Stylist Alida Rubin believes a little bit of lipstick goes a long way, so she’s using her cosmetic skills to give women in residential senior centers complimentary makeovers. After treating her dementia-suffering mother to a beauty session – and witnessing the joy on her face and the delight of staff and other residents at her nursing home – Rubin had “an epiphany” and decided to do the same for other women.
The vivacious grandmother founded My Makeover Mission a year ago and — with the help of a photographer taking before and after pictures – transforms women at centers in New York and Connecticut. Here the former fashion editor tells Senior Planet about her work, her own style secrets and discovering Instagram.
Senior Planet: How do the women react when they see the transformation?
Rubin: “It’s amazing what a little makeup can do. But it’s more than that, it’s how it makes them feel, like they are queen for the day. After I’d finished at one home and was packing everything away, I was taken into a room where there were seven, eight women around a table. They were all clapping and each one told me how I had made them feel. I just stood there, tears running down my face.
“A lot of them totally fall asleep during the process, it’s so relaxing for them, as I stroke their faces and apply the makeup.”
Senior Planet: And you do this for free?
Rubin: “I rely on donations, I haven’t had a chance to do any fundraising as I’ve already spent so much money just getting this is all together. Some people on Instagram have been lovely and donated.
Senior Planet: How did you get on to Instagram?
Rubin: “Ari Seth Cohen, the photographer from Advanced Style, discovered me a year ago! I had popped out wearing a black turtleneck and leggings and a white sweatshirt around my waist. I heard someone screaming, “Stop, stop, please,” and when I turned around it was Ari. I was like a schoolgirl, I knew his work, I’d seen his documentary, and he said I was fabulous and wanted to photograph me. He got his assistant to take an extra picture and said I could post it on Instagram. I didn’t dare say I’d resisted Instagram until then.
“I had a young assistant helping me with my website, so she set it up. My AlidaStyle account got 2300 followers in eight months but I hated all the creepy guys who had access to direct message me, so I deleted 322. As a business, I can see the analytics, the biggest age group is women from 25 to 34. They are looking to me for inspiration and that’s why I refuse to give my age.
“Age is an unimportant number. I have a very young spirit, a lot of energy. When I do tell people my age, they have to sit down. To be honest with you, I don’t know how to do CPR, so I can’t tell a lot of people!”
Senior Planet: Can you tell us some of your style secrets for women of a certain age?
Rubin: “Older women think more is best. No, less is more. You don’t have to wear 18 pieces of jewelry, pare it down. And that also includes makeup.
”I don’t wear designer clothes and I don’t spend a lot of money. I get stopped all the time by younger people, asking what I’m wearing, often it’s a pair of $12 pants from H&M.
“I gave up trying to straighten my hair 18 years ago and I have never looked back. Now I love my curls, I embrace them even though they take more work. Curly hair has a mind of it’s own, gray hair too. It takes a village to make it look good. I only wash my hair once a week now, I used to do it every day but I learned that was wrong.”
Senior Planet: What does aging with attitude mean to you?
Rubin: “Did you get that phrase from me? I don’t subscribe to people saying you can’t wear this or do that at your age. My mother is 98 and I say let her eat whatever she wants. The nursing home strains her food, yet she wants a bagel every morning. I say give her food she likes. That’s the way I feel about dressing. It’s how you put it together. You can wear anything, I don’t care how old you are.”
You can follow Rubin on Instagram at mymakerovermission
If you want to know more about Alida, make a donation or see more of her work, you can visit her at:
Curious about Instagram, the photo-centric social network? Register now for a Live Stream session at the Senior Planet Exploration Center. This lecture/workshop will give you a taste for what it’s all about, plus a hands-on intro on Friday, August 10 from 1:15pm – 2:15pm.
RSVP required. To RSVP, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 646-590-0615.
The Journey from Harper’s Bazaar to Instagram to Champion for the Forgotten Women
The roads that lead to a successful presence on Instagram are many and varied. As Alida Rubin - @mymakeovermission - tells it, her road was one she embarked on through pure chance.
“Ari Seth Cohen - @advancedstyle - discovered me one day on my way to the grocery store. He called to me from across the street and I recognized him! ‘I need to photograph you’ he said. ‘Am I that old’ I replied, I didn’t know if I should be flattered or not!"
“He sent me a copy of my photo to put on Instagram – except I wasn’t on Instagram!“
“That was how I started my account.”
“I wear mostly black and accessorize. As a stylist, I advise women to minimize, build a look based on monochrome. Buy quality pieces and add layers of color and texture with accessories and jewelry. Don’t buy it if you don’t love it.”
“I don’t buy a lot of clothes and never go ‘shopping’ for them. I just fall into them, I love to explore - walk the streets of New York City looking for new little stores and hunting in thrift shops. Young people stop me all the time to say they love what I’m wearing. I say, ‘Honey this jacket is older than you are'."
“Growing up I was a bit of a rebel and always did my own thing, my own sense of style. I still don’t wear labels.”
“My Mother was always beautifully groomed. She had a critical eye and despaired over my curly hair. She was always sayings things to me like ‘Are you going out wearing that?’ or ‘Don’t go out of the house with your hair like that and put on some lipstick, you never know who you might meet.’"
“My father owned a Ladies Coat Company in the Garment Center and made faux fur coats for the masses. He had factories manufacturing the coats overseas and frequently visited to check on the quality which was his focus. He was a wonderful man, everyone loved him. He was special. He had impeccable style and wore black and white spats ‘Mr. Perfect was his nickname’ Style is in the DNA and I got my style from him.”
“I was divorced in 1979 with two small girls, so work was important. I got my first job by luck at Harper’s Bazaar working in editorial. I worked there for 5 years and cultivated relationships with several of the photographers making it easy for me to pursue my dream of doing freelance styling. I loved working for myself and styling for ads, commercials, catalogues.”
“But after several years, I wanted to design my own line of women’s contemporary clothing. So, at 40 years old, I put an ad in the paper ‘Women’s Wear Daily’ looking for backers. Prospective investors would ask ‘What do you have to show?’ I said 'Nothing, other than my portfolio of my work as a stylist and the cache of working at Bazaar'. They invested even though I had no sketches, no samples, nothing but myself! They invested because they believed in me”
“I couldn’t even draw a stick figure or sew on a button, but I found a way. I knew what I wanted and set up two mirrors and would drape fabrics around myself to create a look. I found a pattern maker who could interpret my ideas. I was asked to be in a fashion show at Parsons School of Design for up-and-coming designers and came in first place against all the kids, because I was creating my own look and that was something different.”
“I made clothes in jersey fabric that were comfortable, a lot of drapery and elastic waists. I was asked to do larger sizes and was one of the first labels to ever do this at Nordstrom’s. Today this is a huge market.”
My Learnings from running a fashion label
“My business partners wanted to go into the discount chains to grow the business, but we found the buying offices would order a few samples and then the designs would get cheaply knocked off.”
“All my clothes were made locally in New York, but to get the price down we would have to manufacture overseas. I knew all the problems my father had with that, especially maintaining quality, so I said no. We closed because I wanted to continue to manufacture locally and my partners didn’t!"
My Experience with Instagram
“In the beginning Instagram was a lot of fun and it’s a wonderful community but it can be time consuming and constant changes in the algorithm are frustrating, some days it feels more like a job.”
“As a woman on Instagram you, like me have gotten a lot of unwanted approaches from men – the account names often contain a lot of numbers ‘I think they must all be in the same prison!’ We need our own ‘me too’ movement! “
My Makeover Mission
“My 98-year-old mother now has dementia and is in a nursing home. She had always been a beautifully groomed woman and still has a weekly appointment at the nursing home to get her hair and nails done, but recently I noticed she lost her luster and looked a lot ‘older’.
“I decided to give her a makeover, so took her to her room and did her hair and makeup. When I took her back into the dining room, all the staff and residents gathered about and exclaimed ‘Oh Rose, you look so fabulous!’ She looked so happy. I took some photos of the day and later while flying home, looking at them on my phone, I had an epiphany - I knew this was just what I was meant to do. A week later I was in my first nursing home doing makeovers to the often-forgotten women and took before and after photos.”
“In the nursing homes, there are a few younger women that have had strokes and will always live there. Forgotten women. I send each woman a copy of their after photo - often this is the last photo the family will have of their loved one.”
“It’s been an unbelievable response and so I decided to setup a not-for profit - even though I have no experience with that either. Raising awareness is the challenge. It is a story that needs to be seen and told - but I don’t feel that Instagram is the best place for a not-for-profit - people are mostly there just to look at pretty pictures.”
Follow Alida on Instagram @mymakeovermission
Make a donation and help bring smiles and dignity to women in nursing homes mymakeovermission.org
The Women + Instagram series is published by Boom Buzz Collective.