Executive Director, The Beautiful Foundation & Makeup Artist/ Cosmetologist
Lauren Perry is one of those people who makes you feel like she always has time to listen. She’s resurrecting a non-profit, meeting with her cosmetology clients, and dealing with everyday life. There’s so much going on around her and yet there is a stillness that runs through her that makes me feel like it’s ok to slow down for a second too. She’s my go-to makeup artist, I am on the advisory board for her foundation, and we have grown to be friends. Through those relationships, I have gotten to know her personally and professionally, and she is one of those people who sends thank you cards and remembers little things like birthdays or the random project I’m working on. No matter what is going on in her life, she’s dedicated to being present and positive for everyone around her. Her desire to help others led her to take over as the executive director of a non-profit called The Beautiful Foundation. But Lauren isn’t very excited about being called the executive director.
“ I hate going by that. I hate going by anything. I hate going by any titles, but if you have to use a title that’s fine,” she tells me.
BRANCHING OUT FROM THE FAMILY BUSINESS
She says the title give a false sense of glamour. Lauren says she’s still trying to figure out exactly what she wants to do with her life, and the title makes it seem like she’s got it all together. Even as a child, everyone assumed she’d work in the beauty industry since her family owns a hair salon called In the Master’s Hands.
“I pulled away from that because I was like how are you going to put on me what you want me to do for my life.”
To be clear, she’s great with hair and makeup, but she wanted to decide her own path. It didn’t take long before she got swept up into the hair salon business. In high school, she wanted to make some extra money, so her family let her work in the salon.
When she went to college at Loyola University, she studied theatre. The acting dream fizzled out, so she shifted her focus to stage and production makeup and stage management, bringing her focus right back on the beauty industry.
THE BEAUTIFUL FOUNDATION
Even though working at the salon was going against everything she vowed not to do, she loved the relationships she developed while talking with her clients at the salon. It was that idea of connecting with people that would lead her to take over The Beautiful Foundation.
Lauren ended up attending a summer program for The Beautiful Foundation when she was in high school back in 2005. Someone brought a flier to the salon saying they needed girls for the program, and her mom encouraged her to go even though it was meant for underprivileged girls.
“I was in the program with girls from juvenile diversion, girls who lived in group homes and things like that and it was really an eye opener. Even though we were the same color, we had different backgrounds.”
Lauren found that even though the girls had different backgrounds, as women they were dealing with some very similar issues and had many of the same questions.
A few years later as a freshman in college, Lauren missed the program and went back to mentor.
When she graduated from college in 2012, she started working as a makeup artist out of her family’s salon. She also developed a curriculum teaching middle and high school girls how to do stage makeup.
Lauren left the foundation to focus on her career, but her makeup career didn’t take off as quickly as she thought it would.
“I thought when I graduated it was going to be made in the shade….”
That summer after graduation, Lauren went to the emergency room for what she thought was a heart attack. It was a panic attack.
“I needed to calm down. I slowed down and reevaluated a lot of things. It’s so unfair that they don’t tell you this in college.”
She thought she needed to stay away from mentoring with the foundation to build her career, but she really missed spending time with the girls. So in 2014, She reached out to E. J. Encalarde, the founder, and asked to come back as a mentor, only to find she was planning to dissolve the foundation. Encalarde had a full plate with her own career. That’s when Lauren stepped in to take over.
THE BEAUTIFUL FOUNDATION'S REBIRTH
The non-profit mentors young girls by focusing on self-esteem, entrepreneurial thinking, their mental, physical and emotional well being through in school partnerships and community partnerships. The foundation does very important work for young women in New Orleans and that’s why Lauren has sacrificed so much to keep it going.
The first year she wasn’t paid at all because the foundation didn’t have any money, which means she had to keep working at the salon. Recently she’s been able to lighten her load at the salon, but she still has a lot on her plate with the foundation. She meets with potential donors, writes letters for grants, and runs programming at two schools. She is grateful for the help she gets from her board members and part-time mentors.
“I took on this role out of a calling not so much me thinking about the day to day operations.”
Her current position isn’t the final destination on her journey.
“I think this was something I needed to take on to prepare me for something greater. I feel like my calling in life – I know it sounds cheesy- is to help spread positivity… to help spread love. “
LIVING ACCORDING TO HER PURPOSE
Lauren says she knew her purpose as early as high school. She was always the friend everyone wanted to talk to about their problems. As she grew older, people continued to open up to her.
“I just want to spread positivity among young girls so that they can continue to lead in our society but saying that might sound crazy. How can I do that? Can I make money?"
Another part of working in her purpose is making herself uncomfortable and opening herself to new things. She has forced herself to start networking.
Knowing her purpose gets her through some rough days with the foundation and in her personal life.
“The girls are talking to you in confidence and some of their stories are so heavy. I have to be a in a good place- physically, emotionally, and spiritually to even be able to listen to their stories and be an outlet for them.”
Towards the end of last year, she had to deal with a challenging breakup and only a month later she lost her grandfather. She’s still working to move pass those losses. She says knowing her purpose helps her get out of bed every morning and keep going.
Whether she’s listening to a friend, talking to a client in the salon, or working with young ladies of the beautiful foundation, Lauren is the encourager.
“The what changes but my why is always going to be my why.”
Lauren doesn’t know what her next move will be, but the truly beautiful thing is that she will be helping others while she figures it out.