By Greg Hernandez
Part of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Youth Center was transformed into a hair salon this week with professional barbers and hairstylists busy trimming, coloring, and blow drying hair.
Professional make-up artists were expertly applying cosmetics to fresh faces before the youth made their way across the hall to a makeshift studio for a photo session.
It was all part of the Center’s annual Beauty Day which drew about 40 youth participants and culminated in a flashy fashion show complete with a runway, lighting, and music.
“I think it was beautiful chaos,” said C.J. Richardson, the Center’s youth development director. “This is the third year we’ve done it and it’s always a tremendous experience for the youth to have an opportunity to express themselves and show off what makes them beautiful.”
Nicolette Jackson-Pownall was one of two photographers donating her time on what has become one of the most highly-anticipated days at the Youth Center.
‘There’s a sheer joy of being in front of the camera, it’s a blast for them. I just try and give them some joy and pictures they can have forever,” she said. “They see themselves glamorous and hopefully that stays with them and they see what they can be.”
The photographer downloads the images and makes them available to the youth who can use them as professional headshots or on social media.
“The beauty of a photo that reflects you at your best, there’s something really powerful about that,” Jackson-Pownall added. “It gives you courage, it gives you a renewed sense of self. It’s not all vanity. It’s about seeing aspects of you that you didn’t know had and remembering that.”
Among the youths basking in the attention was Katiana who was given a asymmetrically cut wig to wear with a flouncy blue tutu, a blue and purple tube top, and striking pink heels.
“It’s a dream come true,” Katiana said after her joyous photo session. “I love the wig because it brings out my cheekbones and my eyes. I’m loving it. I thought it wasn’t going to look good on me until I looked in the mirror and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m Taraji P. Henson.’”
Jonathan, 24, just arrived from Ohio three weeks ago. He brought his own clothes and already had a haircut so was focused on having the make-up artists apply some foundation, concealer, eyeliner and a little bit of contour to his cheekbones.
“This is about making people happy, that’s what it’s all about,” he said. “It’s a day for people to feel like themselves again. I heard about this and thought this is a great opportunity and decided to come.”
Pros Enjoy Giving Back
In all, seven hairstylists, five make-up artists, four barbers, and three stylists volunteered for the makeovers for the youth, many of whom are experiencing homelessness.
Mac Cosmetics make-up artist Carlisha Gizelle enjoyed bonding with her youth clients on this special day.
“Everybody deserves to feel that love and to be in a space where they feel important and they matter,” she said. “As soon as they know that it’s beauty day, they are so pumped up and they realize someone is focusing on them. They’re not just another face walking down the street and that they actually matter.”
Greg Gilmore, a professional cut and color specialist, was donating his time for the third year.
“It’s part of my mission to help people understand how powerful a haircut can be,” said the owner of The Cut Lounge, a private studio in West Hollywood. “Haircuts can sometimes change your life, give you a new perspective on life and on yourself. I think it’s really important for people to be in touch with their identities and feel confident.”