Life Without a Blowdryer

Posted on September 25, 2012 by Leah


As millions of people around the world wait in line to purchase the latest iPhone, Veronica Perez sets up donated clothes on a table in the back of her sister’s Peruvian home.

“¿Cuánto?,” she asks me, and points to a plastic purse decorated with the face of Marilyn Monroe.

We agree on 7 soles. This translates to less than $2.

A pair of Seven jeans are priced at 5 soles, a worn-out T-shirt at 4 soles and a pair of tights at 1 sole.

That day, Veronica and her sister, Sandra, made 50 soles selling used clothes. With this money, they were able to purchase a blowdryer. It would be the first at their salon: Belle Face Familia.

The salon is open thanks to my good friend and LA-based makeup artist, Annah Yevelenko. Last year, she traveled to Yantalo, Peru with over 100 pounds of donated items from Milani cosmetics and led a five-day crash course on hygiene, makeup and hair.

Veronica, 29, Sandra, 27, and their sister Wilma, 14, took a liking to the class and set up shop in Sandra’s living room.

This year they were greeted by more volunteers—Holly Gronemeyer Pistas and Ashley Erhart Burfiendt from Gordon Salon—who came with more than 60 pounds of donated products from Aveda and Pivot Point. The class continued; and the sisters flourished.

Here’s how it works: If the women sell a product, the money must go back into the salon (which someday will hopefully be a full-blown women’s center). However, if the women provide a service, they can pocket the money.

When word travels in town that hair and makeup are being done at Sandra’s house, loads of ladies show up. Practice is necessary, and the class is conducive to free services. But many expect the generosity to continue when the volunteers leave.

After all, this is the only beauty salon in town. The idea of business is new.

But the volunteers insist upon their departure: “Don’t let your friends take advantage of you.”

Throughout the course of their stay, Holly and Ashley decide to pay for Sandra and Veronica to continue hair classes in Moyobamba, which will cost $20 a month plus an entrance fee of about $30.

They divulge the news on Friday before a farewell hike.

“Do good things,” Holly says to Veronica. Both have tears in their eyes. Veronica nods her head. The gratitude is palpable.

By Kristin Lepore

Photo Credit: Josh Gibson