EXCLUSIVE: OITNB Star Selenis Leyva Becomes Gabrielle's Angel Foundation's Newest Ambassador

Selenis Leyva
Elise Gannett

Gabrielle's Angel Foundation for Cancer research has announced today that the actress and star of Orange is the New Black, Selenis Leyva, will serve as the orgnization's newest Angel Ambassador. Leyva Joins current ambassadors including Alan Cumming, Estelle, Brittany Daniel, Suleika Jaouad, Erin Zammett Ruddy and Ethan Zohn. 

The Angel Ambassadors help Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation spread the word about the importance of funding cancer research. They engage, educate and inspire others to help fulfill the Foundation’s quest for a cancer-free world.

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Born and raised in the bronx, Selenis was just 8-years-old when she learned her brother Arnol Leyva, who was three at the time, had cancer. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma which later led to his diagnosis with the secondary cancer of the thyroid. 

"I was very young when he was diagnosed. I remember being scared of losing my baby brother," she told Latina exclusively. "My first reaction was, is he going to die? Why was he the one to get sick?"

Selenis hopes she can help others by sharing her personal experience with a special focus on the Foundation’s pediatric cancer research programs.

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"We are one of the lucky families, my brother is a cancer survivor,” said Leyva. “My goal as an Angel Ambassador is to continue supporting all efforts going towards cancer research and give support to all who are currently fighting this awful disease. I am honored and deeply moved to join this extraordinary foundation."

Leyva knows it can be hard to deal with cancer, especially when it happens to a loved one. "The most important thing a family member or friend should know when dealing with cancer is that support is key," she said.

"My parents received love and an outpouring amount of support from family and friends. From home cooked meals, prayers, babysitting for me and my other baby brother, or simple visits to the hospital so the caregiver can step out for air is important. Don't be afraid to ask the patient or family 'how can I help?'"

When asked what the biggest takeaway from her experiences with cancer is, Leyva told us, "The biggest takeaway I had was definite faith! And enjoying the tremendous gift of having my brother survive cancer twice!"

Learn more about Gabrielle's Angel Foundation at GabriellesAngels.org.