RECLAIMING BEAUTY, ONE PROJECT AT AT TIME
Written by: Sasha-Ann Simons
If you had taken one look at me on Friday night, you’d have told me to sit tight on Saturday morning. I had been beat down, yet again, by allergy symptoms, all showing up at once. I hibernated in bed, looked disheveled while wearing my “I’m sick” hoodie – you know, that old, yet super comfortable hooded sweatshirt we pull out of the closet when we’re under the weather, and my body felt like it was falling apart. But as down as I was (and as much as I wanted a refund for my immune system), there was not a speck of dust or a whiff of pollen that would keep me away from those Saturday plans.
Enter: The BeYoutiful Project – the first in a series of community outreach initiatives created for women that are disadvantaged by social or economic circumstances. April 26 was the day that a little idea birthed from one woman named Gina Pomone became an awesome reality for 17. Pomone founded and organized the invitation-only spa slash boutique. The special guests were referred to her by various non-profit community groups. The BeYoutiful Boutique she created was their chance to finally de-stress. The ladies indulged in some shopping, for items from clothing to shoes and accessories, got manicures, mini makeovers, and enjoyed sweet treats during the afternoon tea. After months of hard work, preparation, and a generous helping of donors who gave money or purged their closets, Pomone’s dream had come alive.
I volunteered as a Fashion Stylist, spending an hour each with four of the women, and hand-picking the perfect outfits.
The vibe was something else. I hadn’t felt that much positivity and encouragement in one room full of that many women, in a long time. (Shout out to the handful of men who were also present and instrumental in helping us set up) Our emotions ran high; we were nervous, we laughed, we cried. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room when Gail stepped out of the fitting room wearing a pretty black-and-white dress, something she hadn’t worn in more than two decades. Let me take it a step back: she walked in wearing her favourite winter coat, but it wasn’t by choice, it was her only coat. The one Gail could afford 24 years ago, and was proud to show me still had all its buttons in place. She was dressed in what she called her style, two-layers of jogging pants and a grayish-black t-shirt. What truly brought on the tears was the moment her daughter Christine, who was also a guest, walked out of the change room next-door, laid eyes on her mother twirling in a dress and gave her the biggest hug. You could tell she hardly recognized the woman who had raised her. They stared at each other in a loving embrace; Gail couldn’t get over the fact that Christine was wearing heels, and neither could stop laughing at how strange but beautiful it was to be rocking posh pink lipstick.
The day of pampering was a success. Our guests looked and felt beautiful. They were truly happy. It was well deserved. Next time I’m having one of those days, I’ll remind myself how easy it is to make the choice to be happy, to feel good about myself, to feel beautiful. It starts within. Even a bad case of allergies shouldn’t ever be strong enough to knock me off my mental track. I played a small part in helping those women take time for themselves and recognize their own beauty. But socializing with them did a world of good for me, too. We were all winners on Saturday.