As a professional makeup artist, Adrian Rios is used to working in a variety of settings, from fashion shows and speaking events to photoshoots and television interviews. But one day last month, he set up shop in a rather unusual place, even for him: a waiting room outside the Proton Beam Therapy Program on Mayo Clinic's Arizona campus.
Adrian was there to meet Clarissa Sanchez, a 15-year-old beauty and fashion enthusiast receiving treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma. It had been a while since Clarissa had much to smile about, and Rosie Lerma, a patient experience coordinator at Mayo, hoped a makeover might change that. After learning about Clarissa's love of makeup, Rosie reached out to Adrian — who happens to be her son — and asked him to take on this very special assignment.
Adrian readily accepted. And on Feb. 8, he and Clarissa "had a conversation through makeup," Adrian tells us. "We laughed, shared experiences, and chatted about different makeup looks we love." As they talked, Adrian delivered his own kind of medicine, applying makeup, and recreating the brows and lashes that chemotherapy had taken away.
It wasn't the first time he'd had occasion to use his tools in this way. "My mother is a breast cancer survivor, and during her treatment, I would do her makeup," Adrian tells us, adding that his "definition of beauty is and always has been my mother's face and heart." After his mother told him that she "didn't feel pretty without her lashes, brows or hair," Adrian "would carefully paint on new brows and attach new lashes to make her feel better." The chance to do the same for Clarissa, he tells us, "meant so much to me on many different levels."
When Clarissa saw the results of Adrian's heartfelt handiwork, her beautiful smile returned in a big way. "I had been going through so much insecurity due to the fact that I had lost all of my hair, eyebrows and eyelashes," she tells us. "I felt so beautiful for the first time in months. The makeover truly uplifted my spirts and made me so happy."
It made Clarissa's mother, Ariselle Lara, happy too. "When Adrian did Clarissa's makeup, she was smiling and just being herself again," Ariselle tells us, adding that it brought her "so much joy to see her like she was before her diagnosis."
That's the true power of makeup, Adrian tells us. It's not just about before and after pictures, but the way it can "change someone's life and outlook. Makeup is at its most transformative when it changes our hearts, gives confidence, makes us feel special and empowered." Being able to do that for Clarissa, he says, was a gift. "This young lady's courage is beautiful and showed long before I created her brows, applied concealer or touched her with a brush. I will remember this experience for the rest of my life."
Watch the makeover in process below:
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