When a woman is confident enough to start a new job knowing her hair is right and her makeup is just so, that's the final blessing Malaak Compton-Rock likes to bestow upon her clients on their first day at work. Many of Malaak's clients are reentering the workforce for the first time in years, having left the welfare system in search of new lives -- and hopefully new selves. "I want to give women that final touch, an appropriate appearance that presents no barriers while on the job," explains Malaak, who created styleWORKS in October 1999 to provide women with enough confidence in their appearance to help them succeed.
styleWORKS is a nonprofit organization Malaak founded as a support service for former welfare dependants who want to work but don't know how to present themselves at interviews or in office environments. "Self-esteem is very important for women coming off of welfare," says Malaak. "Our challenge at styleWORKS is to give specific advice and info on skincare, hair and makeup issues." To do so, Malaak and her team of volunteers meet one-on-one with each client for a 90-minute consultation. Initially, they discuss the kind of job culture the client is entering and suitable ways to dress for that particular environment.
After the consultation, Malaak schedules an appointment for each client to meet with a hair and makeup stylist. This usually takes place during off-hours at a salon that has agreed to lend space to styleWORKS. "We try to create a look appropriate for each woman," says Malaak, whose experience as a former publicist in the entertainment business gave her a love of fashion and beauty. "We talk about meshing job and life skills, while teaching how to apply makeup and maintain a look."
The salon experience is a minimum of five hours per client, with 12 to 16 clients served per day. Each client's photo is taken upon arrival so they can see their transformation at the end of the day. Next, each client's hair is cut or colored, or both, by a volunteer hairstylist. From there, Malaak pitches in and does skincare analysis for each client, followed by waxing and a minifacial. After a lunch break, each client is paired with a volunteer makeup artist who applies cosmetics and offers makeup tips for at-home application.
Throughout the day, clients are given handouts on a variety of subjects, such as skincare, maintaining their new look, interview techniques and ways to succeed in business. Clients are also given a bag of products to take home. Clairol provides hair products and Black Opal donates makeup; skincare is provided by a variety of companies.
If you're interested in volunteering, contact the styleWORKS volunteer coordinator at styleWORKS.org. styleWORKS also accepts product donations from cosmetic, hair care and accessory companies. If you're interested, call