Leslie Ezelle has gone from Dallas Cowboys cheerleader to breast cancer survivor to a contestant on HGTV’s “Design Star,” in which designers compete to win their own show on the network. Ezelle didn’t make the final cut, but now, she’s giving back to the local breast cancer awareness movement.
She designed a 14-by-13-foot sculpture and commissioned Dallas’ renowned artist George Toboloskwy to sculpt it. She already has raised at least $30,000 for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Ezelle is in the middle of a huge remodel and expansion on her Preston Hollow home where she lives with her partner Libby Toudouze, four children and eight animals.
What did it feel like to be kicked off “Design Star”?
I was definitely shocked. I went into it thinking I was going to win it. But [after each episode] I always thought I could do better. I didn’t get to prove myself. I was so disappointed. I can still get my own show. I’m not closing the door on that. There are so many interesting cards that I have to play.
What do you have in mind for your own show?
Since I’m still remodeling my house, it would be “life under construction,” and I want to show a real “modern family.” It should be pretty entertaining — a gay couple in Dallas, me being a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, our four kids and all of our animals.
How did you come up with the idea for the breast cancer sculpture?
Susan G. Komen was planning this event for Sept. 17 in the West Village where they wanted to hang bras from all the trees signifying the memories of people who battled breast cancer. They asked me if I could design something for it. So, we did a huge sculpture of a 1950s strappy bra, made out of metal, crawling up the “tree of life,” saying that we are free of breast cancer — we’re beating this thing. The catch phrase is, “You can’t strap a good woman down.” She’s named Anne Girl after my step-kids’ aunt who died of breast cancer. She was a strong fighter; she had it for nine years. It’s going to pop up at different locations around Dallas and turn the building pink. It will be like Where’s Waldo — you never know where it’s going to pop up next. My dream is that she will bust out of Texas and land in Ellen Degeneres’ parking lot. Ellen doesn’t know it yet, but I’ve emailed her, and I’m trying to contact anyone who has a connection to her. This is right up her alley. We want to put Dallas on the map for its artistic movement that we never get credit for.
Tell me about your experience with breast cancer.
I was the worst breast cancer patient. I was diagnosed in December 2008 and battled breast cancer for two years. I didn’t want anything to do with the color pink. Every time I turned around there were pink ribbons. I just wanted to go on with life as usual. I got the good kind of breast cancer, if there is such a thing, because we caught it early. I had six weeks of radiation, and I fell into that 10 percent that doesn’t do well. I got an infection from the reconstruction surgery. So, here I am strapped up to this hospital bed with IVs. When the kids would come to visit, I’d hide the IVs and put makeup on my bruises.
What prompted you to get involved with Susan G. Komen for the Cure?
I decided I should do something for Susan G. Komen since I was such a toot about it when I had breast cancer. Susan G. Komen was there [via care packages, literature and other resources] even though I was anti-everything. In retrospect, that organization really helped me and my family.
So, what’s next for you?
I hope Anne Girl becomes the official mascot for Susan G. Komen, but if not, I want to use the sculpture to help support other organizations that deal with women’s issues. After conquering breast cancer, you feel empowered. There’s this inner strength that you didn’t have before. I do everything based on the idea that I could have died.