Get Inspired: A New Calling

Breast cancer transformed a figure skater into a glamour guru.
By Margaret VanEchaute

Danielle Messina has always been a girly girl. A dedicated figure skater for nearly thirty years, Danielle became infatuated with the glitz and glamour of skating competitions at a very early age, sparking an interest in makeup that eventually became as much of a passion as the sport itself. Before being diagnosed with breast cancer at just 31 years old, skating was her life; afterwards, everything changed.

When the physical demands of skating became too much post-cancer, Danielle realized it was time for the next chapter of her life and turned to her other passion—beauty products. However, being diagnosed at such a young age had suddenly opened her eyes to how little she knew about what was really in the makeup she used everyday.

Planning to write helpful beauty-product reviews, she began researching ingredient lists online; and it wasn’t long before she had opened a can of worms she never knew existed. “I had no idea that there was this much garbage in the stuff that I was using,” she says. “I thought I was just going to write about beauty products after cancer. I didn’t realize how much there was to it.”

Danielle was horrified at the lack of regulation she discovered in the beauty industry—and the fact that for so many people, this didn’t seem to be a big deal. “People tell you that you have to diet and you have to exercise, but nobody really worries about what you put on your body,” she says in disbelief. She was shocked to learn not only that many products on the market contain less-than-ideal ingredients, but that very few are required to list them on the label. As such, there’s no easy way for the average woman to make an informed decision about what she puts on her skin—and this is what bothers Danielle more than anything. “I can’t sit here and keep my mouth shut because now I feel like I’m holding valuable information that I wish I knew before,” she says. “If I had known, maybe I would and maybe I wouldn’t have changed the things I was doing, but at least I would have had the tools to make that choice for myself.”

Today, Danielle writes about products that are truly natural and organic, dedicating her time to educating women about the dangers of ignorance when it comes to what they put on their skin. She’s extremely picky about the products she chooses to advocate, strongly condemning “green-washed” and “pink-washed” products, and most often favoring those with ingredients she recognizes from her own kitchen. However, she also has high standards for effectiveness. “It can be the best ingredients in the world,” she says, “but if it doesn’t do what you need it to do, it’s kind of useless.”

Danielle’s passion for healthy living and dedication to natural products has also led her from behind the keyboard. Currently filming a year-long documentary called “The Body Burden” with NYU film student and social activist Jessica Assaf, she is hoping her story and its message—that all the things you put on your body accumulate over your lifetime—will be used to further educate and assist in the fight to change regulation laws. While Danielle doesn’t entirely blame the beauty industry for her health problems, she does hold them responsible for their actions, and she hopes others will do the same. With so much passion channeled into a single outlet, it’s no surprise that Danielle’s blog has blossomed into a huge success.

What began as a small, personal project has transformed into an extraordinary platform for sharing the extensive knowledge she’s gathered. Her high standards, inspiring personal story, and upbeat attitude have kept readers hooked, and Danielle—known in the blogosphere as the “Glamorganic Goddess”—has found herself in a position she never expected: one in which cancer has made a positive change not only in her own life, but in the lives of thousands.

Additionally, the blog has connected her with many likeminded individuals, finally shattering that overwhelming sense of post-cancer isolation and ultimately providing her with a profound sense of peace, purpose, comfort, and healing. “I can say the cancer surgery saved my life,” she says, “but in a lot of ways, I can say this blog really has saved it, too.”