Rachel Doyle started Glamour Gals when she was still in high school. Her inspiration behind this amazing and inspiring not for profit? Her grandmother.
After her grandmother passed away Rachel took something very sad and turned it into something that lives on the mission of making women in senior homes everywhere smile. Glamour Gals pairs up high school girls with women in senior homes and uses beauty makeovers as a way to spark a conversation.
Here’s what Rachel had to say when we spoke to her:
WHICH OF YOUR GRANDMOTHERS INSPIRED GLAMOUR GALS?
I had relationships with both my grandmothers, but Glamour Gals was dedicated to my dad’s mom.
HOW DID SHE COME ABOUT INSPIRING YOU TO START YOUR OWN NONPROFIT?
I think 14 years ago Alzheimer’s, dementia, the way people aged, had not really been studied or brought into mainstream news and you would just sometimes classify your older grandparent as someone who’s sort of cuckoo or something.
They would be forgetful or they wouldn’t be totally with it, but no one could explain what was happening. My grandmother was in amazing physical health, but her mental health was really not there. I knew her through the stories my dad told me – for instance, how she rode motorcycles through her 80s. She was a really free spirit and my father shared with me that when she was younger she used to work for the Elizabeth Arden Red Door salon and she would do all the socialites of New York – their hair.
She was a beautician and when she passed away I felt like I had started to learn about her, her background in beauty, and I really think I was one of those young people who was very moved to help and do things for others.
SO IS THIS WHEN YOU GOT THE IDEA TO START GLAMOUR GALS?
I am just that type of person. I just love doing things for others, so having that as what makes me who I am, compounded by my grandmother passing away and wanting to do something for her, being a teenager of course I thought, “what do I love and what do my friends love?” and that was makeup. I thought, well my grandmother was in the beauty industry and it just sort of all started coming together where I could reach out to women like her and my maternal grandmother who was still living was the recipient of many, many, many makeovers.
DID CREATING GLAMOUR GALS HELP YOU UNDERSTAND YOUR GRANDMOTHER BETTER?
I think that by creating Glamour Gals I was actually able to get closer to my grandmother even though she wasn’t there. I was given all of these opportunities to connect with older women like her who could share their stories, who could share their lives and have an ear that could listen to them and not have all the emotion that comes along with an older relative aging and not remembering who you are.
DID GLAMOUR GALS’ MISSION IMMEDIATELY CATCH ON?
I was 17 when I started Glamour Gals. I started it off with two other volunteers in January of 2000. It really wasn’t until college, freshman year of college, that I started getting so much interest and in order to grow [we became a nonprofit.]
DID ANYONE GIVE YOU ADVICE WHEN YOU WERE JUST STARTING OFF?
Actually Nancy Lublin who is the Founder of Dress for Success and CEO of Do Something, she gave me two pieces of advice, she said (1) stay in school and (2) trademark your organization. It was around that time that she gave me that advice that I was trying to not just trademark Glamour Gals, but to incorporate it.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF GLAMOUR GALS?
I love going to makeovers and seeing the other girls lead. It reminds me of when I was back in high school years ago doing that and it’s almost like a flashback of the program that I started and all these years later it’s the same thing but just as powerful and with girls who don’t know really who I am. They’re connected to the broader mission and philosophy of the organization and I think that’s one of my favorite parts.
HOW DO THE GIRLS LEARN TO GIVE MAKEOVERS?
We have a curriculum called the Hot Pink Leadership Curriculum, it’s based in pretty much all different touch points. We share guides, how tos, education and training materials, everything from how to do a makeover, how to converse with the women, how to recruit volunteers. It encompasses all of the aspects of being a successful volunteer both inspiring and organizing them.
Really the essence of a Glamour Gal makeover is the interaction. The makeup is just a tool for conversation. It’s not the end, it’s really about the during. Anyone can give a Glamour Gals makeover.
WAS IT DIFFICULT FOR YOU TO START GLAMOUR GALS WHILE LIVING THROUGH THE GRIEF OF HAVING LOST YOUR GRANDMA?
I would say, I think she was in that place where…when you lose someone it’s always hard, but when you lose someone and you know they’re not the way they used to be and they have lived a full and beautiful and rewarding life, that there is some peace in that. But, at the same time, I think the ability to take grief, or something negative, and turn it into something so positive for so many other people is one of the secrets in life.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON GRIEF?
Grief or sadness (any of those negative emotions) can physically deteriorate you, mentally deteriorate you, and be so destructive that if you don’t actively do something – and it could be as simple as a walk every morning to clear your mind, reading, organization, having a ritual – just doing something that can help you overcome that, either that day or for as long as it takes to work through those emotions, you really become paralyzed. I mean it really stops your whole life and the person who passed is not affected anymore, now it’s all on you to make that change.
It’s tricky and it’s hard because those emotions are so much more overwhelming than the other things you need to do to get through them. The other ones are work.
DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL DAY WHEN YOU DO SOMETHING IN HONOR OF YOUR GRANDMA?
I don’t think I have a set day, but I’m constantly having moments of remembering her, but what’s really happening is that I’m remembering all the good stuff. Like for example, when I’m cooking or I’m having a dinner party, so I’ll think, “aw man I wish I could call grandma and ask her how much salmon I should buy” she would know exactly how much. What I’ll do is that then I’ll call my mom and say,”oh my goodness if grandma was alive I’d totally be calling her right now to say having a dinner party for 8 people how much salmon do I buy.”
WHAT DO YOU FOCUS ON WHEN YOU REMEMBER YOUR GRANDMOTHER THEN?
[A] great thing is to remember the positive things. My maternal grandmother passed away after; I don’t reminisce about watching her in that hospital bed, unable to swallow or literally drugged up. I don’t reminisce about those moments, although I went through them and they were extremely intense and difficult to watch someone pass away and I don’t think about my paternal grandmother or the way she passed away either. I think about all the fun things that she brought to this world and I remember that and then I share it with other people.
You can learn more about Glamour Gals here.