Christian Gray climbed onto a stool that had been tied up with a hot pink bow and warned the Mary Kay lady: “I don’t know nothing about makeup.”
“All right,” Gray’s makeup artist, Donielle Lorelli, said. “Maybe something a little natural with a little blue.”
Gray, 20, had never really worn makeup before. Her mother never taught her to apply it, and her older sister doesn’t use the stuff. But on Saturday, Gray was one of about a dozen homeless women who got a free “I Love You Makeover.”
The event at Covenant House Washington, a center for homeless D.C. youth, was aimed at teaching the women to transform their lives inside and out.
“We want you guys to feel beautiful and know that someone does love you,” event organizer Kamille Bundy told the women as they sat at bubble-gum-pink tables covered in a rainbow of powders, glosses and creams.
Bundy, the founder of Young Mothers Inc., brought the makeovers to Covenant House hoping to motivate and encourage young women to be both strong and beautiful. Bundy became a mom at 19 and struggled to become independent after her mother kicked her out of her home.
“I didn’t feel like I had anyone who was in my corner,” said Bundy, 26. “I can understand their struggle and what they’re going through. I want to empower them and to encourage them.”
Along with the makeovers, the event in Southeast Washington featured motivational speakers who gave the women tips on topics such as the importance of maintaining good credit and how to stretch a budget. One speaker was also once homeless herself. She talked about how she went from no home, no family and no degree to finally earning her bachelor’s degree after escaping an abusive relationship.
“Never give up hope,” she told them. “It’s a really good thing, and you should never lose a good thing.”
Gray listened to the speaker in between dabs of foundation and lip gloss. Gray wound up at a short-term emergency shelter for homeless youth offered through Covenant House in December after her sister kicked her out. Gray was getting bad grades and had little motivation.
But since getting the structure of a curfew and life tips from the programs at Covenant House, Gray said she has become more mature. She is starting to earn some B’s instead of all F’s. And she dreams of becoming a veterinarian or finding technology-focused work.
“I learned I have a future to live for, so I got to start doing things on my own,” Gray said as “honey spice” eye shadow swept across her eyelids. “I have to prepare myself for the future and better myself.”
Covenant House Washington works with hundreds of teens and young adults like Gray, said Madye Henson, the nonprofit group’s chief executive and president. Saturday was the second year in a row that Covenant House hosted Young Mothers Inc. to provide makeovers.
“This is an opportunity to pamper those young people who have had little of that in their lives,” Henson said. “It is a day of caring.”
Those who seek Covenant House’s services are often “broken and need connections” to become more independent, Henson said. In 2014, Covenant House provided housing for 200 homeless youth, served 58,000 meals and assisted 350 people working toward GEDs.
“It’s all about transforming them into being someone stronger and better,” Henson said. “This event is really symbolic of that.”
Gray’s friend Lorraine Day had just finished her makeover at the next table. Day, 19, landed at Safe Haven, a nonprofit, after she and her mother “had an altercation” and realized she needed to “get out and be independent.”
Day said she was grateful for Saturday’s event. Although Day said she felt she was “already pretty” before her makeover, seeing her new look in the mirror helped her gain confidence. The only other time she wore makeup was for the prom.
After Lorelli brushed sparkling lip gloss over Gray’s lips, she handed over a mirror.
“Oh my god!” Gray said as a big grin stretched across her face. “I’m glowing!”
Day ran over, and the two women checked each other out.
“Look at you!” Day cried.
“No, look at you!” Gray replied.
Then Gray and Day ran into the bathroom, inspecting their new faces in the mirror and snapping some selfies.