News & Politics

Newsbabes Bash for Breast Cancer Raises Funds and Awareness

The annual event hosted by local female news anchors brings together survivors of the disease.

The Newsbabes and the Newsmen in Pink. Photograph by Caroline Volz.

Dress codes can be tricky.

When I was asked to cover last night’s Newsbabes Bash for Breast Cancer charity event, I studied the press release, which featured a photo of several shiny-haired local female newscasters, all in cocktail dresses of varying shades of pink. The image raised some questions: Were only the anchors supposed to wear pink, since they were the stars of the event? Or would everyone be expected to? Did you actually have to be wearing pink to be allowed in? (That last was, I now realize, was kind of stupid.)

The Newsbabes Bash, which has been held each year for the past five, is part silent auction, part tapas bar (and open bar), and part PR for breast cancer research. It’s also a platform from which to recognize outstanding individuals whose accomplishments span both broadcast journalism and public awareness of breast cancer. The Newsbabes themselves are 21 of the DC networks’ most vibrant female anchors. Having set aside the inter-network competition they may face during the day, at events like these they make for an engaging and friendly group united by a bigger cause. And, it seems, they all looked good in pink.

After a lunch-break trip to Nordstrom Rack, I arrived at the Hamilton a few hours later wearing what I hoped was enough pink to keep me from getting pinched (or something like that). I may have overthought it. The room had the lighting of a nightclub but the decor of a baby shower, with a soundtrack that was accordingly bipolar. Strobe lights bounced off platters of Georgetown cupcakes while caterers roved with large platters of tiny food. (I tried a mini taco, which was delicious, and a mini crabcake, which I balled up in my napkin like a child.) All told, about half the crowd wore pink, the more fabulous examples of which included a shockingly bright fascinator that would have gone over well at the Kentucky Derby.

The music and chatter eventually quieted for the introduction of the guest of honor, JC Hayward—DC’s first female anchor and a 40-year veteran of WUSA 9—who underwent treatment for breast cancer a year ago. Hayward, clad, of course, in pink, said to the crowd, “You know, you’re [picking out] your outfit, and you think you look okay, and then you get where you’re going. And there’s a hussy that’s got your dress on—and she’s in a size two . . .”

To laughter from the audience Hayward indicated weeknight anchor Lesli Foster, also of WUSA 9, who was indeed wearing the same dress. (Foster, Hayward says, is like a daughter to her—the two hugged onstage while the laughter died down.) Like Hayward, Foster is a Howard University alumna—“just a few years apart,” says Hayward. Howard University Cancer Center, represented last night by alumnus Dr. Wayne Frederick, is the benefactor of the charity, which included a silent auction.

“These women who are competitors during the day and night come together and do this,” said Frederick. “It’s a very good message for all of us in this city.” According to the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, DC has the highest rate of breast cancer mortality in the nation. African-American women in particular are at risk.

Frederick took a moment to recall a mother of five who hadn’t shown up for her first day of chemotherapy. When he called, she told him that she’d gone to work instead—accepting treatment would have meant she couldn’t provide for her family. She passed away three years ago. “Nobody should have to be in that position,” Frederick said.

As I saw strangers at Newsbabes introducing themselves by commenting on one another’s outfit and then sharing their reasons for being there, I decided I hadn’t overthought my outfit after all. The breast cancer survivors filling the room had chosen to express their stories positively, and they could choose the symbol that united them even though they hadn’t been able to choose the circumstance. When I asked Hayward what she thought about wearing pink, she told me it meant that she survived. Annie Perezchica, events director for the PR firm Brandlink, which organized the fundraiser, said she expected the night to pull in between $10,000 and $20,000, to fund what Dr. Frederick described as the “business of providing hope.”

Laura Evans of FOX 5 DC told me she hadn’t been a fan of the ultra-girly Newsbabes concept when her colleagues proposed it five years ago, but that the charity’s impact has since erased any misgivings. “I thought it was a little tongue-in-cheek,” Evans said. “I’m over that now. It’s all about the cause.” Evans has been a fixture at the fundraiser all five years.

“I know we’ve all gone through our closets looking for what’s prettiest, which, of course, is pink,” said WUSA 9 morning anchor Andrea Roane. “[But] pink is more than just a color. It’s a symbol of thriving and surviving.”