These Lingerie-Clad Women With Various Stages Of Breast Cancer Show Us The True Meaning Of 'Beauty'

"We aren't alone in the world. And we're more alike than not."

AnaOno, founded by Dana Donofree, is a lingerie brand designed for women with various stages of breast cancer. The line's mission — to help women feel confident, empowered and beautiful — is reflected in its sultry designs and in the real women who model them. 

AnaOno's latest I AM campaign features women such as Leah, a Masters student from Philadelphia who opted to have a one-step prophylactic bilateral mastectomy in 2014 because her cancer was categorized as high-risk.

Tracy Birdsell Photography assisted by Amy Lee Mayer Photography 
Tracy Birdsell Photography assisted by Amy Lee Mayer Photography 

Sharon is another woman featured. She decided to have a prophylactic mastectomy due to a BRCA+ diagnosis.

Tracy Birdsell Photography assisted by Amy Lee Mayer Photography 
Tracy Birdsell Photography assisted by Amy Lee Mayer Photography 

The campaign also stars Alison, a graphic designer who underwent a bilateral mastectomy on her 35th birthday, Melanie, an assistant principal who was diagnosed with stage IIB invasive lobular carcinoma, and Jeanine, a Chicago resident who was diagnosed at 26 with inflammatory breast cancer.

Tracy Birdsell Photography assisted by Amy Lee Mayer Photography 
Tracy Birdsell Photography assisted by Amy Lee Mayer Photography 

Donofree, who is a breast cancer survivor herself, told A Plus via email that the women are chosen for campaigns through open casting calls, recruiting sessions, cancer-related Facebook groups, social media or the brand's LiveChat service. 

"We don't choose women based on any sort of look or body type, although we do try to be as diverse as possible," she explained. "Most of the time it comes down to shoot location proximity and time availability."

"This particular campaign was photographed in an old farmhouse in South Jersey, so our AO Ambassadors (what we call our 'models') came from the Philadelphia, South Jersey, North Jersey and Northeastern Pennsylvania areas ... We were thrilled two of the women were previvors, those who choose to have prophylactic mastectomies because of genetic results or family history, and we worked hard to make sure they could be a part of the campaign."

Tracy Birdsell Photography assisted by Amy Lee Mayer Photography 
Tracy Birdsell Photography assisted by Amy Lee Mayer Photography 

The I AM campaign name was chosen to show that the AO Ambassadors are real women with different jobs, backgrounds, and interests. 

"We had been talking about our commitment to using women affected by breast cancer in our marketing campaigns for a long time," Donofree told A Plus. "We've done it since our very first campaign before we launched, and we've seen other companies applauded for their decisions to use unretouched photos or women of different body types and ethnicities. It was a bit of a thorn in our side because we've been doing that very thing with no media fanfare and without using celebrities or models, and we wanted to let people know these are everyday women, not 'insert type here' model. 'I am a ...' was the first thing that came to mind when thinking up copy for the marketing of the campaign."

"These women, and all of the women we've photographed, are not models; they are teachers, nurses, moms, yoga instructors, scientists, sales reps."

Tracy Birdsell Photography assisted by Amy Lee Mayer Photography 
Tracy Birdsell Photography assisted by Amy Lee Mayer Photography 

Donofree hopes that people looking at the campaign will see the inner and outer beauty of the women photographed, and those going through similar experiences will realize they are not alone, "We hope those affected not only by breast cancer, but by any illness, visible or invisible, any stigma, any body issues will see these gorgeous women for who they are—the women next door, the women on the train with them or in a grocery store, women who struggled, who go to work, who raise a family; essentially women, just like them." 

"We preach beauty, confidence and empowerment as part of our mission. Photographing a teacher who was treated for a terrible disease, someone who may or may not be married or have children, someone who doesn't have the media-perfect body, someone who has scars and has had an amputation, is not about shock and awe. It's about letting women know they are not alone. They are not forgotten."

"That their beauty is just as powerful and unique and real as any woman who works as a model for a living and is paid to look a certain way and sell a certain ideal, whatever that may be. We strongly believe in the power of the words 'me too.' And when women see our Ambassadors we want them to see these women and hear them whisper 'me too.' I, too, am self-conscious. I, too, have suffered through pain and illness. I, too, know what it's like to not like what you see in the mirror. I, too, know what it's like to worry about bills, your health, your loved ones, your job. But, I too, am beautiful and confident, and I am empowered because I believe in myself. We aren't alone in the world. And we're more alike than not. We all live through some sort of burden or pain, and we are all beautiful, no matter what."

To learn more, check out the video below: