Thabrianna Ashley and LeeAnn Baternik are teenage girls with big dreams. Not even life-threatening illnesses will get in the way of having those dreams come true.
At age 14, LeeAnn Baternik had a small lump removed from her thigh. When the pathology results came back she found out it was Ewing's Sarcoma, a very rare form of cancer usually found in the bone. "I went through 8 months of chemotherapy and 6 weeks of radiation," says LeeAnn, "It was a very difficult time for me and my family." When I asked Mary Baternik, LeeAnn's mom, how she stayed so strong for her daughter, she told me she kept a quote in her wallet that helped her get through some of the tough days. "I have it written on a piece of paper in the same pocket as LeeAnn's insurance card so every time she had a scan, test or doctors appointment , I would see it when I pulled out her card." It reads, 'Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come. Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won, and all the fears you have overcome.' I guess it's my own little way of reminding myself everything's going to be okay!" says Mary.
Thabrianna Ashely's nickname is Tay. Tay has Sickle Cell Disease. She is 18 and has been in the hospital every year of her life. Tay's mom, Malita Ashley, says that at any time her daughter could die of complications related to her disease, asthma or Carotid stenosis. Tay's illness causes problems with her entire body including her internal organs. "In the winter time, Tay can't become too cold because it can cause extreme pain in her joints," she says. "In spring and summer, Tay can't become too hot because she can become dehydrated and have difficulty breathing, which can cause chest pain that may lead to acute pneumonia."
Both girls were flown to New York City with their families to have their wish to be models for a day granted by Make-A-Wish and my organization, GLAM4GOOD. I was inspired to create GLAM4GOOD after volunteering my time granting countless fashion-related wishes for over ten years as the National Fashion Ambassador for Make-A-Wish. I love every single aspect of my career as a style and beauty expert, but when I started granting wishes and witnessing the powerful healing effect fashion and beauty can bring, my life changed. There's a tremendous joy that comes from being of service. Once you experience that joy, there is no turning back. At the end of the day I asked myself if all the magazine covers, celebrities and ad campaigns I had styled had really done anything to truly help make a difference in the world. The answer was no. So I found a way I could still do what I'm passionate about and know that, when I leave this earth, I used fashion to change lives in a way that you can't put a price tag on.
Thanks to Make-A-Wish, I've had the honor of seeing fashion heal in a profound way. Make-A-Wish grants the wishes of children who are diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions every 38 minutes on average. A wish is a game-changer, more than just a nice thing. Wishes impact everyone involved -- wish kids, their families, volunteers, donors, sponsors, medical professionals and communities. For LeeAnn and Tay, having their wishes come true not only gave them hope, strength and joy, it brought their parents some much needed relief. "My favorite moment of this experience," says Mary Baternik, "was when LeeAnn came out to model in front of the cameras. It was so overwhelming for me. I felt so proud and so blessed to be experiencing this with her. All I could think of while I was crying my eyes out watching her was, 'FINALLY, TEARS OF JOY!'"
In the video above and the following album, meet the inspiring Tay and LeeAnn and their incredible moms, and get a rare behind-the-scenes look at their wish to be models for a day coming true.
My GLAM4GOOD team and I were honored to create this special experience for Tay and LeeAnn and could not have done it without the dedication, time and help of so many talented people. A special thank you to the big-hearted team at Suave Professionals, photographers Gabrielle Revere and Benjamin Lozovsky, Milk Studios, Beauty.com's Beauty Director at Large Romy Soleimani, nail stylist Elle, hair stylist Kozmo, Fusion Models, Butter London and the generous team at DKNY.