Paulette Leaphart, a cast member in Beyoncé‘s visual album and artistic triumph Lemonade, left her hometown of Biloxi, Mississippi, on April 30th determined to walk the 1,034 miles to Washington, D.C. — and she did it topless. The daring move was intended to make a statement to Congress about breast cancer.
The single mother-of-eight was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer in January 2014, and she walked with her 8-year-old daughter, Madeline, to honor her personal journey and try to raise awareness about one of the less talked about hardships facing people with cancer and other diseases: a lack of health insurance. She walked the entire journey topless, proudly showing her scars that are a result of the double mastectomy he had to undergo.
She tells stories of other people who are going through disease and sickness who are at the mercy of their insurance, unable to focus on their survival because they lack the economic means to get the treatment they need. “I trained for this. When I got sick, I had to sell my cars. That made me walk to the doctor,” Leaphart told ESPN. “I’d walk the 5 miles there, recover for an hour or two, then walk the 5 miles back.”
Leaphart isn’t only impressing us with her determination, she also found an admirer in Queen Bey while on set.The Biloxi native was cast in Lemonade after telling casting directors her incredible story. Bey was so moved, she included Leaphart in the section called Hope. “She said I inspired her — that she admired me. It was great to hear that. I asked her to join me for a block of the walk, and she offered to join me for a mile,” she recounted of the time she spent with Knowles.
Leaphart finished her journey on June 27th, her 50th birthday — one that her doctors weren’t always confident she would reach.
She hopes to raise awareness within government, and across the nation, about the suffering that sick Americans face everyday because they are not able to receive the treatment they need.
Looks like Beyoncé wasn’t the only woman in Lemonade that we should all look up to.