Purse Strings



In a world where tremendous importance is placed on a woman’s outer appearance, the devastating physical effects of illness or trauma often adds an emotional layer of suffering that impedes the overall recovery process.

As a professional in the beauty and entertainment industries for more than a decade, Amie Petersen – known in the beauty industry as Dena Cali – built a successful wig and hair extension business that not only catered to Hollywood’s glamorous elite, but also to a large constituency of women who had suffered hair loss due to aging and illness.  In fact, Amie Petersen initially started the Foundation for Living Beauty in response to the growing need for beauty supplies and products among her clientele of cancer survivors.  And just one week after filing her 501(c) 3 paperwork for the foundation, Amie’s own mother was diagnosed with cancer.

What began as one woman’s journey to assist her mother and other women in need has now blossomed into a thriving organization and haven to which countless clients known as “Living Beauties” turn for support, resources and advice while coping with cancer.

Located in Pasadena, CA, the mission of the Foundation for Living Beauty is to empower women to reduce their cancer risk and increase their self-esteem, physical wellness, and emotional stability after coping with the taxing effects of cancer and chemotherapy.

“Cancer is an emotional disease,” Amie Petersen said.  “It immediately thrusts women who are traditionally the rocks of their families and the nurturers of loved ones into positions where they themselves are suddenly vulnerable and totally dependent.  For most women, that’s a difficult situation and these emotional effects don’t always show up right away.”

In addition to offering therapeutic support groups and annual wellness retreats, the Foundation for Living Beauty achieves its mission through fitness classes and educational workshops about nutrition, alternative medicine and cancer prevention.

Photo Credit: Karine Bastillo

But perhaps, as their name implies, they are best known for the vital beauty services that they provide.

“My aunt used to say, ‘Pretty is as pretty does,’” Petersen shared. “If you’re not beautiful on the inside, then your physical aesthetic really doesn’t matter. True beauty is a light that radiates from within.”  Yet it’s nearly impossible to feel beautiful when, as is the case with many cancer survivors, a woman must deal with hair loss, changes in her skin and weight, as well as the loss of one or both breasts, a uterus and so on.

To combat the traumatic physical changes that often come with illness, the Foundation for Living Beauty works to make women feel beautiful on the outside through personal makeovers and photo shoots because, as Amie Petersen told us,

Photo Credit: Stephen Gilbert

“When we feel that we look beautiful on the outside, there is a sense of pride, and a boost in our confidence.  That positive energy is powerful and it helps us heal.”

It should come as no surprise that running a nonprofit in this day and age comes with a host of economic challenges.   As a business practice, Amie works diligently to keep the foundation’s overhead as low as possible – ensuring that as many donations and resources, as possible, are being used to benefit her clients.

“Our foundation is fully staffed by volunteers and we rely primarily on financial and in-kind support,” Petersen said. “It makes our donors and volunteers feel good to know that the majority of the donations and support that we receive is going directly to help the people we serve.”

For a list of upcoming events, guidelines for becoming a “Living Beauty” or donor and volunteer information, please visit: livingbeauty.org.

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