Paulette Leaphart is the bare-chested breast cancer survivor featured in Beyoncé’s new visual album, Lemonade. On April 30, the mother of eight set off on a 1,000-mile walk from her hometown of Biloxi, Missouri, to Washington, DC, to help raise awareness for the disease. As in the iconic music video, Leaphart will be walking topless, and it’s now rumored that Queen Bey herself will soon be joining the inspiring advocate for a mile of the journey, Fox News reports.
Leaphart was diagnosed with a Stage III estrogen positive ductal carcinoma in her right breast in 2013. Due to a family history of breast cancer, doctors recommended she undergo a double mastectomy to treat the condition. In addition, they informed Leaphart that because of an inherited clotting disorder, she wouldn’t be able to get breast implants to replace her breasts.
Despite not having health insurance, Leaphart underwent the surgery in the spring of 2014. She paid for the mastectomy and her follow-up cancer care (including chemotherapy, specialists visits and medications) out-of-pocket, all while raising her four biological and four adopted children.
But Leaphart’s inspiring story went largely untold until September 2014. While at a beach in Biloxi, the cancer survivor said the Holy Spirit moved her to shed her shirt and have one of her daughters photograph her scars. Leaphart posted the photos on Facebook, and within minutes her photos got thousands of views. To date, the post has gained more than 1,400 likes and more than 200 comments on social media, mainly in support of her inspiring journey.
Leaphart hopes to reach the capital by her 50th birthday on June 27. Filmmaker Emily Mackenzie, who is making a documentary about the journey, will accompany Leaphart and her four youngest daughters on the topless walk. The film, titled Scar Story, is due out in October, just in time for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Nearly 200,000 American women—including 20,000 black women—are diagnosed each year with breast cancer. For more information on how to prevent, screen for and treat breast cancer, click here.