Culture

A Dallas-Based Nonprofit Is Empowering Women Who Have Experienced Abuse Through Beauty

Project Beauty Founder Jo Lam Talks Her Own Experience, Inspiration, and What's Next for the Organization

BY Grayson Mask // 11.01.22

Dallasite Jo Lam founded Project Beauty, a nonprofit that seeks to empower women who have been through domestic violence, sex trafficking, and homelessness through beauty, in 2018. Over the past four years, the organization has grown into four programs that offer self-care (from simple pampering days to therapeutic services) to women and children in Dallas-Fort Worth.

We recently spoke with Lam to learn more about her background and what motivated her to create Project Beauty for women in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Background and Inspiration

Lam was just 16 years old when she began to experience domestic abuse. She was a Hong Kong immigrant living in New York with her family. Her dad emotionally and physically abused her and her mom. She often fell asleep late into the night to the voices of her parents’ fights and woke up to yells and shouts. It was a regular cycle in her tumultuous childhood. She recalls one night when her dad was upset and flipped the entire dinner table over, accidentally burning them with hot soup. It took a while for her family to discover that her dad had schizophrenia.

Lam’s family then moved to Texas where her dad worked at a restaurant in a very stressful environment. “He worked crazy hours,” Lam says. “So, by the time he got home, we just got the worst of it.”

Being a teenager, Jo’s response was to run. She just couldn’t bear it anymore. If she’d fought back, her two younger sisters would experience worse. So, she left home in search of a saner environment. But instead of a better life, Jo found herself in the locks of another abuser.

Her options were few. Either she remained on the streets or cohabited with a young man that was into illegal things. Lam was tired of not having a roof over her head and sleeping at different friends’ houses, so she opted for a life as the girlfriend of an abuser.

“I think I was 17, but I was definitely still underage,” Lam explains. “And he was not someone that had any good community standards. I mean, he was doing a lot of things that were shady, right? He was a drug dealer. He did things that weren’t legal, but he approached me like a savior, right? He approached me like, ‘Oh, I see that you’re alone. I see that you need help. I can totally help you if you need a place to stay.’”

Eventually, her boyfriend began to show his true colors as an abuser. She walked on eggshells daily because she never really knew when a bomb could go off with his temper. Finally, Lam recalled the tipping point for her. She explains that one night he got so upset that he beat her with a gun, tied her up, and branded her with a clothes hanger.

That was the last straw. Lam sought out a shelter in Arlington. While there, she felt the emotions that accompanied a trauma survivor and realized she lacked the essential tools to help her heal. She also wished she had a community she could trust. She later got married, had a son, and life became significantly normal. Then, one day, she had an epiphany. “In 2018, I went through an awakening,” she says. “I went through a moment where I looked at my life and said, it’s time for me to change. It’s time for me to do something for the community.” And then she created Project Beauty.

 

Project Beauty
Project Beauty provides self-care services like haircuts and makeovers to women and children at shelters and transition homes in DFW. (Courtesy)

What Project Beauty Does

For Lam’s team, beauty is a universal language. And they have chosen to transform women’s self-perception through beauty, especially women who were survivors of domestic violence or sex trafficking, have gone through chemo, that just lost a husband or a child, or women just in need of healing.

Lam initially invited 10 women in the community by offering complimentary beauty services such as free facials and blowouts. She quickly saw how these women began to glow and transform from a simple act of care. They told her how they felt worthy again. She saw purpose as these women’s eyes glittered with hope.

Then, she began to call salons and shelters. She devised solid plans to kickstart transformation for many more women. This led to the creation of the four programs the organization has today. The first one is called “The Beauty Days” where Lam and her team go into shelters with beauty professionals such as massage therapists, estheticians, hairstylists, etc. They set up a spa experience where people can get a professional haircut, waxing service, or facial just to make these women feel comfort, dignity, and love.

Project Beauty’s second program is called “Gift of Beauty.” Here, they provide women with healthy makeup tools, and self-care items like a face mask, skincare products, mascara, blush, eyeliner, and more — through the support of Thrive cosmetics.

The third program is called “Trauma Healing.” And here, they engage with survivors through self-confidence workshops such as affirmation, writing, and art therapy. This program aims to shift women from a victim mentality to empowered survivor. Lastly, the “Angel Clinic,” the fourth, started in 2020. Project Beauty provides scar revision services and tattoo removal services to any survivor who has been disfigured physically.

What’s Next

Project Beauty is approaching its fourth year and the vision has expanded. The non-profit just held an event with the Dallas Mavericks where about 60 women experienced self-care services. The organization has also teamed up with Legacy West and Sephora.

Some of Lam’s plans for the rest of the year include partnering with different corporations that want to support the mission of empowering women through beauty. The team is also working to provide resources and host regular fundraising opportunities, and several charity events.

If you want to help Project Beauty, which is 100 percent volunteer-based, you can donate new, unused makeup, and self-care products. Monetary donations are also accepted. If you’re interested in volunteering, you can find more info on their website.

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