We all either know or have seen an impeccably dressed grandmother. Fashion and beauty know no bounds when it comes to age, and The Glama Project has been established to empower elderly women to feel their best – mentally and physically. Their mission is to give older women (and men) makeovers and professional photoshoots to boost their self-esteem at a time of life it often dwindles, due to a general loss of independence that comes with age. Read our interview with the creator of the non-profit organization below and learn about the inspiration behind the thoughtful project.

Please tell me about yourself. Where are you from?

My name is Callie Ahern, and my roots are from St. Louis, MO though I call San Diego, California my home. I reside with my husband, and two french bulldog’s in Del Mar, California. I work in tech as a Director of Business Development for an SEO strategy company, and on my own time, I find myself extremely passionate about the beauty industry (name any makeup line or skincare line and I’d be able to tell you a fun fact!).

I guess I have always considered myself an “old soul.” Perhaps it’s from being an only child or moving around a lot – but it’s a fact that I have a hard time making deep connections with girls my own age. That said, I have always found it easier to make friends with those older than me or carry the same “old soul spirit.” I mean when I go to a bar, I often order a Hot Toddy if that tells you anything!

glama grandma grandmother project make up elderly fashion confidence make up artist
Photo credit: @ Kim Liv Life Photography photo taken during a Glama Shoot

Growing up, my Grandma OB and Grandma Nita were two of my closest and best friends – women I looked up to, along with my mother, for most things. I credit my Grandma OB for shaping what I think a best friend should be, my Grandma Nita for teaching me female empowerment and my mother for my adventurous spirit.

Something I know to be true about myself is that it’s tough for me to have surface level conversations because I tend always to crave to understand to what makes you “you” faster than most. Perhaps this why I am drawn to the elderly? They are so sweet in nature and have the most fascinating life stories – ones that are not submerged with topics like “did you see the this latest Meme?! or OMG Kim Kardashian did what?!” – things that I myself get annoyed with when I realized I’ve gone down that rabbit hole of a conversation.

As of the last year, I’ve been on a personal journey to ask myself the very question that I tend to ask others.. “what makes me, ME?” – It’s been quite the journey and one that’s not ended. The project I started earlier this year was one that I hoped would help me get to my answer faster.

glama grandma grandmother project make up elderly fashion confidence make up artist
Three generations: My mother, Grandma Nita and I photographed during my grandma’s GLAMA shoot, photo credit: Alexandria Mooney Photography

Please tell me a little bit about ‘The Glama Project’? What inspires you to do what you do?

One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2018 was to volunteer, and as I entered the year, I wasn’t quite sure where I would put my time. As many of my close friends know, there are two things I can’t get enough of in this world: 1.) Family Time 2.) Makeup.

2017 was a tough year being away from my family in the Midwest. My grandmother, after a heart attack, had many complications and it was decided that she needed more care than her own apartment could provide. At the same time, my husband was going through losing his own grandmother – which was equally, if not more, terrible. Being away from both our families was tough. While my grandmother transitioned into her new home, I did the best I could to be there without being there which meant a lot of phone dates. However, as I called more and more, it became very apparent that this move did something to her confidence. The more we spoke on the phone, the more I’d pick up on things she was saying like “I don’t want to go to dinner tonight, I look old” or “I’ve gotten more wrinkles since I’ve been in here” – things my confident non-independent living grandma would NEVER say!

A few months after the move, my Grandma’s 89th Birthday was approaching, and I knew she’d have a tough time spending it in her new independent living facility. So I decided that I was going to do something extra special for her and make this birthday stand out from the rest. I was on a mission to get that woman’s confidence back.

So I flew to St. Louis and planned a day that was ALL about her. She’d get a makeover, her hair and she’d play dress-up for the day with a professional photo shoot. The day couldn’t have gone any better! It was a TOTAL confidence booster. She’s since printed all of the photos off, made a book and carries them to dinner with her.

After seeing this confidence and glow come back, it was then I realized there have to be other women out there that feel just like her. Hence, The Glama Project was born.

What is The Glama Project?
We’re a 100% volunteer program that partners with independent, assisted and nursing facilities in San Diego, California. We hold mini makeover sessions and photo shoots for seniors at no cost. We call these shoots “GLAMA Shoots.” We welcome photographers and MUA’s to share their talent and join us as Guest Spot “GLAMA-teers”!

What is a Glama?
At The Glama Project, it’s believed that a “Glama” is a woman who with age, holds the wisdom and life stories that have the ability to inspire. She’s likely a mother, grandmother and quite possibly even a great-grandmother and she deserves a day to feel beautiful, just like Elizabeth Taylor probably felt every…single…day. Note: Men are welcome too, we call them “Glampa’s”!

Our Mission?
The Glama Project aims to prove “age is just a number” while celebrating the beauty and wisdom it beholds – one complementary senior makeover at a time! We also aim to serve the younger generation. We believe there is so much to learn from our elders and that it’s a responsibility to get their stories told. Many of the men and women we photograph lived during a time that we less (yet more!) complicated. War, The Great Depression, Civil Rights and a life without social media today holds so many treasures of wisdom and experience. As we shoot, we love to learn about the leading lady or man sitting in front of us, in hopes of sharing their stories and life lessons through our platform. It’s much more than makeup. It’s about confidence, empowerment, learning and growing from beauty experience.

What is a “Glama-Shoot”?
A complimentary 30 min makeup session accompanied by a 30 min photo shoot. Each session we limit to about an hour and a half. We’ll bring a full makeup kit, hair essentials, and accessories to help add flair to the shoot. The Glama Project will pick & edit the Top 5 photos and provide prints as well as provide an online gallery of all images for each lady.

glama grandma grandmother project make up elderly fashion confidence make up artist
Photo during a GLAMA Shoot, photographer credit: Mattie Taylor Photography

What’s the happiest moment of your life/career? The saddest moment of your life/ career?

The happiest moment in my life: Wow that’s a tough one. I wish I could segment this question and choose events from different stages of my life but if I had to pick one (not counting my wedding!) I would have to pick “mornings”. You know… that moment you go from “dreaming to waking up”… that’s it. I wake up to someone I deeply love and get to remind myself of the life I somehow created. I am blessed with my health (I woke up!), a husband who loves me, two dogs that admire the crap out of me and those special few seconds before the day smacks you in the face, I am truly blissfully 100% happy.

The saddest moment: Between having to quit gymnastics after a fractured back (a life-long sport I had dedicated myself to at a young age) and losing my Grandmother OB out of college – both were immensely tragic events in my life. There is something about loss that no matter how you arrive at it, once you feel it, you are forever changed.

Gymnastics left me physically changed. Having to quit right when you’re going through “teen years” – is a REALLY rough transition. Going from being 100% pure muscle to a 100% couch potato during healing was a real struggle. Then to never find the “sport” that replaced one you once loved is quite the predicament. I’m not sure I’ve ever fully understood what the loss of that sport did to me mentally, but I know that feeling of loss has shaped who I am today.

As for my grandmother’s loss, that was my first experience with death and to have it be HER, words can’t explain. I gave her eulogy at her funeral and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. To have to speak “about her” and “not to her” and knowing there were moments in her last years of life that I could have had more time because “I had better things to do at 23” was a real-life lesson. There probably isn’t a week that goes by that she still doesn’t pop in my head, and if I think about her too much, a hummingbird appears. I always said she’d come back as a hummingbird and she’s definitely proved me right.

What is the best thing that has ever happened to you for being nice?

I’d like to think that all the positives that have happened to me in life are because of the work I am doing now. I don’t think you start gaining the benefits of being nice when you start being nice rather if it’s in your path somewhere, you’ll be rewarded. I feel like somehow I’ve always “lucked out” and the right opportunity comes at me at the right time, for the right reason. For example, my husband and I recently decided we wanted to buy a home. I was dead set on thinking it would take us years and tears to find a home here in San Diego with the marker being as crazy as it is… the first house we saw ended up being our dream home. I could go on with so many more examples this of these “fateful opportunities” so call it coincidence or being rewarded, up for debate?!

If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of people, what would it be?

Listen. Listening is such a lost art. So often we’re always trying to connect the dots of how we can jump into someone’s story and relate. The real gift of someone’s story is for you not to relate but to LEARN. Something I have learned in working with the elderly is just how humble they are. The list of their life achievements like it’s no big deal. They don’t boast, they don’t brag, they just inform, and when they ask about you since they have a harder time trying to relate, they make for some of the BEST listeners around. They inquire, dig deeper, and like I try to get to know what makes them, they are equally trying to figure out me. If I could tell a room of a thousand people to just stop and listen the next time someone tells them a story, I promise they’d walk away from the conversation so much more fulfilled.

To learn more about The Glama Project, please visit their website.
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