Army Veteran Kayla Gammarano, a 50-year-old mother who has served as a major in Iraq, headed to the “Hiring Our Heroes” event in New York City Thursday feeling low.
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The job fair for veterans and their spouses, held at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, just didn't feel promising that morning, she said. Gammarano, who lives in Connecticut, was looking for work in the health care industry.
As she made a trip to the restrooms, she said she came upon an unexpected surprise in the ship's mess hall. Salon chairs lined the steel gray floor of the room, surrounded by shiny mirrors and animated hairdressers cutting, drying and shampooing away. Gammarano soon found herself in a chair, being shampooed with cold water from the Intrepid's plumbing.
"It reminded me of Iraq," she said of the makeshift salon. "I was so down, and this lifted me up."
As a female vet, Gammarono was offered a free makeover at the job fair, courtesy of the Christopher Crabaugh Beaute Salon in New York City.
"I feel great," she said after her hair and makeup were done. "I feel brand new."
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The makeover organizer Christopher Gamper, creative director of the salon, said he became interested in helping veterans after his best friend married a Marine, who later deployed to the Middle East.
"So, we became all-things military," Gamper said. "I thought this was a great cause to give back to. Veterans and service people are the most overlooked, and I wanted to give something back to them for these last nine years."
The pseudo salon was a hotspot for women at the job fair, with nearly 20 coming in for hair and makeup before 11 am. Gamper said the salon furniture and products were all donated, and guest stylists generously volunteered to cut, blow dry and do makeup for the day.
"It's a job fair, so these women want to really stand out," Gamper said. "You don't have a second chance."
April D'Alessio, a 30-year-old military wife, was coaxed into the makeover by her husband, Marine veteran Stephen D'Alessio. April had come to support her spouse, and wound up in one of the salon chairs by mid-morning.
"She needs to treat herself," Stephen said.
Brian Meehan, a stylist from the Wayne Thomas Salon, Inc., donated his time to the event, cutting away at a young military wife's hair, giving her layers for the first time.
"She is a school teacher with two kids, so she needs something that is manageable," Meehan said. "A quick makeover like this gives them more self esteem. It polishes them up so they have a positive feeling going into an interview."