This is a reprint of the article published in the August 2023 edition of MALVIE Magazine. See https://www.malvie.fr/
The passion to tell our story and the creative visionary and artist is from the heart and soul of JMAO PHOTOS to whom we are forever grateful.
From Cancer Battles to Confidence
Can you share the inspiring story behind the founding of Appeeling? How did your battle with breast cancer twice lead to the creation of your pastie company?
Thank you kindly for this question.
10 days after my first diagnosis, I was sitting in a room full of friends and family on the eve of my first surgery. My daughters were very young at the time, ages 2 and 4. The room was filled with fear and try as I might to lighten the mood and gain the positive energy needed, I was instead consumed with the need to placate the concerns and fears of my loved ones. I did not want them to worry but more so I did not want my daughters to feel fear in a situation that, at their tender ages, could not understand.
At that moment, I made a decision: if further surgery was required, I would host a pre-surgery party. My intention was to create an atmosphere of celebration and a sense of togetherness in what would otherwise be a time full of fear and uncertainty. Moreover, it would offer my daughters a tangible display of the love surrounding them, reassuring them that they would always be cared for, no matter what the future held. This was also a means to celebrate life in the face of adversity.
Unbeknownst to me, this marked the beginning of a multi-decade journey, encompassing another cancer diagnosis (with a recurrence of breast cancer) and more than 10 surgeries, some more urgent than others. My boobie parties as they became known, created the mood I was looking for and the celebratory safe space I wanted for my daughters.
In advance of my last surgery, I decided I wanted to give away an on-theme party favor: nipple pasties. I envisioned a collection of glittering, sparkling nipple pasties adorned with tassels. It felt like the perfect party concept – a way for everyone to revel in their "breast assets." Additionally, I saw it as a form of body celebration. I mean, who could resist smiling at these?
When I looked into how to get these perfectly themed party pasties , I could not find the ones that I wanted at the price I wanted. So, I took matters into my own hands. I designed the pasties, had them made. .And you know what? I was right. Everyone smiled. However, something even more magical unfolded. Very quickly, people were wearing pasties on their shirts. Men, women and my daughters alike were walking around my house with pasties on hands on hips, posture perfect, proud and confident. People who otherwise did not possess confidence emerged as goddesses and their light radiated. I saw in that evening not a product but a powerful tool for promoting self confidence.
I could not get the idea that there was a business idea here. I like to say that it was ‘a little idea that stuck’. Two years later I finally had the time to look into it and I discovered that there was a market niche ready to welcome a brand that was fun and flirty, focused on body positivity and inclusivity and one that would push these ideals in every moment. I shared my idea with the two people that mattered most to me: my daughters. With their enthusiastic support of this idea, Be Appeeling was born.
Your mission revolves around inclusivity and body positivity. How do you ensure these values are reflected in the way you run your business?
Our mission is firmly rooted in the belief that EVERY-BODY deserves to sparkle. This is our driving force which governs everything we do:
1) Diverse Product Range: We prioritize catering to all body types by offering a comprehensive selection of options that are both size and gender inclusive.
2) In-Depth FAQ: We have a robust FAQ section that is a living, breathing resource to answer all questions as well as educate and encourage fun in the process of wearing pasties. We will also soon have a strong FAQ section as well for breast cancer survivors.
3) Inclusive Imagery & Messaging: Every image and all messaging we disseminate mirror the rich diversity present within our community. We vehemently disallow any content that deviates from our mission.
4) Meaningful Partnerships: We only create partnerships with people and organizations that have the same brand ethos.
5) Creative Collaborations: We celebrate and nurture partnerships that contribute depth, jubilation, and artistry to our narrative. A prime example is our cherished collaboration with JMao Photos, who has truly captured our essence.
6) A Community of Celebration: We create a welcoming and safe space for people to share their stories, celebrate themselves and we accept ideas based on their experiences.
7) Giving Back: We go beyond profits, allocating a portion of our proceeds to community-based charities that ardently champion Body Positivity: LGBTQ Youthline and Look Good Feel Better, a nationwide initiative assisting women in navigating the appearance-related challenges of Cancer.
What inspired you to embrace creative inspiration from your customers, models, production partners, and breast friends? How does this influence the design process at Appeeling?
Every creative soul is an open one and the process of creativity is an iterative one. This means that creative inspiration is drawn from a multitude of sources: prevailing fashion trends, an arresting ensemble worn by someone, an inanimate object brimming with character, the world of art, and the vivacity of festivals and celebrations. Equally, it arises from the invaluable feedback of our clients, the boundless imagination of remarkable creatives like JMao Photos, artists who fuse their ingenuity with custom design requests, and the unwavering camaraderie of our breast friends. Our approach to creativity at Appeeling thrives on the fusion of insights from diverse quarters and the cultivation of ideas from numerous origins.
<Note from Patrick J. Maurer at JMaoPhotos: I'm in complete agreement with Andrea here. We first integrated Andrea’s products into our work during a Christmas-themed photoshoot last December. Following that session, I shared some of the final photos for Appeeling's product reviews, and from that exchange, an enriching friendship blossomed with Andrea. As a former executive in the startup realm, I understand firsthand the potency of robust partnerships for personal growth and longevity. Immediately, I connected with Andrea's product vision, but more importantly, her overarching company vision and leadership ethos resonated deeply with me. Following a successful sale of our tech company backed by private equity a few years ago, I delved back into full-time photography. Andrea’s creations offered us a novel realm of creative expression for our photoshoots. They imbued our images with an exquisite touch, enhancing their elegance. However, beyond the aesthetic, Andrea's journey of body positivity, inclusivity, and unwavering determination marched in harmony with what I aspired to foster through our photoshoot experiences. In fact, "Shooting for Andrea" became a unifying thread in our shoot planning. Andrea's generosity extended to sharing her personal story directly with our models through a Zoom call. This diverse group, already captivated by how Appeeling's products made them feel, now forged a profound connection with her leadership narrative and the company's principles. Andrea even graced us with a motivating FaceTime pep talk prior to a significant shoot we undertook in June. We revel in crafting around Appeeling's product line and equally cherish the symbiotic display of our photographsacross our mutual social platforms, as demonstrated in endeavors like this collaboration in Malvie>
You mentioned hosting "boobie parties" as an instrumental pillar of your healing process. How have these parties played a role in promoting body confidence and celebration?
The legacy of these "boobie parties" continues to resonate with me daily, shaping the very lens through which I propel my business forward. It's remarkable how these gatherings, infused with a blend of celebration and solidarity, have instilled an enduring power within every facet of my endeavor.
The transformative impact of wearing pasties is striking: I see individuals standing taller (owing to the natural posture enhancement pasties provide) and enjoying the moment to celebrate themselves. Every instance of self-assurance becomes a catalyst for further celebration, creating a beautiful cycle. I am immensely gratified to witness how my personal voyage of healing has organically evolved into a cornerstone that champions and commemorates the diverse journeys of countless others.
In essence, these "boobie parties" have evolved beyond moments of festivity; they have taken on the mantle of catalysts for body confidence, self-expression, and an unreserved celebration of individuality. This profound effect forms the heartbeat of my business, enriching the lives of many through a remarkable synergy of self-confidence and self-expression.
Appeeling offers a wide range of pastie designs, totaling over 300 designs and constantly growing. How do you maintain creativity and cater to diverse celebrations and moments?
We are constantly designing and love doing so! Honestly, there is never a break in momentum here. When you embrace a design philosophy predicated on the belief that EVERY-BODY deserves to be celebrated you recognize that diversity is creative fuel. Also, our world is so beautifully enriched with many cultural celebratory and community events and we are equally fuelled to celebrate alongside and with them. In essence, our unfaltering dedication to creativity is nourished by the vibrant spectrum of celebration and self-expression.
The process of creativity can be time-consuming and hindered by self-imposed perfectionist hurdles. How do you overcome these challenges and stay fueled by creative inspiration?
You're absolutely right, the creative process can indeed be time-intensive. However, there's a pivotal juncture where we naturally decide that a design has reached its culmination. Our intuition plays a significant role here, but we've also established robust processes that allow for thorough testing before full-scale production. This approach ensures that both creativity and quality are upheld without compromise.
As a company focused on community support, how do you tailor designs for specific celebrations such as Pride, Carnival, Burlesque, and Festivals?
Our mission of self-confidence and body celebration naturally aligns with all community based festivals and celebrations. This is where we started and where we will always remain connected. We know how important it is for people to share their own personal stories of celebration and we strive to make accessories to help people express themselves. This dynamic serves as an abundant reservoir of creative inspiration for us.
What do you believe sets Appeeling apart from other brands that design products without embracing the personalities that bring them to life?
What sets BeAppeeling apart? Aside from the vast selection of pasties and body jewelry we have we embody the following attributes which I believe sets us apart;
1. Our unwavering celebration of EVERY-BODY in every endeavor we undertake.
2. We know we are not designing just a product, we are designing an accessory for a fashion statement; an attitude; a powerful moment of self-confidence; self expression; celebration.
3. Our brand has a heart and a soul and we strive to connect, not just to transact.
4. We operate with the spirit of both celebrating and giving back the communities that inspire us.
5. We listen. We share. We create.
How has embracing vulnerability and self-expression impacted your personal and professional journey?
On a personal level, this journey of vulnerability and self expression has given me power over any self imposed constraints that having a double mastectomy has had on my life. Instead of being limited by the physical differences I have to other women I am empowered to celebrate my body.
On a professional level, while my narrative has consistently been the heartbeat of BeAppeeling, I initially hesitated to fully embody the face of the brand. I honestly wanted my
story to the foundation upon which other stories would shine. And it has. . However, in this process, I inadvertently let my story retreat to the background. Juggling other businesses demanding a public persona, I grappled with concerns about BeAppeeling's reception. But today, I stand with heightened confidence that this venture is what I'm most proud of. I'm increasingly becoming the face of the company, ardently championing the BeAppeeling spirit. I encourage as many individuals as possible to learn to love and celebrate their bodies. By revealing BeAppeeling, I extend an embrace to numerous women and men, irrespective of their professional stature, welcoming them into a world of self-acceptance and self-confidence.
You mentioned wearing what you want, sometimes with a tassel or lace, without a shirt. How does this newfound self-love and celebration of femininity affect your overall sense of empowerment?
It is really quite simple. When you love yourself, you can do or achieve anything.
Can you share a heartwarming story or testimonial from a customer who experienced a significant transformation through wearing Appeeling pasties?
We are very lucky at BeAppeeling insofar as we have a bountiful supply of customers stories that have been shared. They range from the confidence pasties gave them to the welcomed ‘spice’ added to a date night or night out to wearing them underneath an outfit to an important meeting or court date (yes we have heard that one). We encourage the voices of all body positive advocates and often share stories (with permission) to encourage others who may be motivated by hearing a story close to their personal situation. We are also blessed to have such a strong partnership with @JMAOPHOTOS who, through their professionalism and creative vision encourages expression with all the models he uses to visually and artistically capture the passion behind the pasties.
It is most difficult to find a story to share as all are unique and beautiful in their own authenticity. However, I will share two that are among my favorites:
1) Wonder Woman. I created a wonder woman themed pastie specifically for the cancer warriors among us. I know first hand the energy and power it takes to battle this disease. The strength required is at a super hero level. Wonder woman became a theme with a dear friend of mine as she faced her battles and we would envision the power ahead of every scan and every treatment. She shared this photo with me prior to a CT scan. She said it gave her the positive energy she needed at this moment and the femininity back that constant medical attention can rob.
2) In her own words “ I wanted to share a photo of your pasties and the rainbow wings you gave me on the last day of Pride. Your product allowed me to express my new found body confidence for the first time ever.”
What are your future aspirations for Appeeling, and how do you envision continuing to celebrate every-body through your creative designs?
We are always in a state of learning and constant creative exploration. There is always a new reason or a season to celebrate so we are immersed in finding new ways to help just that. We are working on designs right now to provide greater options for very curvy burlesque performers and elevating our current designs with new trendy options for either private or
public moments. We are also expanding our lines to include body chains that will match the festive and fashionable feeling of our pasties.
We explore with new materials and methods of production and creative ways to package up our designs to help the decision making process. There are many new developments like these and so much more at Appeeling, so stay tuned!
For the future? We envision sharing our mission and our products with a wider audience and provide fabulous and fashionable ways to express themselves, as they choose to. We envision a greater adoption of pasties into the fashion runways as they appeared this year and greater accessibility within the lingerie market. We envision Appeeling at the forefront of these opportunities with the quality and creativity of our products and the expertise of manufacturing. However, this future vision of what we do will never come at the expense of the communities we please today or why we do it: the belief that every-body deserves to sparkle.
Confidence is sexy. Wear it daily.
Andrea is a global entrepreneur, speaker, storyteller and passionate community activist. She is the founder & SHE-E-O of Appeeling – a body celebration brand selling fashionable, fun and flirty pasties that are perfect for every body. In everything we do, we believe EVERY-BODY deserves to sparkle.