As our Power Figures monthlong series continues, we managed to snag a coveted slot on Bari Seiden-Young’s jam-packed calendar: Bari is the Vice President of Corporate Communications for The Estée Lauder Companies (ELC), and she leads the Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign on behalf of ELC, focusing media attention on annual high-wattage efforts to raise major awareness and funds that fuel life-saving research.
No matter if she’s illuminating the Empire State Building pink with supermodel and global ambassador Elizabeth Hurley or attending a black tie gala, for Bari, every last action she takes comes back to beating cancer. As with Lauren, the survivor, and Pamela, the fundraiser, Bari has an all-too personal cancer connection that drives her, too.
Q: Tell us about yourself. How did you land at The Estée Lauder Companies and the Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign? What is your role at both?
A: I was recruited by The Estée Lauder Companies in 2001 as the Vice President of Global Communications for Aramis and Designer Fragrances, overseeing fragrance launches for Donna Karan, Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger and others. For many years, I supported the Company’s Breast Cancer Awareness (BCA) Campaign both professionally and personally. Like so many of us, breast cancer has touched my life: My grandmother died from breast cancer, my aunt died from ovarian cancer, my first cousins have the BRCA gene and my best friend was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).
In 2009, Mrs. Evelyn and Mr. Leonard Lauder came to me to ask me to move to Corporate Communications to lead their communications along with the Company’s BCA Campaign. It was a tremendous honor to be selected, and though it was an amazing opportunity, it took a lot of soul-searching to be able to accept. Unfortunately, 2001 is an anniversary year for another reason—it’s the year my first husband, Howard Seiden, was diagnosed with terminal cancer of the adrenal glands. Eight years into our fight against his disease, I didn’t know if it would be healthy for me to have both my work life and my personal life revolve around cancer. Mrs. Lauder was very kind about it, addressing my concerns and aligning my focus with all the good I could do in this role.
My first year with the BCA Campaign was a mix of triumph and tragedy: While I redirected the campaign and created a strategy of which I am, to this day, extremely proud, my husband passed away that October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month. My amazing team, many of whom are still with me today, saw everything through and executed with excellence. That year, and every year since, I honor Howard’s memory with everything I do to fight cancer.
Q: What legacy did your work with Evelyn leave? How are you keeping her mission alive?
A: Evelyn Lauder was my mentor. She was a force to be reckoned with, and one of the kindest people I’ve ever been lucky enough to know. There were the big things—to create awareness for breast cancer, she co-created the Pink Ribbon and created the BCA campaign and the Landmark Illumination Program; to find a cure, she founded the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, a separate 501(c)3 charity. Then there were countless little things that added up to a tremendous positivity and light in the face of adversity—Mrs. Lauder was on a nonstop mission to help people around the world live better, healthier lives. She left a shining legacy of hard work, beauty, joy, kindness, dedication and never giving up. I work every day to continue the tremendous job she started. Mrs. Lauder passed the torch she carried in the fight against breast cancer to her son William P. Lauder, Executive Chairman of The Estée Lauder Companies and Co-Chairman of BCRF, and to our Global Ambassador, Elizabeth Hurley. It’s a true honor to be able to continue Evelyn’s work with them.
Q: What does your typical day look like?
A: I’m up at 6 AM, reading the papers, checking social media and blogs and updating the family and the Company’s executive leadership on the most important news of the day. Early mornings are also when I catch up on emails that have come in overnight from my colleagues around the globe. Next, I’m busy getting my 17-year-old son and 12-year-old stepson out the door to school—I was very lucky to find love again and married my wonderful husband, Brad Young, in August 2015. Then I get some exercise in by walking to (and from!) the office. I meet with my team to create the best BCA Campaign to defeat breast cancer not only in October but 12 months a year. I lead our digital efforts on BCACampaign.com and Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to provide education and a support network for those battling the disease and others affected by it, and I’m also attending board meetings (I formally joined the Advisory Board of BCRF this year, and I’m on the Board of Fashion Group International). I’m often working with Estée Lauder Companies’ brand leaders on Pink Ribbon products to raise funds and awareness. In addition to my work with BCA, I also lead press and communications for Mr. Leonard A. Lauder, the Lauder family and the Company’s other philanthropic initiatives. At night, I’m often executing or attending events, cooking a healthy dinner for my family or catching up with friends and family, which takes a lot of time.
Q: In what ways are you making an impact to turn the tide against breast cancer? What are some of your proudest accomplishments?
A: Through the BCA Campaign, we are raising funds for the BCRF and 60 other global charities. We’re active in more than 70 countries, we’ve raised more than $65 million globally to support research, education and medical services and we’ve funded 200 research grants.
Having worked hard to accomplish our goal of increasing awareness, in 2012—BCA’s 20th Anniversary—we transitioned to a focus on increased action: supporting research that makes an impact on lives every day. Among my proudest accomplishments is conceptualizing and securing the Guinness World Record for the most landmarks illuminated for a cause in 24 hours—38 global monuments—and continuing the Landmark Illumination Program every year with the lighting of such icons as the Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tour. I also have the honor of ringing the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange.
I’m extremely proud of the relationships I’ve formed professionally and personally, and the fact that I’ve faced my own adversity in life and made lemonade out of any and all lemons. I’m also so proud of my team and the wonderful colleagues who have been part of it over the years. I’m proud of the careers I’ve mentored and the young women and men I’ve inspired, and of having spent 15 years at a company that cares and gives back, truly bringing the best to everyone we touch.
Q: What’s the most challenging part of your work? How do you maintain a positive outlook when confronting cancer every day?
A: No question, the most challenging part of my job is not enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do. I stay positive knowing that there will be a cure in our lifetimes and knowing that my work will contribute to finding that cure. The glass is always half full. I am a firm believer that it is just as easy to look at the positive as it is to look at the negative. Every day, I follow the mantra, “Live, love, laugh.”
Q: Since you’re closer to it than most, what advice do you give women dealing with breast cancer?
A: I believe it can’t be said enough: Every action counts. Be an advocate for your own health. Check yourself regularly. Eat healthy. Exercise. If you think you want a second opinion, get one. Take action together: Lean on your friends and family; it’s never a burden, people want to help. Join a support group to connect with others going through what you are at BCACampaign.com. Go to therapy—any kind you like. Form relationships with your healthcare professionals. Above everything, do what makes you feel good about your healthcare regime, and never give up hope.
Meet all the Breast Cancer Awareness Month Power Figures here:
Read our 2015 series here:
- Part One – You are Now Entering the Third Dimension: 3D Mammography
- Part Two – The Angelina Effect: Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer
- Part Three – Breast Cancer Awareness: Pink is the New Black
- Part Four –