Jerilynn Stevens is in the business of getting people glammed up for the camera.
She’s been teasing the tresses of contestants while leading the team of hair stylists on “The Voice” since season one.
Last November, the curling, the beach waves, the messy buns and the braids all took a back seat when Stevens and her family were slammed with devastating news of the Thousands Oaks mass shooting and the wild fire that consumed Paradise, California.
“We were gearing up for the live shows,” she said. “In fact, the Thursday before the live shows were set to start on Nov. 8, we wake up to the mass shooting. Then, by 8:30 a.m. my stepdaughter Ashley called my husband and said they were evacuating Paradise. She was confident. She was like, ‘It would have to burn down the whole town of Paradise,’ and it did.”
Stevens’ stepdaughter’s house would be one of the roughly 11,000 homes lost in the Camp Fire by late that afternoon. Stevens captured some of the devastation on her cell phone. The town so deeply connected to her husband’s family was wiped out.
“Oh my god, it was so crazy,” she said. “All of a sudden, there’s a standing house, everything else is gone, chimneys. It gave me chills. I have never felt so helpless and sad.”
But the woman whose emails end with the mantra “Dream big or don’t bother” refused to be settled by her sadness. Stevens wanted to help but she didn’t have the money to just write a check.
What she couldn’t give in cash, she thought, she could certainly make up for with compassion and “cuts.”
“I was like, ‘Let’s do holiday haircuts that would be so great for the evacuees.'”
It was then when the phone calls, the coordination and the connecting of communities and strangers commenced. Stevens joined forces with Nicole Scoubes, who lives in Paradise, and the two of them recruited students from the only beauty school in town.
Professional stylists— three of whom lost their own salons in the Camp Fire— volunteered, and a church donated the perfect space they needed.
“They said, ‘The only room we have for you is the stage,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll take the stage,'” Stevens said.
The stage was set. There were 20 hair stations, nine professional stylists and 14 students all creating smiles. The smiles on the faces of the evacuees, in turn, created the satisfaction of knowing they’re making a difference.
“I just started crying,” Stevens said. “This is so much bigger and better then I could’ve dreamt of.”
The haircut event fell on the same day as the church’s big yearly Christmas party. The day offered free haircuts and a free walk-through Santa’s workshop for the evacuees.
“It’s super humbling,” said a woman who received a haircut. “It makes us happy, grateful— super grateful.”
Those who’ve lost so much were gifted a glimmer of hope.
“I’ve never felt so much gratitude and love,” Stevens said. “It was just an incredible experience.”
The experience hatched many miles away by a woman who’d be bothered if she didn’t “go big.” She connected strangers who chose to engage and gave back for nothing other than the good of others.
“It literally could not have been done better,” Stevens said. “After that event, that was the highlight of my career.”
Special thanks to Michael Peck & Pleasant Valley High School House of BLUE Film Students: DJ Merrill, Kyle Johnson, and Jordan O’Neal.