BET’s Album of the Year Winner, Jazmine Sullivan, Brings Breast Cancer Disparities to the Forefront: ‘Let’s Do More’

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Meet Jazmine Sullivan: singer-songwriter, BET award winner and breast cancer advocate.

Jazmine Sullivan

Photo courtesy of Jazmine Sullivan.

Many know Jazmine Sullivan as a singer-songwriter whose record, “Fearless” reached Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums in 2008. She also recently won the BET awards for Best Female R&B/Pop Artist and Album of the Year for her fourth album, “Heaux Tales.”

But what many don’t know, is that through all her success, she was also going through a tough season of her own: her mother’s diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer in 2019.

Jazmine Sullivan and her mother

Jazmine and her mother. Photo courtesy of Jazmine Sullivan.

“She had actually been giving us hints, or giving me hints, like she may think something's wrong … But at the time, it was so foreign to me to hear that she could even have breast cancer (and) that that would ever be in our story. I kind of was like brushing it off. I was like, ‘this isn't happening. And when she gets these results back, they're going to be fine,’” Sullivan said in an interview with CURE®.

“So I kind of put it off until she had to come and tell me with my father. I get choked up thinking about it, and it was the worst news that you could ever get. I was heartbroken. I was heartbroken for her. I was heartbroken for our family.”

Jazmine Sullivan and her mother.

Jazmine and her mother. Photo courtesy of Jazmine Sullivan.

That year, Sullivan put her musical career on pause to take care of her mother. “I think I gave myself like 10 minutes to feel sad and broken. And then after that I was like, ‘OK, it's warrior mode.’ And I think that's natural for anybody who loves somebody that's going through breast cancer. You realize that you have to be there for that person. And you know, where they will be weak or where they are weak, you’ve got to be strong for them. And so that's what we decided, as a family, my father, my brothers, all the rest of our family was that we had to be strong for her and help her get through this. And we did. And we were better for it as a family,” she said.

Her mother’s diagnosis led Sullivan to look further into breast cancer, where she discovered that Black women with breast cancer are approximately 40% more likely to die from the disease compared to white women with breast cancer in the United States. Prior to her mother’s diagnosis, Sullivan said that she didn’t know much about breast cancer. This information, in combination with her personal experience, led her to partner up with Novartis for More Than Just Words, an initiative addressing racial disparities in breast cancer screening, treatment and care.

Jazmine Sullivan's mother holds her at a young age

Jazmine Sullivan's mother holds her at a young age. Photo courtesy of Jazmine Sullivan.

Sullivan added, “I don't remember health being a priority in my household as well as in schools. I don't remember talking about anything health-related in my public school. And in the Black household, a lot of times we don't have those discussions talking about our family history, with health and with breast cancer. (There are) a lot of the problems, and a lot of what we're focusing on trying to fix and continuing to have those conversations so that …. we can lessen the disparities.”

Jazmine Sullivan

Photo courtesy of Jazmine Sullivan.

Sullivan and other advisors on the initiative are working towards finding more ways to spread awareness, keep the conversation going and educate Black women to keep up with mammograms and screenings.

“I would say the main thing that you should do is just have the conversations with your loved ones with your girlfriends. We talk about everything in the world, mainly men. Let's talk about our health. Like let's make that a priority. Now that you know about the disparities and now that you're learning about the disparities, make a change go into your family circle and have these conversations, ask about health, ask is there anybody that's had breast cancer? Let's talk about it, why haven't we talked about it? Let's do more.”

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