As a young designer in the skateboard industry in the 90s, Keep A Breast Founder Shaney jo Darden fell in love with skating's creative, Do It Yourself (D.I.Y.) culture. Skateboarding was more of a creative scene than an industry, and Shaney jo quickly realized that it was the artists, designers, and community members that drove its evolution. She saw a natural breeding ground for awareness and communication.
When a close friend was diagnosed with breast cancer In 1999, Shaney jo and a friend decided they wanted to raise awareness for their friend by bringing people together through progressive art. Soon after, Keep A Breast, was born. It was to be a unique art concept that could capture and communicate the physical and emotional challenges of breast cancer. The result was a series of customized breast casts.
Read more about Keep A Breast’s story here and our full conversation with Shaney jo, below.
What does a typical day in the life for you look like?
Can we just say ALL THE HATS!?!?! I start off the day with some snugs from my dog and BF then coffee and breathwork and off to the day! Most days are filled with utilizing my exceptional computer skills for emailing and project management. Hahaha. Depending on the time of year we could be in planning mode or launching mode. Right now it’s launch mode and we have many programs that are fully in action mode.
Have you faced adversity in your life or career? What have you learned from that?
The i love boobies! bracelets have been a crucial part of Keep A Breast, our story, and our impact. They’ve also been misunderstood at times. Part of what we do at Keep A Breast is challenge the sexualization of breasts. We do what we do by starting a positive relationship with our boobies and emphasize that they aren’t a four letter word. Similar to school’s histories of sexualizing girls' bodies by deeming them a distraction to others, the i love boobies! bracelets were worn by young people in schools and banned by the school for their “sexual nature”. The bracelets were created to engage young people in a conversation about breast cancer prevention and instead of being open to that opportunity, some schools chose to ban them and continue to sexualize young women’s bodies.
Over 10 years ago, two young women were brave enough to stand up for what they believe in, and not let anyone take away their rights to freedom of speech. They fought for their right to be their own health advocate and the ACLU represented them as the case was brought to the Supreme Court. KAB supported them every step of the way, and in the end the Supreme Court did not take the case. This was a challenging period of my work. We spent time defending what we do and the right of young people to not be ashamed of or shamed for having breasts and loving them. I’ve learned that when you stand for the right thing, even if it’s not easy, people will support you. So we try to always do just that.
What are some things that you are grateful for?
I’m totally grateful for my health, that I get to use my creativity to serve others, and that I’m surrounded by my very own super squad of incredible friends, family, and community. I try to do my gratitude practice throughout the day by simply saying thank you to everything. Thank you breakfast burrito, thank you for that awesome partnership meeting, thank you beautiful mamma earth for this path for my dog walk, thank you nice human who opened the door for me at the 7-11. You get the picture, I’m grateful for everything that nourishes me and teaches me.
One of our brand mottos is “Keep it Casual”. What does “Keep it Casual” mean to you in your own life?
I strive to keep it casual. I’m actually a pretty serious person, but in life keeping it casual to me means to go with the flow and to keep a good outlook all the time. I live in the desert now so casual has taken a new meaning with my wardrobe, especially my shoe collection. I used to be way into platform shoes and high heels. These days it’s pretty much boots all the time.
What makes the Breast Cancer Prevention sneaker so special to you? Are there specific elements of the design that call out to you most?
I was already a huge fan of Daniella’s art so when I heard she would be the designer behind the sneaker I was super excited. Overall the design is just super cute and fun. I wish I had that print in a jumpsuit or mumu and I would wear it all the time.
How do you stay inspired?
For me so much inspiration comes in silence. It’s super hard to find quiet moments, but so worth it. When I need a bit of inspiration I seek out those moments whenever possible. My favorite is Shavasana in a yoga class or if I'm in a busy city I like to sit on a bench and close my eyes ( not all the way so I’m safe of course) and just listen to the sounds. Inspiration rarely comes from the moments you’re expecting, you can’t force it. So I try to make space for the silence as much as I can.
Do you have any plans or projects that you are looking forward to in the future?
We are super stoked for the Keep A Breast Valley, a wellness center in the California desert. It will be a space for young people, healers, survivors, people diagnosed with cancer, and caretakers to have the space and tools to explore and nurture individual and collective wellness. It’s currently in progress and being created by a team of amazingly creative people. We’re excited to start making the KAB Valley into reality in 2022!
What’s one piece of advice, encouragement, or challenge you’d love to leave our readers with?
Lately I feel like the best advice I can give is to FIND a community and GIVE to that community. Give your heart, your ear, your time, whatever you can. It may be online or in person but it’s important to connect with others especially when it’s around a shared interest. We’ve been going through a very lonely existence lately and we need each other. Connect where you can and cherish those moments.
Where can our readers find / follow you, and what would be the best way to support you / your business / project?
You can find Keep A Breast everywhere on the web. Our website is keep-a-breast.org and follow us on IG @keepabreast
The best way you can support us is by downloading the Keep A Breast App and sharing it with your friends and family.