Mexico’s Maite Perroni is hailed by fans as “the telenovela queen,” but behind the headlines and chart topping songs, the 29-year-old soap opera actress and singer was fighting a private battle. Her mother, one of her biggest supporters, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010.
“It was a very difficult moment for me and it really did have a huge impact on my life,” recalls Perroni. “It made me realize how important it is to live each moment and cherish those around you. You need to fill your life with lots of love and take care of your health always by taking responsibility of your body.”
In honor of her mother and National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Perroni has teamed up with hair care brand Pantene for “Beautiful Lengths,” a hair donation program that, through the American Cancer Society, grants free wigs to women who've lost their hair to chemotheraphy. For Perroni, it was a way to encourage Latinas to become proactive with their health.
“After going through this experience, it prompted me to spread this message of hope to other people,” says Perroni. “I’m very grateful for this opportunity because the solution is really in our hands. We can actively take care of our bodies and get the necessary checkups we, especially women, need, like mammograms. By getting exams on time, not only will you become more aware of your body, but you’ll also be able to detect cancer early and fight back on time.”
Hispanics are particularly at risk.
According to the American Cancer Society, approximately one in three Hispanic women will be diagnosed with cancer and the probability of dying from the disease is about one in six. Cancer is also the second leading cause of death among U.S. Hispanics. In addition, a study concluded that 58 percent of women consider hair loss at the worst side effect of chemotherapy, leading to 8 percent of them becoming at risk of avoiding treatments that could save their lives for fear of losing their hair.
Perroni was inspired to support the “Beautiful Lengths” program this month to encourage others to donate their hair for patients who may not be able to afford a wig.
“With 8 inches of hair, we can create a wig. And that wig can be given to a woman to not only help make her feel beautiful, but motivate her to get treatments,” explains Perroni. “It’s also our way of motivating her, cheering her on. We found that these wigs make women smile and feel a little more joyous about herself. It’s a glimmer of hope.”
Since “Beautiful Lengths” first launched in 2006, the campaign has received over 450,000 hair donations. Once the wigs are created, The American Cancer Society then distributes them to select wig banks throughout the country. The wigs are given to women undergoing cancer treatment. Currently, more than 24,000 real-hair wigs have been provided to female cancer patients for free.
However, Perroni believes more can be done to fight the disease and win.
“First, we need to inform ourselves more about our bodies,” she states. “We need to get the necessary checkups every year and follow-up on them. Mammograms are incredibly important to detect cancer on time and putting this exam on hold should never be an option. If you have cancer, educate yourself about all the possible treatment options. Part of that is developing a dialogue with your doctor and asking questions. The earlier cancer is detected, the better the chances to get treatment and be cured, as well as to be free from the situation.”
Since Perroni’s mother first discovered her diagnosis, she’s been following in her daughter’s footsteps. While she’s still undergoing treatment, Perroni reveals her mother has also been involved with several charity events to talk about her experience. She’s also in the process of writing a book. In the case of Perroni, she’s also promoting a new telenovela, “Cachito De Cielo,” which will debut this November in the United States. The starlet also insists that the disease hasn’t changed their relationship.
“Our relationship has always been a loving one,” says Perroni. “If anything, it opened the doors for us to get closer and fight this battle together.”
You can reach Stephanie Nolasco via Twitter: @SNolasco