So what’s the furore about shaved heads and YOU magazine?


Cancer therapy word cloud


In most cases any charitable activity that genuinely has a disadvantaged cause in mind will be met with respect and acceptance. However a recent campaign by YOU magazine – partnering with CANSA (The Cancer Association of South Africa) – was met with a flood of angry comments to its Facebook page and even a call for readers of the magazine to contact their local ombudsman in order to lay down an official complaint.

It seems the protests arose following the release of the magazines issue on 23rd of October which showed a picture of celebrity Lee-Ann Leidenburg who had (allegedly) shaved her head to heighten awareness of the problems surrounding cancer. I say allegedly because she had not shaven her head at all. In fact, it became apparent that the image of her with a shaven head was created with the help of Photoshop. In the magazine article 5 other celebrities took part.

A hail of protests

Facebook comments and email comments were very acidic. Here is a sample:

“…Hang your head in shame YOU! I am a cancer survivor and this is a disgrace! Why didn’t you have the guts to photoshop their eyebrows and eyelashes off as well? When you have chemo you lose it all! Cancer is not beautiful – it is ugly and tragic!…”

“…As a cancer survivor I find this offensive. It is not a joke and cancer cannot be photoshopped away…”

“…a disgusting slap in the face and [YOU Magazine] should be taken to court. My sister unfortunately lost the battle with cancer in February and for the last 10 years I’ve been shaving my hair …”


CANSA and YOU make their response

So are these comments justified? It is hard to say as there are always two sides to an argument and in all big campaigns there will be those who find issue with something or other. CANSA have come back and stated that this approach of raising cancer awareness has been used in a magazine before and there were no protests at all – in fact it had a very positive response.

Linda Pieterson, Editor of YOU stated: “Obviously we can’t ask celebrities to shave their heads because this is how they make their money, this is their livelihood. Our idea was to get them to shave their heads via Photoshop and to support and get people talking about the cancer issue …”

Unfortunately though it does appear that one of the celebrities involved in the campaign (Poppy Nthsongwana) was not aware she was going to be ”photoshopped” and she stated to website 702 that she would not have sent a photo in if she knew what was going to happen.


A storm in a teacup?

I do get a bit angry with supposed celebrities who get considered saints for all their hard work towards charity when all they are doing is standing in front of a camera and asking you to ring a number, or having a bucket of cold water poured over their heads. There sometimes seems to be a wide gap between what they could give and what is actually given to bolster their celebrity status.

But the fact is celebrity endorsement, however much energy they put in, works. This kind of campaign tends to work because people, rightly or wrongly, respect and imitate the actions and thoughts of the famous. This does, consequently, on one level heighten awareness of the charitable organisation concerned.

However it does seem that too many people in this campaign were left wanting when understanding the true nature of how the campaign would work.

What do you feel about this argument? Were YOU right to follow the campaign through or was it thoughtless and underhand?

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