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Becky Spence: Healing People Beyond the Chair

Rosanne Ullman | July 5, 2017 | 7:00 AM

With 37 years as a stylist and educator, including 24 years educating for Paul Mitchell and seven years for Bumble and bumble, Becky Spence doesn’t minimize the power of making a difference in the lives of both clients and stylists. “I believe that what we do behind the chair is incredibly important,” she says. Now she’s taking this a step further.

“I’m looking at healing people beyond that—to helping people with their lives,” explains Spence, a stylist and in-salon educator at Amber Waves in Naperville, Illinois. “My shift in the paradigm is for the salon to be not only part of the community but the heart of the community. We have guests who come to our salon just to hang out and feel good. We’re the ‘Cheers’ of Naperville, Illinois—everybody knows your name. It’s a safe house for people, where they’re not judged; they’re cared about.”

Hoping to do something bigger than one person’s effort, Spence became involved in Love Heals Events, an organization that gathers like-minded people who want to make a difference. There she found Margaret Dickman and Rebecca Sommers, and the three are partnering to stage a Love Heals Event of an evening of fashion, music, art, information and awareness on September 15, 7pm, at The Compass Church in Naperville, Illinois, to benefit both Eyes on Cancer and Reclaim 13. Launched by iconic Paul Mitchell hair educator Jeanne Braa Foster and her husband, Dean Foster, Eyes on Cancer teaches beauty professionals to spot skin cancer, while Reclaim 13 fights sex trafficking of girls. Additional sponsors include Healthy Hairdresser sponsor Pivot Point Academy, Paul Mitchell the School, Ulta Beauty, Zano Salons, Intersog Inc., Hyatt Hotels and Amber Waves.

Spence is delighted that Braa will be on hand the evening of the event. “Jeanne Braa was among my first mentors,” she says. “Eyes on Cancer teaches hairdressers to spot cancer on skin and scalp. It all ties into awareness and healing.”

Reclaim 13, which will be represented at the event by founder Cassandra Ma, holds an even more personal place in Spence’s heart. “I have been a physical and sexual abuse victim at different times in my life,” Spence explains. “When I connected with Reclaim 13 through my church, I didn’t realize that this journey would be as much about my journey as the journeys of the girls the organization helps. Through training to become a first responder and mentor, I learned that pimps continue to take girls to the salon to make them look good. At the salon, the girls may seem completely coherent, but they’re drugged. They’re afraid to express themselves, because the pimps threaten their families’ lives. The average girl who’s taken is only 13 years old, will be raped 50 to 60 times a week and will become addicted to drugs.”

Spence started doing hair for the girls privately at Cherish House, a facility with a 24-hour response to take in these girls and provide a place for them to be safe. Spence hopes to establish a small salon in Cherish House where more hairdressers can volunteer to help the girls.

“It’s only in the past few years that I’ve gotten myself to talk about what happened to me,” Spence says. “I used to do the masquerade—look like everything was good—but I had repressed memories. Now I’m an open book. I’ve thought about it and prayed about it, and this is how I think I can help people. Take your scars and make them stars for other people. I’ve had people sit in my chair who have suffered, and it breaks your heart.”

Spence, Dickman andn Sommers say their Love Heals Event will be a celebration of hope. “The show is about two charities and bringing hairdressers together,” Spence says. “What hairdressers do is a special gift—being able to touch people’s lives. Most hairdressers I know care so much about the guest in their chair. More often than not, people are suffering from something, and we help lift them up.”

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