When social distancing meant hair and beauty treatments would be impossible, Raines recalibrated and did what she could, offering food, masks, and – crucially – public health information to a community otherwise abandoned by the government.
And btw, the self-proclaimed “hood stylist” just won CNN’s 2021 Hero of the Year award for her weekly service of LA’s Skid Row community.
I got to speak with Raines on this week’s News Not Noise Podcast, and came away deeply inspired. I think her advice is a great way to start 2022. Part of her interview is excerpted here, and you can listen to the rest. Answers have been edited for clarity.
When you first went out there, you said that you related [to the unhoused], you understood the trauma and toxicity. Was there a part of you that also felt a little stranger danger? Like you said, some people could smell a little bit, or they’re dirty. Was there any barrier for you at all?
Not at all. I grew up in the streets of Compton. I'm smart enough to know that the person that you fear is not the person that's going to harm you. In the movies, it's never the person that you think is going to harm you. It's your neighbor next door.
I'm more worried about going into [my] local grocery store, sending my kids to school, than I am going to the hood. You know, I think that we believe that broken people are sharp. Don't get me wrong. I'm sharp, I'm jagged around the edge. [But] it's all about how you pick up a broken thing. There's nothing dangerous about them. You have to be careful when you pick up broken items. It can cut you, but they're not dangerous. They're just broken.
Can you tell folks who feel like they've been struggling through trauma for a long time and they don't know what else to do: How do they make themselves available? What's the action?
That's the thing about it. There is no action. You can't rush a cake. If it takes 45 minutes, it takes 45 minutes. Every time you open the oven door, you're prolonging that. I think that as we go through things, realize that that is taking you to another step. In hindsight, all the pain, all the trauma I went through was me in the oven baking, baking, baking. And then at the right time, ding, I was done. I think, don't rush it. It's okay to not be okay. It's okay to be right where you're at. You can be useful right there. I'm so transparent about my struggles, about who I am. I think it's important that people know that I have not changed anything about me, as I became Beauty 2 The Streetz. I just made myself available.
What's your view of what government's and society’s responsibilities are to this community?
I think we all have a huge responsibility that we've been neglecting for quite some time. Preventative measures must be taken before these things happen. I take care of teachers. I take care of doctors. We have vets on the street. I [work with] a woman who lived her life, married to one man, never had to work, had multiple children. He decided to have a midlife crisis and get a whole new wife. Didn't give her anything. She has no resume, no skills. She ended up on the streets.
I have not heard a story about somebody being on drugs or being an alcoholic and losing everything. Drugs and alcohol are definitely down there. It's a coping mechanism. [But] that did not lead to homelessness. It's very traumatic down there, and sometimes you just need to escape.
And a lot of them check out of their body and they check back in when all the trauma’s done happening to them. But if you check out so many times, you just simply don't come back. I think a lot of the mental illness that we see down there was created because they were living in those streets. It wasn't what led them to those streets. The government has a huge responsibility to get out there and do counseling. We, as people, have a huge responsibility to stop labeling them, stop judging them. And if we look at them the right way, if we attach the right narrative to them, then we'll be more apt to want to help that community.
To hear more about healing her own trauma, finding her place in the Skid Row community, and her commitment to being there no matter the circumstances, check out the News Not Noise Podcast.