Style Shirley Raines Is Using the Power of Makeup to Help Homeless Women
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Every Saturday, Shirley Raines wakes up and paints her face with the brightestshe can find, pops on at least one pair of false lashes, and heads to L.A.'s Skid Row, where she and her nonprofit take care of the area's homeless community.
On an average day Raines and her team serve approximately 600 people, providing them with food, haircuts, wigs, and goodie bags of beauty products donated by brands or purchased via an Amazon wish list. Before theshe'd also set up shop to color hair and apply makeup, but given safety concerns, that's currently on pause. Her services were crucial before COVID-19 hit, but are even more so now, as she provides the community with essential PPE, , and information on social distancing and virus prevention.
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Despite the potential risks to her own health, 53-year-old Raines continues to serve the community multiple times a week. In addition to the Saturday beauty services, she distributes food out of her car at least two days a week.
Raines started Beauty2TheStreetz three years ago, after the death of her son left her searching for her purpose in life. She says the first time she volunteered to help people living on the street, her life's mission became clear. “I saw these broken people, and we locked eyes, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, they’re just like me,’” she tells Glamour. After everyone on the street was complimenting her hair and makeup, something clicked in her mind.
“I was like, This is just all a mask to hide my trauma and pain. Do you want a mask too? Because I can give you one too,’” Raines says. After a year of working with another organization, she started Beauty2TheStreetz with the help of her six children. Three years later she has her official nonprofit status and a team of 30 people behind her.
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The power of beauty is something Raines knows intimately. “I got tired of looking in the mirror and seeing a woman who buried a child,” she says, explaining how she discovered her signature Rainbow Brite makeup look. “I wanted to do everything they said I couldn’t do. The colors that they said didn’t look good on Black women's skin, I wanted to wear all of them at the same time. The hairstyles they said Black women couldn't wear, I wanted to wear that. The eyelashes they said were too long and obnoxious, I wanted to find those eyelashes.”
She also views makeup as an escape and a way to completely shift her mindset—and she's seen firsthand the effects it can have on others. “It’s a distraction from the pain,” she says. “People need to understand, no, this isn’t getting people off the streets. It’s keeping their spirits up enough so that people aren’t like, ‘This is the end of the road for me.’”
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“Makeup, hair color, it’s an adult game of make believe and dress-up,” Raines continues. “And I feel like sometimes doing your hair and makeup and seeing who you are in mirror transforms you into a different world outside of being homeless. Everyone needs an escape, even if it's just for a moment.”
Raines says the most rewarding experience has been earning the trust of the community, many of whom were at first skeptical of her and her motives. “Now when I go out on Saturdays, I have a whole community,” she says. “All I hear is, ‘Hey, queen!’ ‘Love you, queen! See you next Saturday!’” In addition to donating directly or purchasing from the, Raines says the most important way you can support her is by getting educated. Raines updates her social media platforms constantly, offering an in-depth look at the work she and her team are doing.
“I really want to change the narrative about what homelessness is,” she says. “Before I went to pass out food, I could have never imagined that homeless women would want beauty stuff. If I didn't imagine that, I'm sure the rest of the world didn't imagine that. It's so important for them to look and feel their best too.”
To learn more about how you can support Shirley Raines's work, visit.
Bella Cacciatore is the beauty associate at Glamour. Follow her on Instagram.
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