Bright Pink's Lindsay Avner Calls Fab-Fest a Triumphant Event
On the Season 5 finale of Giuliana & Bill, Giuliana joined forces with good friend and Bright Pink founder Lindsay Avner to host Fab-Fest, an ultimate girls' day out complete with pampering, workouts, educational initiatives and gifting. The amazing event, which took place at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago back in April, celebrated all those who helped raise $250,000 for Bright Pink's breast cancer education, support and awareness programs.
What were your and Giuliana's hopes for Fab-Fest?
We saw it as a way to have hundreds of women (and some men) come together and celebrate all of Giuliana's passions under one roof: health, wellness, fitness, fashion, beauty and sisterhood—all while raising lots of funds to expand Bright Pink's breast and ovarian cancer prevention and early detection programs for young women. We also wanted to encourage participants to use the day as a way to make a commitment to be proactive with their breast health, to adopt healthy lifestyle habits to reduce their risk of breast cancer and get checked so they can find breast cancer early, should it develop. It would've been amazing if the event raised $150,000, but it raised $250,000 and we had 400 participants. I still get chills thinking of how successful the event was and smile when I think of how big Fab-Fest 2013 will be.
It looked like everyone had a blast, but it must've been hard for G to hear some of the breast cancer stories...
There were points where it was very emotional for her. It's one thing to respond to people's tweets and read the e-mails coming in, but when you're in a room with 400 other women who are survivors themselves or have been touched by the disease through a loved one, and they're coming up to you, it can be quite intense and overwhelming.
Why did Giuliana get so emotional after the lunch?
There were actually two women there who found their breast cancer because of Giuliana. They literally went to their OB/GYN and got checked solely because they were close to Giuliana's age and felt they needed to do something. They ended up finding it because of her, and both are going through chemotherapy. I had been keeping G up-to-date on their stories for months so it was pretty emotional for her to meet them in person. They took the opportunity to say thank you to her since she truly saved their lives.
How were you able to sense that everything was maybe becoming a bit much for Giuliana to take in?
It wasn't that she was being withdrawn, but she seemed a little hazy, if that makes sense. I had gotten to know Giuliana really well and she wasn't as connected as she usually is. I knew how much the event mattered to her, how much she cared about Bright Pink and how hard we both worked to make that day a success. I knew something was going on because she was much quieter than usual. Leading the Bright Pink movement, I'm around these stories all the time, and so in some ways it is easier for me to be around them. It's not as foreign to me. In the moment she broke down, I just thought to myself, Oh gosh, maybe this is too much. What have I pulled her into? Is she ready for this? I felt terrible. She kept saying, "I don't want to cry. That isn't strong." I kept assuring her thought that there is so much strength in being you and being present and real with where you are at the moment. The strength in her vulnerability was truly inspirational.
Bill was there at Fab-Fest supporting Giuliana. How was he during it all? Did he participate at the event?
Bill came with his buddies Ari and Jon. I thought it was really beautiful for Bill to be there and it was so evident to everyone just how proud he was of Giuliana. Throughout G's journey, Bill was there every moment serving as that sturdy form of support and I felt really blessed to witness love like that. I joke with them both that my standard is higher than ever before, as I remain on the search for me own "Jewish Bill." Throughout G's experience, Bill was always focused on helping her find a solution. Sometimes, the solution is just to cry and be right there and, sometimes, it's to get some perspective or think through things in a different way. It was really fun to have Bill there, and it was so fitting. That was a big day for her and I don't think he would have missed it.
Has Giuliana confided in you about her breast cancer standing in the way of her dream to get pregnant?
I think, at first, the decision to not carry her own baby was a hard one. But with the baby coming this summer, she is just over the moon. It is so in her makeup to find the bright side and celebrate the reality that the baby will be just as much hers as if she carried it herself. That's part of what she always tells me she loves so much about Bright Pink. Unlike other cancer organizations, our approach is positive, warm, approachable and real. We don't live in a fairytale land. Life can be really hard and, sometimes, it is OK to be mad, sad and angry. But ultimately, you have a choice to either sit in the bad or to dig deep and find the good. For both Giuliana and I, there is always good. Some may look at breast scars as an ugly reminder, but, to us, they are our battle wounds. Those scars help to remind us that we've climbed from the lowest of lows and gotten out. It is a pretty powerful reminder to know that whatever life is going to throw at you, you can handle it.
How do you think the whole experience was for Giuliana overall? What was the best part of the event?
For her, I know being a part of the event as it unfolded that day was truly a triumphant experience. Remember, we were working on this all throughout her journey—through the doctor's appointments, the surgery and the recovery. In a lot of ways, Fab-Fest brought back a lot of the tough emotions of the experience, but it was also a true celebration in the sense that she got to meet women whose lives she had saved and know that her efforts will help prevent countless other women from ever having to go through it. Parts of the event were happy, other parts were sad and at times; it was overwhelming. But the ultimate good it brought to her and the other participants undoubtedly superseded any of the bad.