Shaney Jo Darden {E}xclusive Interview

Interview by Christina Diaz

Photos courtesy of Shaney Jo Darden – Keep a Breast Founder

The Keep A Breast Foundation was started in response to the growing need for breast cancer awareness programs to educate young people.  When Shaney Jo’s friends were being diagnosed in their 20s, no one ever thought that could happen.  It flipped a switch in her brain and she realized that it was her purpose to teach young people about breast cancer prevention. Shaney Jo wanted to do something that spoke to young people.

At the time, Shaney Jo was already putting together large art and fashion events for Modart Magazine, and thought, “Why not an art show!” So they asked artist friends if they wanted to paint on breast casts and the idea of their breast casts was created. “I never intended on starting a non-profit. It just happened very organically and with the help of my peers and supporters. I always say this cause chose me. I was meant to be on this earth to educate young people about breast cancer prevention.”

Keep a Breast uses art and artistic expression to inform young people about methods of prevention, early detection, coping and support.  Through these programs, Keep A Breast strives to eradicate breast cancer by inspiring young people to adopt lifestyle choices that have long-term health benefits.

{E}: Tell us about Keep a Breast’s new approach to breast cancer.
SJ: Keep A Breast is not a typical breast cancer organization. We have done the impossible: We have engaged, educated, and mobilized an entire generation of young people through our unique approach. Never before has the generation just beginning adulthood been this educated about breast cancer prevention. This generation’s level of education and knowledge will lead to a decrease in future cancer deaths.

Through grassroots campaigns over the past 13 years, Keep A Breast has steadily grown into the leading global youth based breast cancer prevention organization. We are always pushing boundaries to live up to our mantra of Art. Education. Awareness. Action. We want to be able to turn breast cancer awareness into action.

{E}: I’ve noticed lots of elite tattooers involved in the artistic side of the breast casts. Tell us more about this process.
SJ: Naturally Keep A Breast works within the tattoo community. In the last 13 years we have had the most amazing street artists, fine artists and tattoo artists all donate their time and talent to Keep A Breast. Last year we met the wonderful people from Sullen. They curated a special exhibition for us. We will continue to work with Sullen and have breast casts painted by tattoo artists on exhibition at Ink-N-Iron Kulture Klash Art show. We are also doing swimsuit collaboration with Calavera. They created a beautiful suit designed by tattoo artist Kim Saigh from Memoir tattoo in Los Angeles.

{E}: Your slogan, “I LOVE BOOBIES,” it’s genius and obviously catchy, how did you come up with it?
SJ: I am a designer and I always appreciate iconic graphic design, I lived in NY for a while, and I was inspired by seeing I love NY everywhere. At the time the LIVESTRONG bracelets were huge, everyone was wearing them. I thought that was a simple and wonderful way to get the message out to teens. I flipped the idea and created a wide and bright colored bracelet with I love boobies! (keep a breast) as the design. Inside the bracelet has screen-printed our Mantra, Art. Education. Awareness. Action. And our URL. I felt it was a way to engage young people in a conversation about breast cancer. Little did I know this little bracelet would become such a HUGE thing! It is the subject of many things including my TEDX talk, national high school banning and a potential US Supreme Court battle.

{E}:Your mantra: “Art. Education. Awareness. Action,” tell us how art can be used as a tool for breast cancer survivors and their families.
SJ: The Keep A Breast Foundation Breast Casts™ are part of Keep A Breast’s unique campaign to use art and artistic expression to inform young people about methods of prevention, early detection, coping and support. This awareness campaign is like no other, harnessing the power of art to communicate complex feelings and thoughts about health, the female form, and ultimately about breast cancer. Each Cast represents a personal story and is a conversation starter; the potential beginning of an ongoing dialogue. These narratives present multiple, complex emotions in a simple manner, and encourage young people to seek further support and information.

{E}:Tell us more about “Tattoos 4 Boobies.” Explain how that works.
SJ: Our Tattoos for boobies! Campaign is a fun, exclusive approach for artists and tattoo shops to show their love and support through one of the most unique forms of art and expression: Tattooing! We have had an outpouring of support from tattoo artists and shops wondering how they can make a difference in their community! We started Tattoos for boobies! Campaign to bring you all the tools to make a permanent difference!

{E}: How can a tattoo shop participate in “Tattoos 4 Boobies”?
SJ: We are asking shops to pick a day in October to host Tattoos for boobies! fundraiser to support breast cancer prevention and education! Our suggestion is to offer tattoo flash from $50-$150. Shops can get into it and Design their own custom Keep A Breast flash, or we have a KAB flash set available. We will send out Keep A Breast education materials and help promote the event.

{E}: Tell us about your very first tattoo.
SJ: I am from San Diego and I grew up in the 80’s so of course my first tattoo was of a Dolphin on my ankle. LOL. Neil at Tattoo land on Rosecrans did it and I was 18. This tattoo is my favorite one; it makes me smile and reminds me of that awesome time in my life.

{E}: How about the rest of your tattoo collection? Whose work adorns your body?
SJ: I have large wings on my upper back; Mat Zabas did them at 454 tattoo in Encinitas CA. I got them when I was 21, they are personal and represent someone whom I loved and lost. He was an angel and saved my life once and I still feel him watching over me now that he is gone. I also have a sleeve that was done by Randy Janson at El Rey Tattoo & Barber in San Diego. Mat Zabas inspired me because he had a tattoo of his “machine” tattoo gun on his arm. I thought that was cool and I wanted my “machine” sewing machine tattoo’s on me. Randy and I came up with this idea of religious icons in relation to my machines, in a way I wanted to show my gratitude for the creative gifts I had been given. The sleeve is a mix of a Virgin Mary sewing machine, sacred heart iron, and scissors with heart shaped handles and w bunch of buttons, needles, and thimbles thrown in there.

{E}: What inspires you?
SJ: Lately I’m incredibly inspired by the power of the ask. It seems as though every time lately that I make a wish, it comes true. I’m feeling more connected to my true self and my spirit so I feel like I am able to get to a clear place to make special requests if the universe, and new beautiful sparkly doors and opportunities are opening everyday.

For more information on Shaney Jo’s crusade visit:

Shaney Jo Darden {E}xclusive Interview