Michelle Hansen and #PhoenixRising client Crystal Holloway

Along the strip of high-end stores that pepper Montana Avenue, you’ll find LuxeLab. A progressive, community-focused salon, Luxelab typically provides expert cuts, detail-oriented hair dye services, top-tier hair care products and more. However, this past Sunday and Monday, the salon offered something a little different: a new lease on life.

In their #PhoenixRising event, LuxeLab partnered up with non-profits Homeboy Industries, Chrysalis, CAST, and Dream Center to help rehabilitate men and women affected by addiction, domestic violence, ex-gang affiliation, homelessness, and sex-trafficking.

LuxeLab looked to help these individuals with what the salon does best– beauty.

“I’d always been interested in beauty and how we could use that as a gift to share in some way,” Michelle Hansen, the stylist who spearheaded the event, said. “I got to a point in my life and career where I felt I could help make that happen. I got people behind me to help me plan the event and the salon owners suggested we make it bigger and work with more organizations. It feels good seeing it come together.”

To help the 30 selected individuals who arrived from the non-profits, Hansen and her crew of talented stylists donated their time and resources to inspire these community members and get them back on track with their impending new lives.

Along with around $400 worth of hair services done free of charge, the individuals were provided with goodie bags containing L’oreal shampoo and conditioner, paper and pencils, makeup accessories, and style tips. Through client donations, the salon was also able to outfit each person with interview clothes.

“Our clientele is so high-end and kind, and they have nice clothes,” Hansen said. “We got so many donations from them like Louboutin shoes and brand new slacks and dresses, stuff still with tags. It’s been incredible.”

Beauty also applies to intrinsic worth, and LuxeLab offered that, too, with interview counseling and a motivational speech from one of their owners, David Abrams.

Hansen said Abrams’ speech was uplifting, telling their guests that no matter what their background, it’s not their cross to bear, and most importantly, they are wanted.

Liz Escamilla and Dunia Zelaya took the message to heart.

The women have benefitted from the help of the Dream Center and Homeboy Industries, respectively, and are grateful for the self-empowerment Hansen and LuxeLab has helped them find.

Escamilla, who is rehabilitating at the Dream Center, shared that she was addicted to meth for 11 years and involved in what comes along with a gang member lifestyle. Now sober for two years, Escamilla said she struggled with self-worth due to her past, until Monday at LuxeLab.

“I thought I wasn’t good-looking, that I was ugly because of my skin or weight or things I’ve done,” she said. “I struggle with a lot of issues, but the owner gave his testimony about changing our world, then others. It changed my perspective. It made me want to take care of myself and be here for others.”

Escamilla mentioned her six kids she wants to be here for and how she hopes to one day make them proud with not only with a GED, but a culinary education to become a chef.

Zelaya, a case manager and advocate for Homeboy Industries, is transitioning into a new life as well.

A sex trafficking survivor, Zelaya said what she learned from LuxeLab helped her love herself, seeing herself go from a self-doubting, “sharpie homegirl with the drawn on sharpie eyebrows”, into a confident, reassured woman ready to tackle what life brings next.

The generosity shown to her from Homeboy Industries and the salon inspired Zelaya to want to give back, too; she plans to continue advocating for sex trafficking victims and eventually become a case manager for those looking for Section 8 housing.

“And if it’s not that job, I’ll find another job,” she said with poise. “At least I’m getting some tips here to take on a job interview, to look more professional on that level. You don’t always see a homegirl dressed up, you know? The dress-up clothes, the makeup… it inspires me.”

Hansen said she and her stylists are considering making the event an annual event, possibly going even bigger in scale and possibly doing even more community-focused events. While they can’t help usher everyone into a new life, that won’t stop Hansen and LuxeLab from trying.

“You can’t save the world alone,” Hansen said. “We all know that, but the best thing you can do is be a good person to the people around you. We want to give back and keep helping.”

 angel@smdp.com