @withloveracquel.