This interview is with Leslie DeeAnn Mower, for CANCERactive and was originally published in May-June 2004 icon
Melanie Hart meets Leslie DeeAnn Mower (Dee), the unstoppable co-founder of Neways International
The beat of 70s dance anthem "We Are Family" resounds around the auditorium as Dee Mower and three of her five sons take to the stage singing, clapping and gyrating to the music. It´s as if Billy Graham had gone disco, but Dee´s message is on the importance of using toxin-free products.
She is wonderfully over the top and fizzes with energy. She is an icon, and what makes her special is not only her mission to fight cancer, but how she got here. The shortened "Dee" suits her, because she is all the d´s: dynamic, decisive, direct, dedicated and devoted to her extended family and her cause. Now hang on a minute, some of you might be saying, she´s promoting her company when she travels around the world. And, yes, Neways has had continued growth every year but, as anyone who uses the products can testify, it´s about so much more than money.
Dee´s mission, like ICON´s, is to spread the word about the toxins and carcinogens that are all around us. It´s about giving people information so that they can make a choice about what they put on, and into, their bodies. The official line is that Neways is committed to seek, develop and acquire the safest ingredients and breakthrough technologies currently available for personal care and health science...and to manufacture and distribute safe, effective and innovative products."
So yes, Dee is excited, but who wouldn´t be when the company she and Tom started at their kitchen table, in 1987, is only a few years away from becoming a billion-dollar concern? Not forgetting all the lives their products have improved and enriched around the world. At 56, with six children and 18 grandchildren, it would be fair to say that Utah-born Dee has had her hands full raising her family, let alone co-owning and founding the company, which cancer expert Dr Samuel Epstein describes as "the only company that I am aware of that is manufacturing products that are free of cancer-causing agents".
We have to stop our children getting cancer by starting even before they are born
The first woman executive to grace the cover of Tycoon magazine (Winter issue 2000) has much more to her than a glamorous image. She trained as a nurse, later as a secretary and then spent two years in make-up artistry, as well as being involved in the day-to-day running of Neways. In the early days she tackled everything from cleaning and packaging to answering the phones, as well as, like Tom, spending many hours "researching the research" which led to the development of many cutting-edge products.
Dee is personally responsible for a cosmetics range - under her full name, Leslie DeeAnn Colour Cosmetics - which, like all Neways products, is free of carcinogens, toxins, dioxins, irritants and contaminants. Many women who have claimed not to be able to wear make-up, because of sensitivities and allergies, successfully use these. Dee is also responsible for the complete Neways Generations baby and toddler range, which includes ingredients never used in the industry before.
"We have to stop our children getting cancer by starting even before they are born, by nourishing ourselves. We start assaulting our babies from the time we take them home from the hospital," she says, sipping water in her plush hotel suite on one of her regular visits to the UK.
"Everyone goes home with a little free products package from the hospital. A new parents we are absolutely thrilled, and start using things we are given, then we wonder why our baby gets rashes and cradle cap. People say, ´Oh everyone gets that´. Well, I say, ´No they don´t!´ If you can avoid rashes or inflammation by using toxin-free products, like mine, why not? It is a proven fact that there are ingredients in some baby shampoos that can damage children´s eyes, simply by penetrating the skin, now isn´t that sad?
"We love our children, and that´s why I´m so concerned about what´s happening in the world. We´ve done the research at Neways, and know what harmful ingredients are in most childcare products. Even the ones that say they are safe. I know that if we give our bodies the proper personal care and nutrients we can overcome many illnesses and sicknesses. We jeopardise our bodies by drinking pop, alcohol and coffee, and by smoking. On top of that we use harmful personal care products that we think are safe. We subject our bodies to an onslaught of toxins that the body cannot overcome. But I have heard so many success stories of people in health danger turning their lives around with aggressive lifestyle re-management.
We subject our bodies to an onslaught of toxins that the body cannot overcome
"It´s really sad that most of us spend our whole lives earning money, and believing we are taking care of ourselves and our families, only to find out we are subjecting ourselves to a health crisis. The golden retirement years aren´t golden any more, for many, because we are too tired and sick to do anything. But this is not necessary, because we have incredible products which can enhance the body´s protection mechanism. I hear testimonials every day about how people´s lives have changed through using Revenol, Life Enhancer, Cetyl Mobility.. .these encouraging testimonies are the reason I am excited to get up in the mornings, with my hectic speaking schedule. I want to let people know what is possible... in personal hygiene and healthcare, and have given the past 17 years of my life to this very mission."
The work goes on, with the family constantly researching new products. Tom, Dee, Tom Jnr and a team of six chemists have spent the last two years working on a safe dark hair dye. "Dark ones are so carcinogenic," says the beautifully coiffed Dee with feeling. (There is evidence linking some ingredients to a risk of leukaemia, multiple myeloma, non- Hodgkin´s lymphoma and other cancers. In fact there is growing evidence that use of some hair dyes accounts for about 20 per cent of all non-Hodgkin´s lymphomas in US women.)
"Every time we women go to dye our hair we think, ´Do I really want to do this, or should I just go grey?´ It is such a worry. Neways is working on it, but it´s proving very difficult because we have been through so many safe ingredients that either turn the hair off colour, or don´t cover the grey. We will only bring out something that works, lasts, is not carcinogenic and will not damage the hair. In the meantime what I do, and advise, is to put loz (25g) of Exuberance hair conditioner into the hair colour bottle with the hair dye you are mixing and then apply it until all the grey has gone. Rinse your hair and scalp with Eliminator, parting the hair all around so that it goes into the scalp. Then massage well before rinsing with water. Last, but not least, apply Exuberance to the hair. This will take out some of the damage we´ve done, without washing the dye out."
Do I really want to do this, or should I just go grey?
About 26 years ago the Mower family owned and ran Nubrite, a commercial chemical company. They used harsh chemicals in more than 400 different industrial cleaning products, including engine degreasers, which they sold to airports, garages and convalescent centres. Each product was governed by OSHA (Occupational Safety Health Hazard) and inspectors would come in to check if the people mixing the chemicals were wearing gloves, goggles and protective clothing.
They had run Nubrite for 12 years when one day Tom saw Dee rummaging through her make-up drawer at home. "He came up behind me and said, ´Why do you have so many different lotions, day creams, night creams, eye creams...?" Dee recalls. "I said, ´Well, I saw this beautiful woman in a magazine and wanted to look like her so I bought that cream, but it made my skin oily, then this one dried my skin out so I couldn´t use it.´ And Tom, said, ´So why don´t you throw them away?´ ´I just can´t bring myself to,´ I said. ´You don´t know how expensive these products are!´ When Tom and Dee had finished laughing they looked at the ingredients on the back of the product labels and were shocked to see the same ingredients in Dee´s beauty products that OSHA had told them not to get on their employees´ skin.
"I couldn´t believe it," says Dee. "As we started researching, we found many ingredients like propylene glycol, sodium Iauryl sulphate (SLS) and lanolin. Many more were in the soaps, shampoos, toothpaste, deodorants and shaving lotions we were using every day. These ingredients are very harmful because they have a low molecular weight, penetrate our skin and build up in our liver, kidneys and body´s systems. It is very difficult for the body´s resources to flush them out.
We have the ability to live to 120 years old, but the reason we die at 70 or before is because of the onslaught, not only, of cigarettes and poor eating, but also, personal hygiene. I can´t stop a person from smoking, and I certainly can´t stop a person from eating bad food, but I can do something about their toothpaste, shampoos and lotions." Dee is really warming up now. "Did you know that by the time a woman is ready to meet the world in the morning she has put 126 compounds, carcinogenic irritants and toxic chemicals into her body?" she informs. Yep, we told readers about some of these dangers in MAY 2003 icon, but it´s great to hear Dee say it.
"Women have four times more toxins in their systems than men because, ironically, we want to look after ourselves," she continues. "We think that all the ´anti-ageing´ ingredients we´re told are in these products will make us look younger and more beautiful, but they are literally making us look older and killing us. A woman using most colour cosmetics will age her skin, so that by the time she reaches 50 she looks it, but her husband probably doesn´t. Maybe all he ever does is shave, so he doesn´t look nearly as bad."
Tom and Dee started making toxin-free products slowly from home, until in 1987 they realised they needed a proper office and manufacturing plant and Dee asked her father for a loan to pay for their expansion. "We hadn´t borrowed any money before that, because we were building the company on profits, but my father believed in me and our mission and, with his financial help, Neways was born. I gladly paid him back every dime, with interest."
The company has been operational in the UK since 1992 and has quickly become an innovator in the health and cosmetic industry. As each of the Mower children were going through college, in Utah, they were asked if they were interested in joining their parents and they all did, except their daughter who now lives in Ogden, Utah with her second husband and five children.
"Barry, our eldest, has had every job and is now the worldwide marketing director," says Dee proudly. "Tom Jnr is a biochemist and president of the company, Bob is expanding his management skills as a country manager, and is now spending two years opening up Neways in Germany, Darick is worldwide sales director and, my youngest, Jim, who is 26, is in our computer department."
I´m sure all the extra attention and massage stimulated growth hormones
It is a testament to Dee´s love and devotion to her children that Jim is here today. He was born with a caortation of the aorta of the heart, and was operated on at two weeks old. "I was told that they had no room for him in the hospital so we were asked to take him home to die," she recalls quietly. ´I said, ´He will not die!´ and spent hundreds of hours talking and reading to him, and massaging him and now he´s no different to you or me. He is 6ft Sins - the tallest of my Sons - so I´m sure all the extra attention and massage stimulated growth hormones.
Every time I took him back to the hospital they called him the miracle baby, and when he turned 21 they said he can do any sport and his heart is absolutely wonderful. I didn´t have any of the wonderful supplements we have now, when he was little, just a mother´s love. But he was 10 years old at the start of Neways and from that time I have put him on all the products as we introduced them.
My 18 grandchildren are all doing really well on them, and one of my oldest, Nicole, who´s 16, uses the Radiance toothpaste and Eliminator and has never had a cavity!"
Jim´s is not the only story of survival and transformation in the Mower family. Dee´s mother has overcome two bouts of cancer, and Dee had all kinds of painful treatments for acne from adolescence through to her 30s.
"My mother smoked when she was younger, but is now a dedicated healthcare products user. She celebrated her 80th birthday last year and I´m sure I still have her because of Neways," says Dee. "She had uteral cancer first and then 10 years ago got stomach cancer, and has beaten both. We were really worried about the stomach cancer, but I just loaded her with products. Some of the things she takes every day include: Life Enhance Revenol (10 a day), Cascading Reveno (two a day), VMM, Ingenious, Orbitol for her eyes, Cetyl Mobility, for her joints and body, Maximol and Noni. She is so physically well that she gets up at 5:30am every morning, she works in her back yard and is constantly moving until she goes to bed at 10pm every night. She is one of the most beautiful women - an epitome of elegance."
When Dee was at school, her mother was very concerned about her appearance and tried to help with her acne. "It was so severe that I was call ´pizza face´ by the boys at school," Dee recalls. "My face was so badly scarred that my mother took me to a dermatologist, which was like a torture chamber. They would burn my skin, and then take needles and put them into every blemish! Then my skin would just dry out and flake off. I looked like I had a disease. When they couldn´t clear me up, they put me on antibiotics for 12 years, which completely destroyed my immune system. So not only was I ugly, but I was sick all the time," she laughs. She can laugh now because there are no scars, pock marks, nor any facial discolouration to betray her past.
I rebuilt my skin as we introduced our skincare range
"I rebuilt my skin as we introduced our skincare range," she explains. "I use First Impressions cleanser, rinse well, then spray with Eliminator to disinfect, let it dry completely before applying Wrinkle Garde, which contains rose hip oil from Chile and heals and renormalises the skin. I am a walking testimony that these products work."
After two years of research and development, Dee brought out her full make-up range in 1994. "It was a challenge finding safe ingredients, and that is why other companies don´t do it. It is so hard to make safe make-up, and yet so easy to make a dangerous one. Our make-up is probably a loss leader, but there was no point in using all the good skincare Neways produces and then putting on dangerous make-up! We continue to improve our range. In fact there´s not one product that I have ever put out that has not been changed between two to six times. We make sure we are doing everything possible not to put carcinogenic ingredients in."
Dee says the most dangerous item in a make-up bag is the foundation. "Most foundations have kaolin or bentonite in them, which are the same thing - soft powdery clay. Mix it with water and it´s exactly like cement," she stresses. "If there´s a forest fire, bentonite is sprayed on it from planes to extinguish the flames, because it suffocates. And that´s what it does to the skin, suffocates and ages it. If you were to put foundation all over your body it would have the same result as painting your body. similar to the painted ´gold girl´ in ´Goldfinger´.
"Teenagers and all adults need to be aware of the dangers of traditional cosmetics. Many may contain carcinogens and toxins that may penetrate the skin and accumulate in the body or cause organ damage and skin irritations. My cosmetics allow the skin to breathe. Most people do not realise that the skin is the largest organ on the body, and takes in more oxygen than our lungs. It also respires toxins, which is a very good reason not to suffocate it. The skin is a carrier not a barrier."
Tom and Dee Mower continue to inspire people around the world, so it comes as a surprise to learn that although their business and friendship partnerships are as strong as ever, they are no longer married. "We actually divorced five years ago," Dee reveals. "We kept it from everyone for a while because we wanted people to see that we work together, and still build Neways. Whenever we´re in the same room we show unity and commitment. We have committed ourselves and our family to be that way. Our personal paths have changed, but not our desire for sharing our wealth of knowledge on good health, and it seems to be okay for everyone. As a result of the separation I threw myself back into Neways and our mission and now we´re better friends and business partners than ever."
While other companies their size are on the stock market, Tom and Dee are adamant that Neways distributors are not for sale. "We are the largest self-owned company in the State of Utah," she says proudly. "I have been told by our financial analyst that with the growth we have we will be a billion-dollar company within the next three to five years. But that doesn´t mean anything to me. I want to reach a billion people, because that is where we can make a difference and save this world. We´re all going to die one day, but do we have to die in pain, sick and impoverished? No. We can die older with vitality and vigour. Life is for living, ageing can be graceful. We all have a choice."
As US chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, Dr Samuel Epstein has long been trying to get a similar message across on both sides of the Atlantic. He is supportive of Dee and says, "Dee Mower has a well-deserved international reputation for the quality of her cosmetics and for her long-standing emphasis on product safety." We agree and that is why ICON salutes her. We applaud her hard work over the past 17 years to try to make life safer and healthier for us all.
Call the ICON office for more information on toxin-free products.