Normalizing the Conversation:
A Candid Discussion About Breast Cancer with the Founder of Man Repeller, Leandra Medine
Leandra Medine is a refreshing voice when it comes to normalizing conversations. As the Founder of Man Repeller she has built a community around her genuine commitment to cover subjects–style, feminism, culture, beauty, wellness, relationships and careers–with a humor and vulnerability that encourages others to put their most authentic selves forward. Our conversation with Leandra about The Estée Lauder Companies Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign brought all of that to the surface and more. The candid interview explores Leandra’s personal experiences as a carrier of the BRCA-1 gene and shines a light on the realities of self-care and prevention.
For anyone who isn’t already familiar with your site, can you start off by telling us a little bit about Man Repeller?
LM: “Man Repeller is a site that was born out of a celebration of trends that women love and men hate, but has grown specifically in the last year or so to be so much more. It’s become a community, a very accepting community of women who love each other.”
Your Instagram bio describes Man Repeller as a microphone for women, can you tell us what that means to you personally?
LM: “Well, when I started Man Repeller, one of the things that I observed was that my opinion was one that was being fiercely underserved within fashion, but it was not an unpopular opinion. I feel like because I’m not self-conscious about sharing my own plight and journey, I had a real advantage in a very crowded space that can sometimes feel manufactured, to express an opinion that is honest in a way that others can relate to.”
You mentioned your own plight and journey, can you tell us about your personal connection to breast cancer?
LM: “When I was 23 years old, I discovered that I carried a gene called the BRCA-1 gene, often referred to as the BRCA gene. This is a little bit a non-sequitur, but I recently completed a round of IVF and 13 of the embryos matured and fertilized, nine of which carried the BRCA gene.
This gene predisposes me to both ovarian and breast cancer, and the reason I was compelled to get tested was because I lost my maternal grandmother to breast cancer and my mom’s sister is a two-time survivor of both breast and ovarian cancer, which is really a miracle.”
Once you found out that you carried this gene, what did it mean to you?
LM: “You know to be honest, it really didn’t mean anything to me when I found it. I didn’t think very much of it beyond, ‘oh gosh, I better have kids before I have to remove my ovaries.’ But then I realized more and more that nobody talks about it at all, and it was fascinating to me that there were no conversations taking place about it.
Carrying this gene has provided me an opportunity to share another layer of my story that is a bit more honest.
In a way, I feel lucky because I’m very scrupulous about my check-ups. Actually, not in a way. I feel lucky. Period. Carrying this gene has provided me an opportunity to share another layer of my story that is a bit more honest. For some reason, I’ve been bequeathed this responsibility to normalize these conversations, so that’s what I’m trying to do.”
What does it mean to be part of The Estée Lauder Companies Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign?
LM: “I think that oftentimes, the experience of cancer can feel extremely helpless. I know that to be true because of personal experience on both sides of my family. Being part of The Estée Lauder Companies Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign this year has provided me an opportunity to feel a little less helpless. We think we know ourselves so well, and then all of a sudden our worlds are turned upside down. Our lives are put in the hands of these people we don’t know, and we expect them to do everything they can to make sure we’re okay.
What I found when both my aunt was sick and when my father was sick two years ago, is that the only way to feel better in this circumstance is to talk it out, and to talk it out with people who get it. There’s something really, really strong and powerful about women coming together, and again, normalizing this conversation, and feeling like it’s okay to air this out. And not just okay, but it’s mandatory. It’s a necessary part of coping.”
What does the word togetherness mean to you?
LM: “Togetherness is such an important cornerstone at Man Repeller, and so it seemed sort of fortuitous that it should be theme of this year’s Campaign. When I built Man Repeller, I wanted to be a member of a community where I could feel like everything was going to be ok. And the way to do that is through human connection, to join forces with the people around you.
For me, togetherness is really the cornerstone of humanity in many ways. We really need each other to live.”
What are some things that we can do together to help those that are battling breast cancer?
LM: “Whenever I consider how to touch people who are going through the disease, I try to think of what I would want and what I would need. I think what I would want and what I would need is someone to look into my eyes and say ‘even if it’s not okay, it’s going to be okay,’ because I think that’s the truth.
I think that talking really earnestly and trying to get into another person’s soul is enough, because good conversation, riveting conversation, it’s like medicine.”
Why is working with The BCA Campaign important to you?
LM: “When I think about what The Estée Lauder Companies is doing through The Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign, and I marry that to what we’re doing at Man Repeller, the partnership just seemed very seamless.
I think our collective communities provide such a unique and wonderful opportunity to connect people, to bring people together from all over the world at any time of day, no matter what they’re doing, where they are, who they’re with, and have them all unite to fight for the same cause! What’s more empowering than that?”