Why This Breast Cancer Survivor Who Appeared in Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’ is Walking 1,000 Miles, Topless.

Paulette Leaphart

In 2014, Paulette Leaphart was diagnosed with an aggressive, life-threatening form of breast cancer. Nearly two years since her diagnoses and after a double mastectomy, she is embarking on a 1,000 mile walk, topless from Biloxi, Mississippi to Washington, D.C.

Leaphart, who is deeply religious, says that she was told by God to go on her journey, she also credits her beliefs with telling her to get screened for breast cancer in the first place. Her decision to walk topless makes a statement about the type of visibility that breast cancer survivors often get and is also part of her coming to terms with her new appearance. After her double mastectomy, Leaphart was told by doctors that breast implants were not an option, due to a preexisting health condition. She struggled with depression.

“I was devastated,” she said. “I was not prepared for that news. I was a woman who took pride in my femininity and my looks and my sexiness. I’m a single mom—I felt like I still had some rubber left on my tires.”

Her walk also makes a powerful statement “pinkwashing.” Over the years, survivors and supporters alike have spoken out against the media practice that takes the focus away from women dealing with breast cancer, and instead markets the more pleasant image of pink products, while promoting a false or limited message.

The world was first introduced to the story of Paulette Leaphart after she decided to upload topless photos of herself, proudly baring her scars, to Facebook, at the urging of her 8-year-old daughter. The post soon went viral and Leaphart received an outpouring of support from all over the world.

The attention lead to Leaphart snagging an appearance in Beyoncé’s Lemonade, in a segment titled “Hope.”

Paulette Leaphart Beyonce

Filmmakers Sasha Solodukhina and Emily MacKenzie are documenting Leaphart’s 10-week journey in an upcoming production, Scar Story, slated for release next summer. Solodukhina and MacKenzie met with Leaphart after she approached them while they were filming a different project near her home. The women hope that her story will help to change the face of breast cancer.

Scar Story from M Emily MacKenzie on Vimeo.