When Debbie Green was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2010, one of her concerns was how she’d look and feel when she lost her hair from chemotherapy.
Her pathologist gave her a copy of the book, Turning Heads: Portraits of Grace, Inspiration, and Possibilities — 50 pages of beautiful photography of cancer patients — and an idea was born.
Collaborating with photographer Stacy Jacob, Green co-founded the Rancho Mirage–based Turning Heads Project in 2011, a nonprofit helping to enhance the self-image of men, women, and children undergoing cancer treatment.
The group offers complimentary, high-end photo shoots in the Coachella Valley to people who have lost their hair to chemotherapy. Family members are encouraged to take part. Turning Heads also captures video of the shoots and provides a custom coffee table book of photography.
All services are free, with volunteer professional styling, makeup, and photography. The chic Palm Springs fashion boutique Wil Stiles lends the apparel and offers the photo subjects any clothing item they want to keep from the event.
Despite the subject matter, the shoots are inspirational and full of joy. Participants turn up the stereo, dance around, and “just laugh and laugh,” Jacob says. “As soon as the mascara goes on, no more tears. It’s all about them.”
The shoots take place at Jacob’s studio. They’ve done about 35 so far in the Coachella Valley, with plans to expand the organization with like-minded people across the country.
Most of the “supermodels” come from word-of-mouth or referrals from oncologists, Gilda’s Club, and the Lucy Curci Cancer Center, but people are welcome to contact Turning Heads directly, Jacob says.
Visit turning-heads.org for more information or to support the group.