Imagine being 25 years old and told to make out a will. That’s exactly what happened to Dawn Russell, a seemingly typical twenty-something Manhattanite, seven years ago when she was diagnosed with stage III cancer.


Then, just when Dawn thought that things could not get worse, she contracted a dangerous bone infection which prevented her from undergoing the standard procedures of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Not being able to use the conventional treatments offered in western medicine, Dawn immediately got to work investigating various healing techniques used throughout the world. Russell undertook a non-conventional four-year journey during which she researched and tried out every Eastern practice and philosophy of medicine from Ayurveda and Chinese medicine to yoga and meditation. This journey was time consuming as well as disheartening to her physicians and family but Russell was determined to do whatever it took to survive.


"Cancer forced me to educate myself and pause to see that disease of any sort, starts within. Outer symptoms such as stress, illness, problems, are only effects, not the cause."


There is no manual for 21st century womanhood, so Dawn Russell has departed on a mission to share her hard-learned lessons with young women around America. While traveling to various high schools and colleges, she tells her story, hoping always that these intelligent young minds will be motivated to discover what means the most to them. Says Russell, “We all have our problems. For me it was cancer. For young women, it could be divorcing parents, grades, or fitting in. If girls can connect inwardly rather than seek outside validation, and determine which life passion—performing arts, literature, volunteer work, sports—anchors them and guides them toward leading a successful and meaningful life, then confidence will follow.”


As the spokesperson for the Estee Lauder Companies’s new teen fragrance trio, C-Thru, Russell - honored as one of Vogue’s four women of empowerment, named to Vanity Fair’s Hall of Fame, and featured in the book 100 Most Powerful Women of the Next Generation - donates her entire salary to the Dawn Russell Foundation, which supports charities that share the mission of developing strong self-value in young women. “With all the distractions young women face today,” says Russell, “boys, grades, social life, parents, and fashion, girls need a reminder that sometimes at the cost of momentary social success, life is earned.”




An Uncommon Life