When Champagne Joy walked into a room, you knew it. She had a way of materializing like a force of nature — like a storm — rather than a regular human being. It wasn't just her badass personal style, complete with neon eyebrows and lipstick, skull motifs, and quirky Japanese designers: There was an inevitability about anything she said; you had no choice but to be swept away by her, to nod your head yes. She could have used this special gift of hers to accomplish pretty much anything, but she chose to devote it to tirelessly advocating for the more than 100 women and men who die every day of metastatic breast cancer — a disease that, she knew, she herself would die from.
Last year, Refinery29 partnered with Champagne and her organization #Cancerland to help spread the word about the fact that, of the billions and billions of dollars raised for breast cancer to date, just 2% of those funds go to Stage IV breast cancer, the disease's deadliest form. That was one of the first things she said to Refinery29 editors when we met her: "This is urgent," she told us. "We are dying now."
Champagne never minced words. She never sugar-coated things — including and especially the fact that she wouldn't be around for much longer. But even still, her death yesterday came as a shock to so many because beyond her signature blue hair and mischievous smile was a woman who appeared unstoppable. Full of vitality. Alive. Just yesterday, before being rushed to the hospital, she was in the middle of filming yet another project in service of her cause.
Champagne also never made excuses, and she expected everyone to live up to their greatness. #Glitterasyougo, she’d say, while taking care of you so that you wouldn’t feel her pain. She was busy living. Even while tackling her own illness, Champagne found time and energy to help other women through the ups and downs of treatment, and to celebrate the lives of those she'd never met.
"I am committed to people not having to do it alone. There are many, many moments every single day where it is so hard to just choose to stay alive. I cannot stress that enough — moment-to-moment, you’re like, 'I can’t do this, I am too sick, I have been too sick for too long, I have been too beaten down, I am too tired, and it would just be easier to let go,'" she told us last year. "But I won't leave this Earth until I see the beginning of change. I won't see the end of change, but I need to see that beginning or my life meant nothing."
All it takes is one glimpse at Champagne's Facebook page today to know that, to so many, her life meant everything. It did to us, too. "Champagne was a force like none I've ever seen. She fought like hell, spread truth, and shouted her message until the very end," says Amy Emmerich, Refinery29's chief content officer. "We at Refinery29 were incredibly lucky to have the chance to collaborate with Champagne and to play even a small role in spreading her important mission — and we're all better for having known her."
We pledge to carry her voice for the women continuing to battle Stage IV. Please join us in donating to Metavivor today in Champagne's honor. Let's continue her work to change the conversation about breast cancer.