Videos of homeless people undergoing make-overs to become well-trimmed men in suits have gone viral, changing the way we perceive them. On Thursday, for a Mother’s Day twist, MAC Cosmetics sent several stylists to a halfway home in Harlem to give 30 formerly incarcerated women make-overs.
The Fortune Society, a charity that helps formerly incarcerated people get back on their feet, has partnered with MAC Cosmetics’ AIDS Fund for the past three years. Many of the 30 women were fans of MAC Cosmetics, which is headquartered in New York City and is owned by Estée Lauder Companies.
The women invited by Fortune were all formerly incarcerated women now living in the charity’s Harlem supportive housing complex called Castle Gardens. Some brought their daughters to the make-over session.
The women seemed to be at a loss when they sat down, but after the make-overs, they were all smiles and gratitude.
“Trying to return to work after being labeled an ex-con is extremely hard,” says Fortune Senior Vice President Stanley Richards in an interview, “As a society we’re really good at holding people accountable for what they did but we’re terrible at helping people rebuild their lives.”
Richards spoke of the years he spent in prison at different times for charges that varied from drug possession to robbery, where he felt empowered by earning his higher education degree. When he left prison in 1991, he felt that he could help others going through a similar experience.
For the women, he said, the make-overs gave them external validation to the worth and beauty they possessed inside.