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What Beauty and Makeup Means to the Homeless Community

When we think about hair and makeup, we do not really think about the access that others have to get these things. Wearing makeup and getting our hair done makes us all feel different, but I think it is safe to say that we feel empowered and fierce when we get ready or change our hair. Personally, I had never thought about how some women struggle to not only get their hands on beauty products but how much beauty products can mean to them and brighten their days. During this quarantine, I have been watching many different YouTube videos, but I got really hooked on Refinery29 because they document very interesting topics; there was one that really stuck to me, however.

I came across a video titled “What Beauty Is Like For Homeless Women On The Streets”, I clicked on it immediately because I wanted to learn more about the struggles of homeless women. I had read some things about homeless women struggling to get access or purchase menstruation products, but you never really hear anything about beauty. The host, Lexy, goes to Los Angeles to see what beauty is like for the homeless women of this city. According to Lexy, beauty and makeup help homeless women across L.A. feel connected to society and feel like a normal human. One of the women in the video, Arien Williams, talks about how, even though she is homeless, she still likes to get ready and stay clean because it is a survival technique for her. Arien also talks about the stereotypes that homeless women face. Not everyone who is homeless is an addict, they can be homeless because they lost their job and/or  rent is expensive.

The video includes a woman, Shirley Raines, who is helping women in L.A. by providing them with beauty supplies, hair treatments, food, and clothes. Shirley created Beauty 2 The Streetz, in an effort to bring all the beauty and essential supplies to homeless women. She goes to Skid Row every Saturday and brings smiles to women’s faces as they get treated like the humans they are. When asked what she thought about comments that beauty and makeup do not belong on the streets because homeless people should not prioritize them, Shirley said that she will continue to go to Skid Row because she wants to restore the dignity of the homeless and make them feel important as well as beautiful. Shirley added that when women are sitting on her chair getting their hair done, they open up and she builds a strong connection with them. Through her program, Shirley gives many homeless women not only the moment to feel important but the opportunity to be heard and feel safe as they open up to her; she treats all women with love and respect. Shirley believes that many of the women are not homeless by choice, but that something unfortunate happened to them at a point in their lives and they ended up homeless, whether it be unemployment or domestic abuse. 

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Those of us that wear makeup and love anything beauty know that we feel magical and powerful. I believe that everyone deserves to feel like magic regardless of any status, just because you are homeless does not mean that you cannot look and feel good. Makeup and beauty help homeless women and men feel human, sometimes they are trying to get a job or get housing and the sad truth is that your appearance influences the likeliness of someone getting either of these things. Shirley helps women experience something that is wonderful, she makes them feel like a normal person simply by showing them respect. 

 

I think it is beautiful to see that women are helping and empowering other women with something as simple as respect and beauty, this definitely made me rethink what many homeless go through and sometimes it is a result of something they had little control over. The next time that someone says beauty and makeup is a waste or a coverup, I will try to explain that there is more to them than just this; they are an art and empowering. As women, I think we should help each other as much as we can and be a source of happiness and safety for one another.