She doesn’t sport a cape or power suit, but San Diegan Callie Ahern does have a caboodle of tools that have transformed the lives of more than a hundred low-income seniors.
Ahern is the founder of The Glama Project, a year-old charity that gives makeovers to the elderly with the hopes it will boost their self-confidence and bring them joy. Inspired by her grandmother, Ahern said she launched the project just last year in her honor. "I created The Glama Project after I watched my grandmother have a tough transition into a senior community after some health problems," Ahern says. "Watching her transition inspired me to create a project that would inspire confidence and would remind senior women that they’ve still got it."
A self-trained makeup artist who works full-time in marketing, Ahern has an entourage of four photographers and four professional makeup artists. Together, they’ve delivered makeovers to senior communities, such as St. Paul’s Senior Services, Vi at La Jolla Village, and Belmont Village. Ahern has also expanded her team to Aliso Viejo in Orange County.
Every recipient’s makeover is paired with a photo shoot. Recipients are also given hard copies of their "top five photos" and a goodie bag of cosmetics.
Although she’s volunteered hours of her time to the cause, Ahern says it is she who is most humbled by the experience. "Their humbleness, life stories, wisdom, and their outlook on life is a priceless gift they can give you if you just take the time to sit down and listen," she says.
Ahern’s most memorable encounter was with Rimma, a member of St. Paul’s Senior Services. "She was giddy that day, and I thought it was her normal demeanor," Ahern says. "Amid her incredible story, she said the words, ‘You saved me,’ and it’s something I’ll never forget."
The public can support the cause, which Ahern hopes to expand, by donating goods. The charity accepts gifts of unopened makeup, scarves, and costume jewelry.
For Celida Abarca Vélez, a participant at St. Paul’s, the project is one worth rallying behind. "Before, I didn’t have much to be happy about," Vélez says. "After this makeover, I feel alive and want to dance."