KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Hand Up for Women program gave a makeover to 11 women Saturday. This was a milestone for their path of turning around their lives.
Hand Up for Women helps women break the cycle of abuse, poverty, addiction and despair. The program offers classes that bring self-esteem, confidence and hope back to their lives.
Javon Renee Portraits offered the space and photography, while hairstylists and makeup artists donated their beauty skills.
One of the participants Lynn Wiley struggled with addiction for nearly 20 years.
"I have lost everything... my kids, my home," Wiley said.
Wiley said she really wanted out, so she got into a recovery program for the last couple of years.
"It's learning to get back on your own," she said. "Learning how to be independent."
Wiley began her transformation, but the path wasn't easy.
"It takes a lot of strength," she said. "Thank God. I just pray a lot."
Yet, here she was waiting for her makeover. She said her goal was to get to this makeover day.
"To me this is... it's really just a blessing," Wiley said. "Like, who I wanted to be for so long and struggled to come back to."
The organization also has a class called "Becoming" where women from different backgrounds learn how to manage their lives. The instructor, Jill Holder, said in their first class they learn how to overcome fear and their last class is about how to be a strong woman.
"One of the things that is really hard for these ladies to overcome, and that I have to help them with, is learning that it's okay to be feminine," Holder said.
She took the women for shopping and helped them choose an outfit. For some of them, this transformation can be outside their comfort zone.
"You know, coming through difficult times, some of them jail time, being feminine can be seen as being a very weak link in the chain of life," Holder said.
This is why the makeover is a big deal. Some women have never experienced something like this before, like Ashley Carver and Brittany Glenn.
"I feel absolutely amazing," Ashley Carver said. "I've never had nothing like this happened to me before."
"Right now as I look into the mirror I don't even know who it is that I'm looking at," said Brittany Glenn.
It means they're learning a new way of living while leaving the past behind.