Salon professional Shirley Raines, who lists herself @beauty2thestreetz as offering "makeup, hygiene & essential services for the homeless of Skidrow, CA," was named CNN Hero of the Year for 2021. Online voters chose Raines over nine other finalists. The award was presented on Sunday, December 12, by hosts Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa on the CNN special.
As she received the honor, an emotional Raines thanked her late son and other children for inspiring her dedication to this work.
"This surely hasn't been easy," she said at the microphone. "I stand before you a very broken woman. I am a mother without a son, and there are a lot of people in the streets without a mother. And I feel like it's a fair exchange."
Through her non-profit Beauty 2 the Streetz, Raines has brought beauty services to Skid Row for the past six years. She and her team of volunteers also provide thousands of people living there with food and clothing. Each week they turn part of Skid Row into an outdoor beauty salon. Through anything from a haircut, makeup service or facial to a meal or just a hug, Raines says she aims to make the homeless feel human. Especially during the pandemic, she knows that human touch is important.
The CNN honor comes with $100,000 to continue or expand her work. As a top 10 finalist, Raines receives an additional $10,000 cash award.
After the death of her young son, Demetrius, to deal with the pain of loss Raines joined a church group that delivered food to Skid Row. There, she found a community of other broken people, and she felt she could help even more. That's when she formed Beauty 2 the Streetz, first with just her children. As she began posting to social media and livestreaming events, word of the organization spread and licensed cosmetologists joined in. Throughout the pandemic, they found ways to continue the work.
"My sun didn't come out for 30 years," Raines told CNN. "It was 30 years' worth of tomorrows before I even saw the break of day. I would be lying if I said I was always completely happy from doing this. It didn't take away the pain of my son dying. But I've certainly gotten better. I can say his name now. He is the reason I do what I do."
Through January 3, 2022, all donations up to $50,000 to Raines's cause through CNNHeroes.com will be matched by Subaru.
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.
Originally posted on Modern Salon