Fashion & Style

Shirley Raines On Founding Beauty 2 The Streetz


Photography by @Focusontphotog/Instagram

After losing everything, Shirley Raines started a now-acclaimed non-profit organization committed to providing essential services to homeless populations.

Shirley Raines — founder of Beauty 2 The Streetz, a non-profit organization that provides food, clothing, beauty and grooming items and hair and makeup services to homeless people in Los Angeles — refers to members of the homeless communities she serves as kings and queens. It’s a reference to the movies she watched growing up, in which overthrown royals would get locked up in dungeons. “The king would be unshaven and unwashed, but when his subjects eventually found him, they would still bow to him,” she says. Those movies taught Raines a lesson she would carry with her throughout her life: “They can’t take away your status just because you lose your structure.” And Raines knows first-hand what it feels like to lose everything.

At the age of 10, she became involved with gangs in her hometown of Compton. And when she was in her early 20s, while homeless and pregnant, her son Demetrius tragically passed away just days before his third birthday. After his passing, she “became a member of the walking dead,” Raines says. “I couldn’t face myself in the mirror.” She started wearing makeup to mask her pain. “If I drew my eyebrows high enough, nobody could tell I was frowning,” she says. “If my eyes were red from applying eyeliner, no one would know I’d actually been crying.” She suffered for years with anxiety and panic attacks; finally, Raines’s twin sister pulled her aside and told her that her son wouldn’t have wanted her to live like this.

It was the motivation Raines needed to make a change. She was inspired to join a volunteer group with her local church, where she helped put together bags of food for the homeless. While she was handing out food, women would compliment Raines’s makeup. “I’d respond: ‘You want me to do your hair and makeup? Because I can; I’m a ‘hood stylist,’” she laughs. Aside from understanding that beauty practices can provide a confidence boost, Raines also knows the power of caring, gentle touch. “Women on the streets are touched violently and without consent every day,” she says. “Imagine someone saying to them ‘Let me wash your hair.’” Indeed, Beauty 2 The Streetz’s website reads “The lack of a home does not mean a lack of humanity.”

So in 2015, Raines loaded up on the mini mascaras she’d bought with her Sephora Beauty Insider Rewards, along with dollar-store lashes and lash glue, and began travelling to L.A.’s Skid Row weekly to hand them out. Once she’d exhausted all her cash, rewards and free samples, she turned to her social media followers (5,000 at the time) to ask for donations. They delivered — and never stopped. Today, Beauty 2 The Streetz has over six million followers between Instagram and TikTok, and brands like Thrive Causemetics, Unilever, Haus Labs and Fenty Beauty have all donated to the non-profit. In 2021, Raines was named CNN’s Hero of the Year.

“Beauty can be external, but it can also be an internal form of CPR.”

Raines still has her critics, though. She has been called a “clout chaser” for sharing her good deeds online and accused of recording the homeless without their consent. “Everywhere I go, I tell the community what I’m doing,” she clarifies. “If they don’t want to be filmed, they don’t have to be.” Ultimately, she isn’t fazed by detractors. “I know my heart,” she says. Raines also fields constant questions about why the unhoused community needs beauty products at all. “When you take a shower and wash your hair, you feel better,” she says. “There are husbands and wives sleeping in tents together. We provide soap and hair products so they can smell good. They don’t have to look like what they’ve been through.”

Raines sees her former self in the unhoused populations she serves. “They’re asking to see a different version of themselves — I did that, too,” she says. “I know how empowering beauty is. If hair and makeup can get someone to a place where they respect themselves and feel dignified, then let me give them that. Beauty can be external, but it can also be an internal form of CPR.”

Ahead, the tried-and-true beauty essentials Shirley Raines swears by.

Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Instant Retouch Primer

Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Instant Retouch Primer

“I love the texture and quality. It’s like a primer and moisturizer all in one.”

Shop Now

Juvia’s Place The Festival Palette

Juvia’s Place The Festival Palette

“When women of colour make eyeshadow palettes, they up the ante with pigmentation. They get that we need a little more in our blues and purples.”

Shop Now

Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30

Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30

“I like to support Black-owned businesses. And we all need to wear sunscreen.”

Shop Now

Wet N Wild Color Icon Brow Pencil

Wet N Wild Color Icon Brow Pencil

“You don’t have to spend a lot on makeup to make it look right. It’s all about finding your colour match.”

Shop Now

Versace Dylan Purple Eau de Parfum

Versace Dylan Purple Eau de Parfum

“I like to smell sweet. You’ve got to leave a lingering scent; my mama taught me that.”

Shop Now

This article first appeared in FASHION’s March 2024 issue. Find out more here.

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