Every Saturday, Shirley Raines wakes up and paints her face with the brightest eye shadows she can find, pops on at least one pair of false lashes, and heads to L.A.’s Skid Row, where she and her nonprofit Beauty2TheStreetz 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 the pandemic she’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, hand sanitizer, and information on social distancing and virus prevention.
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.
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.”