London: Louise Court, the editor of Cosmopolitan, has defended her decision to publish a topless picture of Mel B along with her husband Stephen Belafonte in a bid to create awareness about breast cancer among young women.
The picture of the former Spice Girl along with her husband recreated an iconic Rolling Stone cover, which featured a topless Janet Jackson, in aid of the charity CoppaFeel! for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“My immediate reaction was a huge sense of relief: these pictures were every bit as powerful as I’d hoped. The first signs of breast cancer are often spotted by women’s partners, which is why we involved Mel B’s husband in the shoot.
“We wanted the images to become a talking point that would make men and women look twice, think about the message, remember it - and ultimately save lives.
“When I read Natalie Shalom`s article in the Daily Mail last week saying the pictures were ‘shockingly crass’ and ‘insensitive’, of course I did some soul searching.
“She lost her mother to breast cancer and both her sisters have had the disease. The last thing I want is for anyone to find the images upsetting.
“But when I look at the response we have had from readers, and the hundreds of comments that have appeared on MailOnline, I feel very strongly that we did the right thing in publishing them. It has made the whole topic of checking your breasts a major talking point - which was our aim.
“My inspiration in this whole campaign has been an extraordinary young woman called Kristin Hallenga, who started the breast cancer charity CoppaFeel!
“Kristin has a very personal reason for her obsession with breasts. Three years ago, aged just 23, she was diagnosed with breast cancer herself.
“As she says: ‘I imagined that aged 23 I would see a bit of the world, enjoy crazy nights out with my friends and have a ton of carefree fun. Instead, I got breast cancer. Discovering a lump in 2008, I went straight to my GP but was sent away on the basis that at my young age it was bound to be hormonal. Six months later the lump was still there. My no-nonsense mother marched me right back to the GP and demanded a referral. We thought there would be nothing to worry about because breast cancer is an older women`s disease. But we were wrong. Eight months on, following a frustrating fight to discover what was happening, I found out that not only did I have breast cancer, but that it had spread to my spine. I was at stage four, the most advanced type of cancer. There is no stage five.
“Kristin had radiotherapy followed by five months of chemotherapy and yet more radiotherapy, during which she lost her hair, had a mastectomy and said goodbye to her carefree life.
“To say she became a woman with purpose is a total understatement. Kristin has since made it her full-time mission to encourage young women (and men – they get it too) to keep hold of their youth and freedom by simply getting to know their breasts.
“So CoppaFeel! was born, thanks to Kristin and her twin sister Maren - who was checked but thankfully found not to have any known breast cancer genes.
“It’s a cheeky name that gets right to the point and sums up both sisters’ irreverent attitude, lust for life and love of a good pun. The key message from both of them is: if you don’t check your breasts you don’t know if you have the symptoms of breast cancer.
“Kristin has taken her campaign to universities, schools and festivals. She relentlessly coaxes celebrities to add their support to her cause because she knows the power they have in getting the message across.
“The point of the campaign was for young women to take preventative action – immediately. We wanted the photograph of Mel to be eye-catching and glamorous, and knew it might be a little controversial.
“But it was never intended to be disrespectful to women battling breast cancer, or to those who have lost loved ones to the disease.
“But I truly believe the photos of Mel, who had a breast cancer scare herself when she was younger, will have far more resonance with women in their 20s and 30s.
“As the biggest magazine for young women in the world, Cosmopolitan does a lot of research into what grabs their attention – and they are a generation of young women who respond to strong visual messages.
“They don’t want to be patronised, but a celebrity will always catch their eye. And they are at risk from this hideous disease. Elaine C Smith says, as do the supporters of our photos on MailOnline and Cosmo readers who have written into the magazine: ‘As far as I am concerned if this saves one life it is absolutely worth it’.
“I feel exactly the same way about our photographs, I thank Mel B for having the courage to take part but most of all I thank Kristin for being the brains behind this campaign and allowing us to bring it to life,” she added.