A caring hairdresser has told how he’s transforming the look of homeless people to help boost their self-esteem.
Hair stylist Leandro Matias, 37, from Votorantim, in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo, hit the headlines last week for transforming down-and-out Bruno Henrique Cassimiro Ramos, 33, into a clean-cut citizen with film-star looks.
After images of Bruno’s dramatic transformation were widely shared online, Leandro told local media that he had actually been helping homeless people for more than five years.
He said he has boosted the self-esteem of around 30 homeless people, adding that it is “amazing to help them” when he sees their reaction to his makeover.
Leandro said: “I only let them look at themselves when I’m done. They usually cry when I’ve finished. It’s a feeling of gratitude.
“It is amazing to be able to help them regain their self-esteem.”
He said the last homeless person he ‘transformed’ was a 30-year-old man named Fernando.
The hair stylist explained that Fernando had ended up on the streets by choice: “From what we talked about, he opted for it after suffering heartbreak. He became a sort of wanderer and found himself in a sticky situation.”
Leandro added: “It was difficult to convince him to take a shower.
“It’s a situation where you have to take a person out of their comfort zone, so it’s normal, but in the end everyone loves the finished result.”
He said the first homeless person he helped was a woman who passed his salon over five years ago and stopped to fix her hair in the mirrored door.
He explained: “I saw that scene and asked my assistant to call her in. I said ‘God told me to give you a gift, a transformation’. She started crying straight away.”
After hitting the headlines for transforming Bruno, Leandro explained that he had noticed him living rough on the streets of Votorantim and decided to help him.
Leandro said: “I was passing a bank in the city and saw a young man at the traffic lights.
“Then I thought about how I could help him. I called the man and gave him my salon card, I told him to ask for me and I would change his look.”
The stylist said he did not hear from the homeless man for a week and came across him again at the traffic lights.
Leandro went to where Bruno was staying in an abandoned house and again offered him the free makeover.
He explained: “On Thursday morning [24th March], I went there and took him to the salon.
“I gave him a towel and soap and said ‘go there and take the shower of your life’. He then put on my dressing gown and had lunch. Afterwards, I highlighted his hair, cut it, exfoliated his face, and also did his eyebrows. At the time, he was in shock, he couldn’t believe it was him!”
The stylist took photos of his transformation and shared them on social media, where they were widely circulated, wowing many netizens in the process and reportedly leading to job offers for the homeless man.
A dentist also got in touch with Leandro to offer his services, and Bruno will have his teeth fixed in the coming days.
Additionally, the homeless man has been receiving clothes and donations from kindhearted residents who contacted Leandro to help.
Bruno said he was born in the state of Minas Gerais and was abandoned by his mother at the age of five.
He lived with his sister and later stayed with his father for a while before living in an orphanage. Today, his father and sister live in Italy.
The homeless man told local media: “I’m 33 years old and I’ve been to rehabilitation clinics twice in Aracatuba [Sao Paulo]. There I started working as a lighting technician, something I learned from my brother. In 2019, I went to work in Ilha Comprida [Sao Paulo].”
He said he arrived in the city of Sorocaba before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and ended up on the streets, where he started taking drugs again.
He said he did not get much help during the pandemic, and his situation worsened.
After Leandro’s incredible makeover, Bruno said: “I feel like a different person! I am so happy. It reminds me of how I used to look.”
Leandro is currently talking with Bruno’s sister and father about him possibly living with them in Italy.