Francina Moton stood up in her black robe and prepared to render judgment.
Her verdict was a good one. Moton, 24, looked into a mirror, studied her new short haircut, and decreed, "Oh, that looks great." Then she primped and leaned closer to the mirror. "I love it."
The curly hairstyle was a holiday gift from Lonny Shane, a hairdresser at the OKYO Salon in Georgetown who makes frequent trips to the House of Ruth to give its homeless, pregnant residents a little taste of style.
Shane, 45, first gave haircuts to residents of the House of Ruth, a transitional shelter in Northeast Washington, last Thanksgiving, and has returned every five weeks or so since. He said it is his way of helping those who are less fortunate. "Not everyone can make large financial donations," Shane said on his most recent visit on Wednesday night. "But people like myself can donate time and energy."
Shane, who worked at salons owned by hairdresser Vidal Sassoon in London and New York before coming to Washington about two years ago, said Sassoon instilled in him a responsibility to "give something back to the community."
The 30-year veteran of the business said the value of a haircut goes beyond mere aesthetics.
"Self-esteem for these girls is very important," he said. "If we look in the mirror and like what we see, it's easier to do what has to be done. It's a feeling of well-being. If you feel good about yourself, you feel strong and confident."
Staff members at the House of Ruth said Shane's visits and donated hairstylings lift the spirits of residents, who otherwise couldn't afford his services. Women's haircuts at OKYO begin at $50.
"It seems to boost their morale and self-esteem," said Bonita Steele, a case manager at the home. "You have to realize they've been through a lot, having been homeless. They don't really have the kinds of things they need to take care of themselves."
Indeed, Moton, who is expecting her baby in February, said she hadn't had a haircut from a professional stylist in five years.
Moton said she thoroughly enjoyed the hour it took Shane to cut and style her hair. "I feel pampered," she said at one point.
Joan Walker, another House of Ruth resident whose hair Shane cut, also was happy with her new look. "He didn't take long -- he knows what he's doing, and I like that," said Walker, 31.
Shane enjoyed himself too.
As he worked on Moton, another resident, Nicole McCray, quipped, "One of the most famous hairdressers in Georgetown, working on some of the most important people in the world, us ladies and our babies. He puts his all into it. He moves with the curlers."
Shane smiled: "People in Georgetown don't talk to me like this."