Facing season with style Hairdos: East Baltimore beauty school gives homeless families the chance to feel better about themselves with free cuts, curls and braids.

December 23, 1997|By Stacey P. Patton | Stacey P. Patton,SUN STAFF

Barbara Parker, a homeless woman from East Baltimore, walked into Dudley Beauty School with her hair hidden under a purple scarf. But when the 38-year-old left the school yesterday, she had curls and felt good about herself.

"When you're homeless, you don't really have the time to be worrying about getting your hair done. You don't have the money, either," said Parker, who has a 13-year-old daughter and has been moving from shelter to shelter for eight months.

This is the second year the school has been in operation and the first year that it has given a holiday treat to homeless women and children. Admissions officer Melanie Dudley hopes to make it an annual event.

"We want these women to see themselves in a different light," said Dudley. "If they can see a beautiful image of themselves, then they can see endless opportunities."

Nearly 100 people got a free hairdo at the East Baltimore shop as carols like Nat King Cole's rendition of "The Christmas Song" played in the background. At one styling station, a small boy dressed in a T-shirt and jeans grimaced as a beautician glided electric clippers over the curve of his head.

Two stations from the little boy, a hairdresser straightened an anxious little girl's hair with a blow dryer and a comb.

At a larger station, Parker studied the hot combs, curlers and hodgepodge of sprays and gels spread across the counter top.

"Something has got to be done with this stuff," she said, touching her hair.

"You got something to work with, honey. So don't you worry about a thing," answered student hairdresser Mary Thompson.

"You got to put your best work into this head," said Parker, stretching her eyebrows and looking at her reflection in the mirror.

Thompson nodded and smiled as she measured a shiny black hair extension against Parker's forehead.

For Thompson, Parker's head was just another that needed basing, perming, washing, blow-drying and styling. But for Parker, this trip to the hairdresser was a real treat.

"You have other priorities like trying to get a job somewhere, worrying about where you are going to sleep, and getting some money to wash your clothes and things like that," she added. "I usually do what I can to keep myself up."

Sitting next to Parker was Khadijah White, a 2-year-old girl who had arrived with her homeless mother. While most youngsters her age would likely be squirming and crying, Khadijah -- who could barely sit up in the rotating chair -- sat quietly and patiently as 18-year-old Timeka Lyle put cornrows in her hair.

After a half-hour, the little girl fell asleep. Neither the noises, nor Lyle's knuckles or fingertips occasionally pressing her scalp seemed to bother her.

"I'm almost done, sweetie pie," Charlene Riley, one of three stylists who worked on Khadijah's hair, told the girl, who awoke after an hour of getting her hair braided. "I've only got two more braids to go," said Riley, lifting two fingers for the little girl to see.

Meanwhile, Parker sat under a dryer waiting for the treatment to settle into her hair. "You know, everybody wants to look beautiful for Christmas," she said.

Pub Date: 12/23/97

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