Take a walk down one of the many special, hand painted hallways in St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, and you’ll be transported through all four seasons: winter, fall, spring and summer. As you take in the mural’s vibrant colors and the little, smile-worthy details like a field full of sunflowers to a pile of red and orange leaves, you’ll quickly realize that this isn’t your average hospital with dull lighting, a disappointing cafeteria and general feeling of uneasiness. It’s a place that openly celebrates life, growth, optimism and beauty — even in the darkest, most difficult times.
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to visit St. Jude Children’s Hospital, the leading research hospital for pediatric cancer and life-threatening diseases, with Lancôme, a major supporter. Unsurprisingly, we met a lot of superheroes including doctors, parents and former patients. But another individual making children smile was Lancôme National Artist and brand ambassador Alex Sanchez. After losing a close friend to breast cancer, cancer outreach and advocacy has become a major priority for him. Three years ago, Sanchez fused his passion for makeup with his devotion for cancer advocacy to partner with St. Jude, hosting makeup classes for young makeup lovers, as well as larger events — like one I had the chance to attend.
Over dinner, I asked Sanchez to share a bit about the day’s makeup class he hosted for St. Jude patients. What were the teens and tweens looking to learn? What made them feel confident and happy? Sanchez explained with compassion and professionalism that the children were intrigued by all trends and techniques, namely those inspired by everyone’s favorite K-sisters, how to achieve a sharp contour and how to create an ideal brow shape — a feat that’s especially intimidating for patients going through chemo. “I taught them the different levels of intensity that can be achieved with different brow products,” Sanchez explains, “from the natural and feathery Lancôme Brow Shaping Powdery Pencil to the crafted and carved Instagram brow with Lancôme Brow Densify Powder-to-Cream.”
But the class was more than just a lesson full of instructions and note-taking. It was also a safe space — a place for children to learn that makeup isn’t a tool meant to fix something broken. Makeup is a way to feel confident on your own terms, whether that means wearing a bold purple lip, learning how to make your eyebrows look exactly how you want them to or maybe just valuing the beauty and power of makeup from a distance. “My master class was set up in a little circle of trust inside the teen recreation room inside the hospital,” Sanchez explains. “I began by sharing my story and philosophy with the kids: Beauty is not a measurable or mathematical ideal. Beauty is about energy, imagination, creativity, inspiration and magic. Being a young teen is challenging enough, but everyone was very supportive of each other and there was so much power and love there.”
On the last day of my trip, I attended a makeover event with other editors, members of the Lancôme team and most importantly, children from St. Jude. Together, we made flower crowns and bonded over our favorite beauty vloggers. Every now and then, I’d watch Sanchez apply a glossy lip on a young makeup lover or create that sharp contour straight straight from YouTube. Every time a teen or tween got a look in the mirror after stepping out of Sanchez’s makeup artist chair, their faces lit up. Sometimes they laughed and oftentimes they smiled. “It’s amazing to witness the reaction of the children. The wearer of the makeup is always impacted in the most personal way. There is a power in makeup and that personal creation. You can look in the mirror and say, ‘I did that and I look good.’ Even if you don’t feel good, you can put your game face and face the day.”
Lancôme is donating 10% of all Definicils Mascara to St. Jude Children’s Hospital from November 27 through November 30. If you’d like to make a general donation, text KIDS to 50333 to receive instructions on how to donate $5 via your phone.