Leslie Calderon shows a smile that radiates her joy as an expert in the Hollywood beauty industry applies makeup to her skin, allowing her to feel like a celebrity for one day. Meanwhile, sitting on her lap, her only daughter, two-year-old Luna Flores, is fidgeting, but her playfulness does not distract the artist.
This mother was part of a group of women that were offered a free makeover from the HomeLight Family Living Program, of Midnight Mission, that helps the homeless.
According to Ricardo Rosales, director of the program, the purpose of the event “New Year, New You” is to give them confidence and raise these women’s self-esteem, most of them victims of domestic violence, with a makeover.
This change includes makeup, haircut and styling.
“We want them to learn how to get ready to go to work and be presentable in a quick manner. It’s part of the process of rebuilding their self-esteem,” he says.
Fleeing From Violence
“I feel very happy,” says Calderon, who has been living with her daughter for a year in an apartment building, a refuge for women who have been victims of domestic violence and abuse.
“First we were in a shelter in Long Beach for a month and a half. I got there after the father of my daughter, who has problems with drugs, destroyed the apartment where we lived,” says Calderon.
From there she went to another shelter in Santa Monica where they lived until April. It was then that she came across the HomeLight Program.
“We can be here up to one year. But in the months that I have been here, I already managed to get my high school diploma, a full time job in an office, I have taken classes about domestic violence and they helped me apply for college, which I will start attending in August. I want to be a graphic designer,” says 27-year-old Calderon.
“If I had not found HomeLight, I would have returned to a violent relationship with the father of my daughter, just out of economic necessity,” she says.
A New Life
Rosales says that the HomeLight program seeks to prevent women, mothers who have been victims of violence, from ending up living on the streets.
“Our goal is to make them self-sufficient, enough so to not even depend on government assistance in order to survive,” he says.
For 20 years, this program has offered shelter and assistance to women and their families.
“Ninety percent who come here are domestic abuse victims, 90% are women.”
Among the many support services they offer is mental health, which helps them deal with the trauma of violence, and also child care.
Michelle, a Latina who prefers not to provide her last name, arrived at HomeLight with her daughter Kristy after undergoing a rehabilitation program that helped her overcome drug and alcohol addiction.
“Now I have a job, and my dream is to meet my other two children, aged 7 and 2 years, who are under the custody of their father,” she says.
Her hairdo and makeup, while superficial, is more like the finishing touch that helps victims of violence, like her, to start a new life.
“I feel more confident. I can fend for myself and not take a step back,” says Michelle who has been in the shelter program for a year.
Bobbie Alva, a mother of four, was excited while the Hollywood stylist, Carla Farmer, cut her hair.
“It really makes me feel good to know that there are still people who care about us and spend a day off from work to come to work with us,” she says.
After a session that lasted several minutes, Alva’s eyes were bright and her smile displayed an confidence and enthusiasm that perfectly accentuated her newly-found self-esteem.
“I feel happy because going to a salon is a luxury I cannot afford.”
Alan Eschenburg, from the natural hair product company Belegenza.com, put together a team of Hollywood makeup artists and stylists that would help these women.
“My sister and I have been very lucky to be employed by artists of Hollywood. And when we are with them backstage, they ask us what we really do, we tell them that we like to give back to the community and make these women feel fantastic so they look good and beautiful inside; so that they gain a great self-esteem,” says Eschenburg.
So he says they decided to create a program, along with HomeLight, to make abused women feel like celebrities for a day.
“Once they are made up and coiffed, they can go through a red carpet and have their photos taken,” he says.
But even more important than physical appearance, he believes, is the internal change.
“I remember a woman with scars on his face due to violence whom our artists taught her to hide them with makeup. Now when that woman looks herself in the mirror she looks beautiful, she no longer sees the marks of blows. In addition she feels much more confident and safe,” he says.
Eschenburg says that putting women who have suffered violence in the hands of professional make-up artists stylists is an experience that changes their lives.
The model and businesswoman Jessica Burciaga, from Boutique Saint and Sailor donated clothes and bags for women.
Other sponsors of the event were the magazine Attract and Criterion group.