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Episode 57: The Glama Project

Celebrate Age & Wisdom with The Glama Project Founder Callie Ahern & 77-Year-Old Adrienne Mark

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Lucas: Welcome to Bridge the Gap podcast with Josh and Lucas. We are in San Diego and we have taken a detour off of our conference schedule to sit down with somebody very special. Today on the program we have Callie Ahern and Adrienne Mark from The Glama Project. Welcome!

Callie: Woop woop!

Adrienne: Thank you.

Callie: Excited to be here:

Josh: I’m super excited about this one. I have actually been looking forward to our listeners being able to hear all about this since the first time we learned about you and what you’re doing. So, welcome to the show.

Callie: Thank you. Thank you for having us.

Adrienne: Yes.

Lucas: This has been something that we had conversation. It’s been ongoing. Your story has touched our hearts and so we wanted to make every effort possible so that you could get this back out to our audience.

And so Callie, tell us about what started this idea and where is it taken you?

Callie: Oh, man. It’s been a personal journey. I originally started this project (because) I was very inspired by my own grandmother. So, I might get emotional but I’m going to try to bare through. But about a, let’s say, year (or) year and a half ago, my grandma, she lived up until about 88 on her own. She had a second-story floor apartment, very independent. That’s where I’ve learned a lot of my independence from. She’s one of those kind of strong female voices.

About a year and a half ago, she had a heart attack. And it was a really tough transition, a very tough transition for her, obviously, from a health perspective, very tough on our family. We kind of all had this conversation after it happened of what’s going to happen? Because we knew that her living in that second-story floor apartment was going to tough. She had lived with my aunt for a while while she’s getting back up on her feet. (We) started touring different living facilities, trying to see what she’d be comfortable with. And, you know, we could just tell that this was going to be a very tough transition. She had to let go a lot of her personal belongings, downsize while she was doing call the health issues and it took a toll.

We finally found this wonderful- and my family is from st. Louis Missouri, by the way, so big midwesterners and me being in San Diego, I kind of had it all watch this lens. I’d have phone conversations with her constantly and we have these little phone dates and I do little check-ins She finally found a senior living home that I think she’s very comfortable with and it was an independent living facility. My mom and my aunt were wonderful. They had painted her apartment the exact same color pink that her apartment was and got it all ready for her.

I had called her I think the first or second week as she was getting settled and I could kind of still here in her voice (that) she wasn’t herself. And I said, you know, grandma, what’s going on? You’ve got this great place now. They have all these activities. You are going to meet new friends. You know, what’s up? And she just said, I’m old.

My grandmother had never said those words. I said, what do you mean? And she goes, you know since I moved in here, I feel ten years older and I just don’t feel beautiful and that I think still get to me. It’s tough to hear and I just kind of got to thinking I’m like no, no, this is not going to happen this way. I am going to get her confidence back. I don’t know what I’m going to do.

But long story short, we kind of still kept talking and she has this picture framed in her apartment and it’s of her when we did glamour shots back in the day. I was probably 10. And she started bringing up that photo in the conversation ‘cause she said that was me. I was in my prime then, look at my hair and I knew exactly what she’s talking about. My grandma still looks like that. You know, maybe it was 25 (or) 30 years ago, but she has not aged. So, I got to thinking and I said, you know, grandma, your 98th birthday is coming up. I said, why don’t I fly in. I love makeup, you know, I love makeup. I said, let’s recreate that photo.

So I flew in. I got all the cousins together. I had hired my cousin Alex- he’s a wonderful photographer- to come in that day. We kind of just had this really beautiful day where I glammed her up. I brought on all these accessories. She had outfits picked up. All her grandkids were around her and we just did this photography session. And I think I got to the airport and my cousin already had all the photos edited and she sent them to me and I was on my knees at the airport crying because that was how I wanted to remember my grandma and that was my grandma in those photos.

I got on the plane and I just started thinking, you know, I’ve been talking to my husband about wanting to volunteer this year. My husband was just going through losing his grandmother so it’s something very personal for us both. And I just got to thinking, I said there has got to be more women that feel this way. And so I got back to San Diego and I just had just got this crazy idea: I’m going to start doing makeovers for singers. I called a bunch of homes and started getting a little bit of legs and I was getting a lot of advice from a lot of from people and The Glama Project was kind of born.

Josh: That is so fascinating.

Callie: Long story.

Josh: Well, it’s a fascinating story. I have so much appreciation. Thank you so much for sharing a very tender story. You know, that’s to open up and talk about your own personal situation with your family, those transitions are real. Those are real life and how inspirational that you took that, what could have been kind of a traumatic time and turned it into something so positive. It’s you know, what we talk about being the bridge all the time.

So, since you had the what when I call the the big idea-

Callie: -epiphany.

Josh:Yes, and it worked wonders in your family situation. This project has been kind of exciting to watch unfold at, you know, from a distance on social media and things like that, which I think is how we first connected with you was on social media-

Callie: The power of Instagram.

Josh: Yeah, on Instagram. That’s right. Tell us- how have you taken this idea and this kind of one-off opportunity to really do something special for your gramma through The Glama Project- that’s a tongue twister- and taking that into other communities and helping some other women? You even talked to us a little bit in the beginning about some of the partnerships and sponsorships that had kind of surrounded to make this possible. So, tell us a little bit about that.

Callie: I got to thinking, at first I knew right away that this project is way bigger than me. Because first and foremost, I want to help seniors have that same experience my grandma had. That’s the heart and soul of this project.

But it’s multi-faceted and I also want to help girls my own age. I’m 32. I have been in the world of Instagram and everything it throws at you- the meaning of beauty, what is considered to be beautiful. You know, you have to look a certain way and all these cosmetic procedures these days. I’ve certainly been influenced by that and I think I sat back at one point saying, when did I redefine what beauty was. I think I look to people like my grandmother and certainly what I’m hoping to learn from this project is a new definition of beauty. You know, we need to wear a wrinkles as our stripes and it’s something that I need to learn a little bit more. I think that’s something that women like Adrienne can certainly teach me.

So, I wanted to be a platform to kind of show that age is beauty and girls should not be afraid to grow older and this is what we have to look forward to and the memories we are going to make as we age. So, that’s part of the project.

I think another part of the project is connecting with beauty brands. I think a lot of time the senior women are a little bit forgotten and you see ads plastered all over with the particular image. But, you know, women like Adrienne, they love beauty products just as much as I do. We did an Ulta event where we got to bus I think about 10 to 15 ladies from to Ulta. I had reached out to Ulta to say you know, hey, I would really love to film in store and I’d love to bring seniors in and introduce them to new products and have them play with makeup. And is that something that could be possible? Ulta I think was pretty taken back by the request at first, but they loved it and they actually gave us a $500 gift card to put towards the ladies’ purchases.

And so beyond that, I started thinking, you know, I really want to reach out to other brands because we go through makeup like crazy. I mean, I had originally had funded the kit with my own products and I think I quickly realized we go through a lot and so it’s also a place where brands can get involved and give back. So we’ve had Morphe donate products. We’ve had Too Faced donate products. We’ve had some beauty influencers reach out to say, you know, I get all these PR packages and I have a surplus, you know, would you take it?

So, it’s a platform I think to get people from different generations also involved.

Josh: So, tell us about this beautiful young lady that’s right here beside my side, beside you. Tell us about this relationship and how it formed.

Callie: I meet a lot of very awesome women through this project and I connect with quite a few of them, some a little bit deeper than others and Adrienne was somebody I was very fortunate to meet. She willingly signed up for The Glama Project. So, we got to chatting and she was telling me about her daughter and we just had a lot to talk about. I’m so close to their faces while I’m doing their makeup, so I can only be inquisitive and ask questions.

Adrienne: I never have too many people to get that close to my face.

Josh: So, Adrienne, tell us about, from your prospective, how did this all come about and tell us about your experience.

Adrienne: Okay, Well, I live at a senior community called Vi in La Jolla. Suddenly there was a sign-up sheet in our activity room and it said Glama Project. I go, what is that? It wasn’t much told to us about it. It just had about six spots to sign up. I thought by that time I had seen some of the other photos of people previous who I (saw) signing up who have done it. So, I said, okay, let’s do it.

So, I signed up and walked in on a Saturday and there was Callie with all of her glamour products and it was accessories and I was like, wow,  I didn’t quite know what to expect and it was pretty amazing to see what she had laid out and how it was all going to come about. Then I realized it was a photography session after the makeup, which I didn’t know anything about at all. I thought it was just the makeup.

So, you know, then I experienced her actually applying the makeup and we got to talk and I understand what her purpose was and what she was doing. I realize how fun this was and, like  wow, I’m like Cinderella. It’s just like suddenly someone’s paying attention to me and there’s intimate conversation during the whole thing and I kind of felt really important.

And then there was a photography section and there was lights and there was scarves and makeup and all kinds of things that went on and I thought-

Callie: -like a movie star.

Adrienne: Yeah, wow. That’s the closest I’m ever going to get be a movie actress. But it was a lot of fun and it was very important because I do believe that the aging process does catch up to us and becomes a factor that we try not to focus on, but you know that was a day to feel special and it’s really made a difference. It really brought joy to my life and a fun, fun time and was great to interact with Callie and her group that she had too. So, that was my experience.

Josh: It’s so awesome just to see the relationship that has grown between you all, hear about the program. So, we’re here at a conference, in case you guys didn’t know, that you’ve kind of joined us here at. It’s kind of like the Super Bowl of senior care and senior housing. A lot of influencers, a lot of decision-makers and Callie, you said that you wanted to grow this right? And so what’s kind your vision? What are you looking to do with The Glama Project?

Callie: I’ve thought about that a lot and Adrienne is even asking me while we were sitting out in the lobby, she says, what do you want to do with this? And she goes, is it a business? I said, I feel like the heart of this project is a volunteer program and I said, you know, if I could shut my eyes and make everything magically happened, I’d turn it into a non-profit. You know, I’ve certainly had girls reach out to me that is seen, you know, that before and after photos on Instagram or, you know, when we market specific makeup brands that have donated to us, they think it’s neat and they said, I love this is. How do I start this in my hometown? Or this reminds me of my grandma. Like, how can I do this?

I’ve put a lot of thought and gotten little kits together about, you know, if you want to start this in your town, you know, I’ll help you research what homes and I’ll help you get it going and you know, I have different ideas of how that could happen. But I think that the end of the day, I’d love to turn it into a nonprofit and be able to scale this and grow it beyond San Diego and grow beyond what I’m currently doing and have it be something that in any home at any point in time, you know, we have this troop of volunteers that you know align and we could just give The Glama Project as an activity to anybody that wants to do it.

Lucas: It’s kind of overwhelming of where we’re at and that vision and how those two things could come together. And then this platform- I that it’s something that really is so meaningful and Josh, you and I talk all the time about the love stories of the business and this is a perfect example.

Josh: It is a perfect example and there’s so many opportunities, you know, we get to see it because we’re in this space and we get to see what the communities are doing, what these volunteers in these families are doing. So, when we created this platform, it was the share these what we refer to as love stories. So, I think is a beautiful project, a beautiful love story and thank you for being here and sharing your stories and kind of the personal testimonial.

Adrienne: It’s exciting. I’m excited to hear what Callie’s doing and see the excitement that the other ladies have when they get their makeup done and when they see their pictures. It’s just a wonderful gift that you’re giving to us.

Callie: It’s neat too to see them sometimes. We just had a lady that made over last week that she’s brand new to Vi and she didn’t have a lot of friends and she said, oh, I’m just kind of hoping to meet some new people. So, it’s also neat to see the sisterhood I think that they’ve all formed from this project. I think it goes beyond you and I. They’ve all kind of gathered together and it’s just neat to see.

Adrienne: Really nice.

Josh: Well, we’re obviously sharing your story. Huge fans of what you’re going to be doing and what you are doing. I think we’ll look back here in several years in and see the awesome influence that this is having in your local community and around the country. I know our listeners are going to get excited about it. They’re going to want to know how to reach you and how to get started. We’ll obviously offered them the opportunity to connect with you in our show notes. So, thank you for being here today.

Lucas: This is a great aspect of a mantra that we talk about as being the bridge. There’s so many bridging connecting points here. Not only intergenerationally but just generationally of ways for people to develop relationships.

And so to our audience that wants to know more, all you got to do is in your iTunes just scroll down (and) check it out. We’re going to have links to Callie. We’re going to have links to The Glama Project. They’ve got a great Instagram page. They’ve got videos, they’ve got photos and a whole bunch of other things for you to connect with and I’m sure Callie would be more than happy to reach out and respond to those people’s messages.

Yes, this is exciting. We’re really happy to showcase this guys and we really appreciate another great episode of Bridge the Gap.

Thank you to our supporting partners NHI, RCare, NRC Health, TSOLife, ERDMAN and Sherpa.

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  1. […] totally different than conferences on capital markets and deal making is we got to sit down with The Glama Project and talk about this special organization founded by Callie […]

Episode 57: The Glama Project