Caroline Melendez- Reveal started in 2006 as a Valentine’s Day event for women who were sex trafficking victims or had been abused and were living in a shelter. The goal of the event was to provide services that allowed each woman to be pampered and taken care of for a day. A group of women from Trinity Grace Church here in New York were deeply moved to help these women, so they arranged the event, and it had an incredibly powerful impact. The women were given facials, a massage, had their hair and make-up done and were given new clothes, all by professionals here in New York. They have grown this event into a regular practice. We now partner with the largest women’s shelter in the city where we hold self-care workshops once a month. The women typically are only permitted to live there for three months, so we designed the workshops as a three-month series. The first month is fashion and hair, so we have a fashion designer from J Crew and a professional hair dresser talk with the women about what makes them feel good and beautiful, and help them to achieve the look they want. The second month is a skin care and make-up workshop, and again we have experts come in and teach them tips and tricks to do for their skin and with make-up, and then they get to practice what they’ve learned. The third month is health and wellness. We have a Pilates instructor come and teach a class, and we’ve recently started a self-defense class, which is incredibly empowering for the women.
L+W- That must have been a fascinating class to witness.
CM- It was, and I think we were all snapped back to reality at the end when Alexander, the instructor, opened the class up to questions. One of the women asked a couple of very specific questions about how to get out of a certain hold. We could tell that these were specific situations that she was not making up, but that had actually happened to her. Alexander was amazing in that he had her put him in those positions, and they talked through them in a very logical way in order to show her how to get out of them. The whole class benefited in a way that we never could have predicted, so that was pretty amazing to be a part of.
L+W- What is the long-term goal for Reveal NYC?
CM- We’re hoping to get to know the women more, so in the Fall, if we have enough funding, we’d like to hold workshops twice a month for the women. This was the inspiration for our Summer Spa Benefit at Jeunesse Spa. It is for both men and women, and we’re giving away free spa treatments to the first 50 people to arrive, which includes either a massage or a nail polish change. The benefit is a “dress to impress” night, because we want everyone who attends to look and feel amazing. Reveal NYC is run entirely on volunteers, so all of our funding comes from our benefits and personal donations. We keep the workshops very inexpensive- Starbucks donates the coffee that we serve, and we only pay for the materials we need because all the instructors donate their time. Our dream is to hold workshops in many shelters throughout the city, and to eventually have a permanent place where we hold workshops for the women who have left the shelters.
L+W- What is the most moving moment you’ve had so far with Reveal NYC?
CM- The workshop we did in June was very moving, because a teenage daughter of one of the women had run away the night before. The mother was beside herself, and everyone was very down as a result. I was worried that the women weren’t going to come because they were under so much stress. But one by one they started to arrive, and we had one of the best turn outs we’ve ever had. It started out tense, but I could see them start to change as time went on. The way they sat, the way they were talking and laughing and talking about what makes them feel good, and sharing ideas and stories with each other was incredible to watch. Within a couple of hours they had all bonded and forgot about their worries for a short time, which is what the workshops are all about.
L+W- I’m personally excited about the Spa Event, and for the work Reveal NYC is doing. You must feel very positive about the future, considering the direction you’re headed.
CM- I’m very excited about what’s happening with Reveal NYC, because the possibilities are endless. The Spa Event on July 28 should be great, because we not only have a great night lined up but we are excited to expand people’s awareness of Reveal NYC, and this is the perfect opportunity to do so.