“This is the first time in my life that I’ve felt beautiful!”
This was vendor Kristy’s first reaction to seeing a photo of herself modelling jewellery like a pro in the latest edition of her street paper, The Curbside Chronicle.
She is one of three women in Oklahoma City (OKC) to take part in a stunning photo shoot to celebrate the beauty and strength of vendors, inside and out.
A core aim of the The Curbside Chronicle is to break down visual stereotypes that stigmatise the homeless by showcasing its vendors within the magazine.
As part of this on-going commitment, Kristy, Tia and Darnesha were invited to model handmade jewellery from local boutiques Collected Thread, DNA Galleries and Out on a Limb.
All three women have experienced homelessness at one point in their lives but are working hard to turn their circumstances around, with help from Curbside.
“These women are some of the strongest, most resilient women you could meet but despite that, people often judge them at first glance and don’t see them for their innate beauty,” Editor Ranya O’Connor told INSP.
“In many ways, our vendors get shunned because of their situations but within the pages of Curbside they are celebrated and treated with the dignity they deserve.”
In January, Kristy, Tia and Darnesha swapped their pitches around OKC for a professional photo studio, after being treated to an expert styling session from Brushed Salon and Makeup Studio.
The end result saw the trio looking fierce and flawless in professional fashion spread that would look at home in the pages of Vogue or Harper’s Bazar. A striking portrait of Darnesha was also used as the street paper’s cover [below].
“I have always been told that I was too fat and too ugly to be considered beautiful. But I can finally prove to people that I am beautiful now because of this,” added Kristy after seeing her final photos.
Ranya says that while Kristy’s comment was hard to hear, it reinforces the importance of celebrating vendors both in print and real life.
“These ladies are in survival mode a lot of the time. They don’t get the chance to just take an afternoon for some self-love and relaxation. It’s a privilege to be able to pamper yourself, so we’re thankful that we could do this for them,” she added.
“This magazine is an outlet for vendors to celebrate who they are, what they’ve overcome, and where they are going. They aren’t getting this opportunity anywhere else.”
As well as a self-esteem boost, appearing in the magazine also gives vendors an opportunity to increase their sales by having an extra talking point with potential customers.
Last August, male vendors were invited to model bowties in a similarly stylish photo spread. The success of that edition inspired the Curbside team to involve vendors more often in editorial side of the street paper. It was also nominated for Best Cover in this year’s INSP Awards.
According to Ranya, “Readers love it, especially if it is their regular vendor that is featured. Vendors also have more ownership of the product this way and always sell with greater confidence.”
Tia and Darnesha are also inspiring examples of Curbside’s strong track record of helping vendors secure permanent housing and employment.
After six months living on a friend’s couch, cover star Darnesha and her daughter got the keys to their own place last December. With housing secured, she can now focus on her studies to become a registered veterinarian technician.
Tia, meanwhile, kicked off 2016 on a high with a new job at Taco Bell. Despite still living at The Homeless Alliance Day Shelter, Tia arrives at work every morning with a huge smile and bags of optimism.
Ranya says her vendors and their personal achievements are a massive inspiration to the whole Curbside team.
“It is incredible getting to be a part of a vendor moving onto further employment or housing,” she added.
“Getting to help a vendor break down barriers and land a new job or secure housing is why we exist. It’s always sad not getting to see them as regularly. We miss them but knowing they have achieved their goal and progressed forward, that’s the best!”