Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Kabul Beauty School gives lessons in sisterhood and style

When Deborah Rodriguez first came to Afghanistan in 2002 as one of the volunteers sent by the Care For All Foundation to help rebuild the country,she took a good look around her at all of the other aid workers and wondered "What am I doing here?"

Most of the folks that were there were doctors and nurses,teachers,engineers,etc. She was the only hairdresser in the bunch,which turned out to be a very in demand position. Afghan natives as well as Westerners were clamoring for her services,many of whom had been beauticians even during the reign of the Taliban. Some of them had to destroy and/or bury their mirrors and other tools of the trades if they recieved too much scrutiny from the authorities.

In 2003,Deborah became one of the teachers and founders of the Kabul Beauty School. The main objective was to give Afghan women some independence and a way of making a better life for themselves and their families. Beauty salons are a women-only zone in Afganistan,one of the few places where they don't have to get approval for every little thing from their husbands,fathers or brothers. For many of the students,the school provides them with the means of support and in some cases,the only source of income going into the household.

Deborah fell in love with the country and its' people and even set up a teaching salon of her own,The Oasis Salon. She later on married an Afghan man(who had another wife and children living with his parents in Saudi Arabia)and made many friends amongst her students such as Roshanna who needed to prove her virginity on her wedding night with Debbie's help and Nahida,married to a cruel Talib husband who abused her at every turn.

Debbie's story of her life and times in Afghanistan is truly inspiring but not a"oh,look at how noble I am" book. Rather,her down to earth nature shines thru the pages,making you feel as if you were hearing all of this from a good friend you haven't seen in years but want to know what she's been up since you last saw her. You become drawn into the world of her students and friends as well as get an real idea of what life is like in Afghanistan,a place that many of us only have a vague notion of.

There are those who would find the notion of a beauty school in that part of the world to be a trival pursuit but it's about more than just learning how to set perm rods and manicures. Attention to physical appearance is a sign of truly caring for yourself and boosts the spirit for both sexes. By opening this school,Afghan women are being given the chance to open themselves up to new possibilites and begin to make small steps towards one day being considered equals in their society. You have to start somewhere,folks.

Kabul Beauty School is a wonderful,thought provoking memoir that should be your top reading group selection this spring. It will be out in stores on April 10 and if you would like to know more about the school,please click the title link above to check out their website(that also has a link to the book). There's also a documentary about the first class of the KBS now available on DVD called the Beauty Academy of Kabul,which features many of the students and teachers(including Debbie)that is in stock at Netflix. I just watched it last night and it really enhances Debbie's account of how everything began there. This is one of the best examples about how outer beauty can truly enrich the inner.


Pop Culture Diva said...

What a great story! I'm gonna have to check that out.

lady t said...

Thanks,PCD-let me what you think of it:)