February is a month marked by candy hearts, former presidents and (most importantly) Black excellence, but it also hosts an opportunity to save lives, as World Cancer Day is Thursday, February 4. While this past (and present) year may be dominated by the health crisis known as COVID-19, as of May 2020 cancer remained the second leading cause of death worldwide. Understanding that Black communities are disproportionately affected by both COVID and certain types of cancers—including breast, stomach and prostate—both crises need and deserve our sustained attention.
With that in mind, the fifth annual Blue Jacket Fashion Show in support of the Prostate Cancer Foundation is not only going virtual on February 4 at 7 p.m., but is placing “a new emphasis on racial disparities and underserved communities, according to a press release, which read:
The event will again unite the fashion, entertainment, healthcare and media worlds to openly discuss prostate cancer, with a new emphasis on racial disparities and underserved communities—and with the models’ individual homes and personal spaces standing in for a shared runway. The behind-the-scenes glimpses into participants’ personal lives will hope to inspire viewers to take charge of one’s own health and treatment.
The program will feature virtual one-on-one discussions with leading celebrities and fashion, medical and research experts, and conclude with a socially distant version of the initiative’s traditional Blue Jacket runway show.
Event participants include fashion industry icon André Leon Talley, actors Billy Porter, Mario Cantone and Dominic Fumusa, TV personalities Mike Woods, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Don Lemon and Bill Nye, and celebrity stylist Ty-Ron Mayes. Top fashion designers including Michael Kors, Thom Browne, Stephen F, Duckie Brown, Nick Graham, Ben Sherman, Tommy Hilfiger, Bruno Magli and Michael Strahan and Joseph Abboud for Men’s Wearhouse will reimagine the traditional “blue jacket” that participants will then model in their own unique ways.
“I started this event so men can have an open conversation and dialogue about our bodies,” said Blue Jacket Fashion Show Founder Frederick Anderson. “The goal is to defeat the stigma so men will be able to take their prostate health more seriously.”
In fact, while prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among men in the United States, the risks posed by low-grade prostate are typically small and slow growing. Nevertheless, according to data from the National Cancer Institute, the disease not only often presents more aggressively in Black men, but they are are twice as likely to die from the disease as men of other races.
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“As we discover how genes work in prostate cancer in order to detect it far earlier and treat it far more precisely, we accelerate the end of death and suffering from prostate cancer,” says Jonathan W. Simons, MD, president and CEO of the Prostate Cancer Foundation. “The Prostate Cancer Foundation prizes our partnership with the Blue Jacket Fashion Show. It heightens awareness of prostate cancer, encourages every man to talk to his doctor about personal and family risks, prioritizes screening and stylishly encourages a healthier lifestyle.”
The event’s official healthcare sponsor is Janssen Oncology, part of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Cos. of Johnson & Johnson. “This year, we are especially proud to help shift the focus to reflect patients most impacted,” said Rodney Gillespie, Janssen’s VP of Sales & Marketing and a repeat participant in the annual event, in a statement. “Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Black men, who are also twice as likely to die from the disease as white men. Janssen Oncology is committed to raising awareness of the disproportionate impact of prostate cancer in Black communities as we work to eliminate health inequities for those living with and impacted by prostate cancer.”
Attendees hoping to reserve a “seat” at the virtual 2021 Blue Jacket Fashion Show must register by Wednesday, February 3, 2021. After the event, the show will be available for viewing on Blue Jacket’s YouTube channel.Donations toward prostate cancer research can also be made on the Prostate Cancer Foundation’s website.