Sierra Daniels is a young Baltimore mother of four and an aspiring singer who escaped an abusive relationship.
Los Angeles resident Christine Pechera and Angela Williams, a 40-year-old single mother of four living in Detroit, are separated by a couple of thousand miles and two time zones, but the pair, like Daniels were recently the mutual beneficiaries of the largesse of a Hollywood celebrity stylist.
A fortuitous twist of fate brought these ladies the surprise of a lifetime: $10,000 worth of designer clothes each, courtesy of celebrity stylist and Silver Spring resident Sam Russell and his Giving Closet.
Each faced life-threatening illnesses and survived. When they were finally deemed healthy enough by their doctors to rejoin the workforce, however, all they had to wear were the old, ratty clothes they’d worn at the hospital. Neither of them had the financial means to shop for professional clothes to wear on their interviews until Russell stepped in.
To Russell, the Giving Closet is a labor of love.
In 2011, Russell, a renowned image maker, took an unexpected detour from working with stars like Sophia Bush, Stevie Wonder, Colin Farrell and Chuck Lorre to image everyday people. His USA-based passion project searches for unique stories of women that persevere and he surprises them with a wardrobe upgrade usually reserved for the stars.
“I didn’t really have a game plan. It’s all been organic and I never set out to be a household name,” Russell said. “This just felt right and I had the resources and I knew how to do it. I was being hounded by celebrities and girlfriends of celebrities for free stuff, free shoes, free whatever and I thought, ‘What would that do for a single mom in Detroit or a single mom in Atlanta fighting cancer.’”
Russell set out to make sure that the designer clothes, shoe wear and the eye-catching handbags and other accessories that he dressed superstars in would be used for a greater cause.
So far, he’s surprised 14 individuals around the country with $10,000 wardrobes, a total of $140,000 worth of needed goods.
“It helps to empower them, to instill the confidence in them that they may have lost,” Russell said. After all, he too had received a break in life that has propelled him into a prominent stylist to the stars. Among his credentials is being the supervising stylist for TLC’s “Ten Years Younger,” and his regular work with stars like Farrell, Lorre and Wonder, whom he accompanied in January 2009 to the White House for President Barack Obama’s historic inauguration.
“I try to share some of my good luck. If I can share that with anyone else who’s come from a place that’s dark, then I have a reason to live,” Russell said.
A former model, Russell calls his Giving Closet his passion project.“I try to celebrate every day women as much as we celebrate those celebrities in Hollywood,” he said. “That single mom with four kids in Detroit who are all on the honor roll and are ages 8 to 17, that’s who I celebrate. We put our celebrities on pedestals, but the woman around the corner, the woman in the church, those are the people who are really doing the amazing things.”
Each year, Russell works with about three to four women, taking about one month of preparation time with each. He does as much work as he can afford, noting that the expenditures are entirely out of pocket.
“I will get a picture of what the individual looks like and then I will use my experience as a stylist and then I’ll go to a publicist and tell them that I have a mother who has an amazing story and this is her size and I can use your help,” Russell said. None of it is about ego, he said.
“The universe has come along and helped me for so long so I have to share that and pass it along,” Russell said.
“Giving heals. That dark place that could be in my heart because of all my dark experiences are overwhelmed when I get to see how this benefits these women and when I watch them nail their next job interview it fills my spirit,” Russell said. “When you give to someone who was once hungry, it fills you up.”
For more information about the Giving Closet visit http://wardrobedept.com/the-giving-closet/ or www.givingcloset.net.