When Melissa Etheridge took the stage at the 2005 Grammys in a tribute to Janis Joplin, the whole world noticed. Sure, there was her actual performance—she seemed practically born to play "Piece of My Heart," which she did alongside Joss Stone—but most notable was her head. Bald, Etheridge had just finished a brutal course of chemotherapy in her fight against breast cancer, and she weighed her decision heavily: first, whether or not to perform, and later, whether or not to put the side effects of her treatment on full display, a national stage.
"I wanted to show people that no, I've been through hell, yeah, this is awful, but I am not dying. I wanted to present myself as, 'I'm back, I'm not weak, this has made me stronger.' I just didn't want anyone to make fun of me," Etheridge told Entertainment Weekly in January.
Everyone from Rosie O'Donnell to Steven Spielberg told her to go bald. She did, a choice that carried more impact than she'd ever anticipated, inspiring headlines and wig and headscarf disposals the world over. "I swear, not a week goes by that somebody doesn't mention that performance and how they've been touched by it," she said.
On Monday, October 22, more than a decade later, Etheridge took another stage, this time here in Houston. The legendary musician headlined the 17th annual Nancy Owens Breast Cancer Foundation Luncheon as its celebrity guest speaker at the downtown Hilton Americas.
The fundraiser, full of pink-clad philanthropists, generated $105,000 for cancer research this year. Proceeds will benefit Baylor College of Medicine's Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the department of nanomedicine at Houston Methodist Research Institute.
The luncheon also saw a special presentation of the Spirit of Courage Award to Wendy Bernstein, a breast cancer survivor who proudly announced her cancer-free status on stage. Bernstein dedicated and presented her award to her Baylor oncologist, Dr. Osborne.