New day, new outlook for struggling women

The eight hours of girlie pampering began in something of a feminine mosh pit: Ten women packed into one hotel room, surrounded by stacks of clothing.

Each garment was vying to be selected as the winning components of a new outfit.

So they tried on — and took off — multiple combinations.

“This is too small,” one woman said after pulling on a knit top, glancing at another woman to gauge her opinion.

“Too much cleavage,” she agreed.

Ohora Lindo, though, was thrilled with her pink-and-black polka dot top, turning this way and that to see it from every angle.

And in the back corner of the room, Alice Copeland was beaming at the floral print skirt she had just slipped on.

“This is cute!” she exclaimed. Although Copeland has already lost 50 pounds over the past six months through exercise and careful eating, she said: “This is going to look really good when I take that extra 50 pounds off.”

Copeland was just beginning her day Monday morning at downtown Everett’s Holiday Inn, part of a two-day event called Queen, It’s a New Day.

The goal of the annual event, now in its 10th year, is to transform women who are homeless, battered or battling drug or alcohol problems from the inside out.

This year, 107 women participated, assisted by more than 200 volunteers, some of whom acted as personal assistants for each queen, doing everything from guiding them to their next beauty appointment to fetching lattes.

Monday’s events included head-to-toe makeovers, with new clothes, shoes, purses and accessories, a makeup consultation, pedicures and manicures, haircuts or new hair designs and even massages.

A hotel conference room was brimming with new and gently used clothing donated by individuals and businesses.

Today’s events concentrate on goal setting and workshops. “We follow up with each woman to see what they would like to do — how we can support them in moving forward in their lives,” said Judy Hoff, cofounder of Queen, It’s a New Day.

That could mean goals from getting a job to more training or applying for scholarships for college, she said.

Copeland, 49, is trained as registered nurse. The breakup of her marriage, she said, triggered a string of events that first led to living in hotels. At a cost of about $300 a week, her financial resources were quickly depleted.

Not wanting to depend on family for help, she eventually moved to the Women’s and Children’s Shelter run by Everett Gospel Mission.

Even after 18 months there, she still seems stunned that her life could take such an unwanted turn.

“This is not supposed to be me,” she said. “I’m a registered nurse. I’m used to having my own… People don’t realize anybody can become homeless.”

Copeland’s self-confidence seemed to grow with each stop on Monday’s makeover schedule.

Margaret Spencer, who operates a wardrobe stylist and coaching business in Bothell, helped Copeland pick out a new outfit and accessories, shoes and a purse.

She stood nearby, and offered some suggestions, as Brooke Nadeau, a Mary Kay cosmetics consultant, helped apply makeup and coached Copeland on makeup tips.

Copeland seemed most surprised, though, at the end of 30 minutes of work by Whitney Bullard and Sarah Holmstead, stylists from the Northwest Hair Academy. Her mouth dropped in amazement as she looked into a mirror at their finished work.

“Thank you, thank you so much,” she said, warning them that she could barely hold back her tears of joy and not wanting to muss her makeup.

Copeland, with her new outfit, new makeup, new shoes and new haircut, proudly walked arm-in-arm with Spencer down the hotel’s carpeted hallway to the room where lunch was about to begin.

As Copeland passed some of the hotel’s glass doors, she recognized some women standing just outside on a patio. They pointed at her in amazement. They smiled and called out: “Look at you!”

Copeland grinned and waved back, enjoying the spotlight of attention. Even so, the new clothing, makeup and hairstyles for her and the other women are about more than cosmetic change, she said.

Her goal is to have a new job in nursing in the next three months.

Appearance isn’t just about looking nice. It plays a big role in job interviews, she said.

“When you go to a job interview they’re looking at the outside,” she said. “If you don’t feel good on the inside, the interviewer will pick that up real fast. If you don’t have the confidence, they’ll interview someone else.”

She summed up the experience of being a Queen, It’s A New Day experience as: “excellent, powerful and meaningful.

“I’m feeling very privileged this honor was given to me,” she said. “It’s bringing out a lot of great feelings, increasing my self-confidence.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

Alice Copeland

Experience: Registered nurse for 27 years, which she says includes experience in psychiatry, chemical dependency and rehabilitation programs for stroke and head injury patients.

Licensed in Washington: Since January 2006.

How she describes her best work qualities: Good organizational skills, a good team player and team leader, excellent at documentation.

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