Allana Maiden wanted her mother to feel beautiful again after she'd undergone a radical mastectomy. But Victoria's Secret, the company she hoped would design sexy lingerie for women who've had breast cancer surgery, has rejected her appeal for a "survivor line" of bras.
The Richmond, Va., 28-year-old was 6 years old when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and had her surgery. But she was always aware of her mother's struggle to feel good about herself - and to find a bra that not only fit but was reasonably priced.
Maiden was particularly disappointed in Victoria's Secret's decision after actress Angelina Jolie announced that she'd had a preventive mastectomy after learning she had the BRCA gene, which predisposes a woman to breast cancer.
"She put the news out there that you can still be attractive after having breast cancer and mastectomy," Maiden said of Jolie. "But a beautiful bra would have been a great thing to have, and now these bras are very limited.
"My mom and I have always said how much we appreciate Victoria's Secret research efforts," said Maiden, who works at an animal shelter. "But cancer research doesn't help survivors feel beautiful after the battle is over - mastectomy bras do. This is a company that prides itself in innovation that helps women feel beautiful. I don't think cancer survivors like my mom should be the exception to the rule."
A representative from Victoria's Secret called Maiden two weeks ago to tell her that the company would not be creating a new line of "survivor" bras.
"Through our research, we have learned that fitting and selling mastectomy bras … in the right way … a way that is beneficial to women is complicated and truly a science," said Victoria's Secret Tammy Roberts Myers in a prepared statement today. "As a result, we believe that the best way for us to make an impact for our customers is to continue funding cancer research.
"I was disappointed, obviously," Maiden told ABCNews.com. "I understand her decision, that there is a science that goes [with these] bras, and it's more complicated than a regular bra would be. But I felt that if anyone could do it, they could. They have everything in place."
According to the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, and it estimates that more than 1.6 million new cases occurred among women worldwide in 2010.
Maiden's mother, 57-year-old Debbie Barrett, works in the admissions office at Virginia Highlands Community College. She was 36 when she found a lump during a self-examination and soon learned it was malignant.
Barrett wears a prosthetic because at the time of her mastectomy, insurance did not cover the cost of breast reconstruction. Because she lives in a rural part of Virginia, she has to drive 1½ hours to find a store that sells bras that hold prosthetic breasts.
"It's a huge ordeal," her daughter told ABCNews.com earlier this year after she filed a petition on change.org, asking Victoria's Secret to consider her proposal for a "survivor" line of bras. To date, the petition has garnered 120,000 signatures.
The bras that Barrett wears have little pockets to hold the prosthetic breasts. They can be bought online, but it's hard to get a good fit without being measured in person, say both mother and daughter.
Maiden and Barrett met with Victoria's Secret representatives twice - once when they delivered petition signatures to the company's New York office and again when they were flown by the parent company to Columbus, Ohio, to meet with additional team members and cancer researchers.
Victoria's Secret parent company, Limited Brands, has donated more than $1.6 million to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and the American Cancer Society to fund breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment. Additionally, in the past two years, it has raised nearly $10 million for cancer research at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, according to the company.
Limited Brands just participated in the local Komen Race for the Cure with the largest team in the world.