Style Icon: Rashel Ross

Rashel Ross

Breast Cancer Survivor

by Tracy Robinson

Photographer, Chuck St. John; Stylist, Tracy Robinson; Hair & Makeup, Kerri Bunn. Clothing from Icon’s own wardrobe. Photographed at home.

After Rashel’s mother died 10 years ago, she chose her mom’s fall leaves wreath as a remembrance. Every year I look forward to hanging it on my door from September through the end of November. It makes my heart happy. Old Navy sweater, Me Jane leather jacket, grandmother’s ring.

French writer Victor Hugo said, “Style is the substance of the subject called unceasingly to the surface”.

Cancer would call Rashel Ross’s substance forth again and again. A friend describes her as the perfect example of someone who is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside, very comfortable in her own skin.

However,  Ross freely admits that losing her hair was one of the most difficult parts of having cancer.  I loved my hair, she says. I loved the way it fell on my shoulders and made me feel protected. I could hide behind it. After her diagnosis on May 13, 2005, one of Ross’s first acts of letting go was having her hairstylist transform her long, beautiful mane into a short and spunky do, so that when chemotherapy—and the resulting hair loss—began, it would be less traumatic. This decision allowed her to donate her hair to Locks of Love, an organization that makes wigs for children with cancer.

Following a radical double-mastectomy, Ross began a regimen of chemotherapy (she would often wear high-

Photograph by Jason Wallis, July 2005. Cowboy hat was one of the gifts from the Hat/Scarf party thrown by Ross’s friends. She has since donated most of the items from the party to others in need. Ross’s once-straight hair grew back in wavy, which she loves, calling it a little present from the experience.

heels to treatment as a spirit booster). Shortly thereafter, her hair started falling out for real, and again she decided to beat it to the punch, hosting some of her closest friends in her backyard for a sort of head-shaving party. When the clippers malfunctioned halfway through, all loaded in the car to try to find a salon open at 7:30 p.m. Ending up at Eri-Onda’s salon in Alabaster, Ross and friends found owner Yolanda Hall closing up shop. She told me to sit down and she would take care of everything, and she did, Ross says. Her dad had gone through cancer just a couple of years before, and she had done the same for him.

Knowing she didn’t want to wear wigs, 40 of Ross’s friends threw a Hat/Scarfî party, providing her with beautiful accessories to ease her loss. People should wear what makes them happy, she says.  For Ross, that might be her grey corduroy Chucks or a ball gown with pockets. Comfort and functionality are key. While admittedly a less-is-more kind of girl, she got turned on to MAC makeup when her dad treated her to it during treatment, including false eyelashes. I like who I am and know what I like, she says.

Ross asked close friend and former employer, photographer Jason Wallis, to photograph her without hair. It helped me put aside my belief that somehow my beauty was found in my appearance, she says. They might be the most beautiful pictures I’ve ever had taken because they speak so much to where my heart was.

Seated in a chair passed down from her great-grandmother, Ross wears BKE jeans, Hurley jacket, Bare Traps boots.

Today a cancer-free Rashel embraces the life experience she credits with strengthening her faith and character, even choosing her diagnosis date of 13 as her lucky number. Eleven-year-old son Max wears it on his sports jersey. It is absolutely apparent to me that in the worst circumstances life can throw at you, the most beautiful things are born, Rachel says. Adversity is a paradox that the longer I live, the more I understand the importance of it. Now that’s style.

To get involved in the fight against breast cancer, visit:

Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama:

North Central Alabama Komen for the Cure:

Amber bracelet from the Dominican Republic, a first gift from the current special man in Rashel’s life.

Nike ball cap, displayed as a trophy in Ross’s home office, along with a photo reminder of a time the hat was worn often, and memories of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. The hat hasn’t been worn since her hair started growing back in: Walking around with peach fuzz was both liberating and terrifying.

Fresh from Homewood’s Upsidedown Shoe Repair; Rashel has her shoes shined at the beginning of each fall. Tribeca pumps sit atop her hope chest, which is filled with items of significance, sentiment and aspiration—from a copy of Dr. Seuss’s Oh the Places You’ll Go to a small stone that reads" "It’s a process".

4 Responses to “Style Icon: Rashel Ross”

  1. Dad says:

    Nikki (Rashel to you) has endured and overcome with a grace, a calm, a strength and deep faith that has been inspiring to all around her. When I grow up, I want to be just like her.

  2. April D. Ozuna says:

    My sister, Rashel Ross, is one of the most beautiful, amazing people that I have ever had the privilege of knowing. She’s a harmonious blend of elegance and grace. She is a breathtaking pillar of quiet, gentle strength, dignity, and simplicity. She lives from the depths of her heart and dares to love out loud, each and every day. She has an ethereal energy about her that draws others to her like the moth to the flame.

    She has a servants heart that overflows with love for “the least of these”. With a down-to-earth Spirit that is tenacious in its pursuits to give back to others and make a differences in our community, my sister is unstoppable.

    Last, but not least, she is a devoted single mother who is madly in love with her son, Max. This is one of the luckiest little boys this side of Heaven. If you knew how relentlessly she loves her Max…

    I’m proud of my sister. She inspires me and gives me hope. It’s hard not to think of her and smile…and maybe even giggle a little too. She’s the real deal. She’s my best friend. <3

  3. Carol Cauthen says:


    You are always such an inspiration to me. Thank you for sharing your story and encouraging others. You’ve shown the journey is not easy but can be done with style and grace. Look forward to seeing you at the Race for the Cure. Carol Cauthen

  4. You are very inspirational strong woman. It is amazing that you are willing to share your hard story. I wish you all the best.

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