Leanne Pero is an entrepreneur, fighter, survivor and inspiration. Born and raised in South West London, she prides herself on being an active member of the community, having set up a dance company, charity and - most recently - penning her first self-help book for women battling cancer. Here we catch up with the trailblazer to talk about her experiences and how they've paved the way for her journey to greatness.
As a survivor of breast cancer, you’ve started your own charity, The Leanne Pero Cancer Foundation. What compelled you to do this?
When cancer came into my life it gave me a wealth of experience. Then when I got given the all-clear I felt empowered to make a positive change, particularly within the black community. My foundation houses many projects and the most successful one to date is Black Women Rising UK. This is all about helping women use their voices and stories to help others and aid in emotion and mental healing.
Did witnessing your mum’s battle with cancer make you feel more prepared for your own fight, in some respects?
There’s no preparation for cancer. No matter how many people you know that have had it, no cancer patient is the same. Everyone deals and copes with it differently. My mum has had cancer twice, and the first time I was only 10 years old so I don’t remember much. Her second battle with cancer started six months before I was diagnosed and in the end we had different treatments.
Dance has helped you through many painful experiences. Why do think that is?
I was sexually abused when I was 10 to 13 years old. When I decided to speak up on the matter, nobody believed me at first. So I moved out of the family home and lived with my estranged father, where I realised life was not going to be the same again and that I was responsible for myself. I remember those few years vividly. Trying to bring my abuser to justice (which eventually fell apart), I went through a terrible time and suffered from PTSD. It was dance that saved me; it built me up and gave me confidence and self-belief. I knew I wanted to give back and share it with other young women going through similar things. Using my painful experiences hasn’t been easy as I’m still very much traumatised. Acts of self-care are essential to my daily routine and I try my best to keep selffocused at all times and also switch off for some much-needed 'me' time.
Speaking of self-care, you have now written and published a book. This month you’re also launching Black Women Rising magazine. Please tell us more...
Before being diagnosed with breast cancer, I’d just turned 30 and felt it was time to share my trials and tribulations of overcoming sexual abuse, depression and PTSD. The book, like all my work, was designed as a self-help guide and tells my story alongside offering some motivational tasks too. As for the magazine, this is a dream come true. It will be aimed at empowering women of colour through their cancer journeys with inspirational case studies, treatment advice, hair, beauty and wig tips as well as lifestyle advice and tips for family and friends.
Photography by Noam Friedman