Tiny beauty shop offers clients new look and new outlook

    With only one sink and two chairs, it may be Philadelphia’s smallest beauty parlor, but it has a very big mission — to improve clients’ mental health along with their appearance.

    Hollywood Beauty Salon at Germantown Recovery Community hosted its second annual recovery hair show Tuesday.

    Before the show, Sanetta Watkins was showing off her outfit as she waited in line to have her hair and makeup done. She had sandals with leopard print, and a black dress with a leopard-print top.

    While Sanetta is her given name, her friends call her “butterfly,” she says, “because I think about butterflies, how beautiful they are, and I think I’m beautiful.”

    Watkins, diagnosed with bipolar disorder, was in and out of hospitals for many years. When she started coming to Germantown Recovery Community, she began frequenting the tiny beauty parlor run by Rachel “Hollywood” Carr. Carr says self-esteem plays a big role in helping people who struggle with mental illness.

    “You have to believe and feel good about yourself, in order to want to do anything,” Carr said.

    With a long history of depression, Carr is a mental-health peer counselor who also has training in hair care and hygiene.

    The beauty salon began as clients at the recovery center sought a place where they could learn about doing their hair and makeup, says Tess Zakrzwski, program director at Germantown Recovery Community. The center provides mental health and training services for those with severe mental illnesses, intellectual disabilities, and addiction issues.

    A starting point and a celebration

    Zakrzwski says when clients change their looks, it changes their outlook.

    “A lot of times, our folks haven’t even looked in the mirror, so this is a starting point to get people to look at how they present, and how they can engage with others,” she said.

    The annual recovery hair show is a way to show off the beauty parlor’s work. For clients, it’s also a way to celebrate their achievements, says Carr.

    “Even though it’s a hair show, and they are going to show off their hairstyles and look good, it’s really about gratitude, about the things they have been through, and a celebration of their lives,” Carr said.

    Sanetta “Butterfly” Watkins’ message for the show’s audience is simple; “believe in yourself,” she says.

    “A lot of people tell you because of the fact that you … have a mental illness that you can’t do this, and you can’t do that,” said Watkins. “I just told myself that that’s not true, that I am able to do whatever I want to do!”

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