As a former model and long-time owner of downtown Spokane’s The Makeup Studio, Julie Farley knows a thing or two about putting your best face forward. But it’s not just about looking good, she says. It’s about growing confidence and protecting pride.
It’s why for years, her nonprofit Project Beauty Share has helped low-income and homeless women (and some men) across the region with free access to the same types of supplies you’d find in any store’s personal care section – everything from toiletries and necessities, to name-brand mascara, lipstick and hair dye.
“Makeup is medicine,” said Farley, seated inside the nonprofit headquarters on East Sprague Avenue on Christmas Eve. “For women to not be able to afford these products, it makes sense to help them out.”
Project Beauty Share has grown steadily over the years since its inception in 2010 as an avenue for local donors to recycle gently used beauty products and beauty tools that then go to those without. Until two years ago, when it experienced a meteoric rise.
Popular Seattle-based beauty vlogger Thataylaa, who’s amassed nearly 1 million followers across Youtube and social media platforms, announced a partnership with the service in 2016, thrusting Project Beauty Share into a national, youthful spotlight.
“When I first reached out to Project Beauty Share a few years ago and spoke with Julie, I knew I had found a gem,” said Thataylaa, who’s real name is Taylor H., though she preferred not to reveal her full name for privacy reasons. “After that initial phone call, I was excited about what Project Beauty Share and I could do together, but never could have guessed what it has turned into today.”
Since then, Farley said she’s received overwhelming support from people and companies across the globe, all looking to donate product and get involved. Demonstrating the ever-growing scope of her endeavor, she keeps a map of America hung in a hallway, with hundreds of pins showing where in the country people have donated. She reckons she’ll soon need a world map to go alongside it.
“We get these hand-written notes,” she said. “ ‘When can you get in our city?’ ”
When the nonprofit first launched, Farley said, she was lucky to pull in more than 1,000 pounds of product. This year, she said they hit 60,000 pounds – a 40-percent growth over last year.
She’ll also hit another milestone next year, when she plans to step away from The Makeup Studio, which is closing on Tuesday, and work full time at Project Beauty Share. One of her first initiatives is to grow the service in name or spirit nationwide.
“This is my dream,” she said. “To help cities across the country. To have this all over.”
In Spokane, Farley’s initiative has made an indelible mark on those who administer homeless services. Like a food bank for beauty supplies, she’s created a connection with an industry that can often struggle with providing goods.
“She’s amazing,” said Rob McCann, President and CEO of Catholic Charities. “And that program is just such a wonderful miracle.”
McCann said Project Beauty Share has been integral in providing products to people at House of Charity, and even more so to families moving into affordable housing. Just as it did when Catholic Charities opened Sisters Haven in west Spokane and needed product for 73 new tenants.
“She came in with her team and every single apartment in that complex got fully set up and stacked out with all kinds of personal hygiene and beauty care stuff,” McCann said. “It was amazing. It really was.”
Susan Tyler-Babkirk, the program director at Women’s Hearth – Transitions, said she appreciated Project Beauty Share for the quality of its products.
“When we receive makeup for them, women looking for jobs, trying to make a good impression, they feel their best,” she said. “They really, really do appreciate it.”
Thataylaa said when she first mentioned Project Beauty Share on her Youtube channel, she was surprised to get mixed responses. Most people understood the nonprofit’s mission, she said, but some were confused as to why makeup and beauty items were a priority for shelters and homeless services.
“Once you see and hear stories firsthand how Project Beauty Share has touched people’s lives, you come to understand that lipstick is not just lipstick, and shampoo is not just shampoo,” she said. “Being able to throw on some makeup and feel put together can give someone the confidence to get a job, socialize, and feel like themselves again after going through some tumultuous times.”