He couldn’t believe what he was seeing as his chair was turned and he took a look in the mirror that was right in front of him. The man in the reflection was virtually unrecognizable to the man he had been over the last couple of years. It was difficult to accept, but there he was. He had a whole new different look, and he knew it was bound to impress others. But would it be able to change his life completely?
In his youth, Jose Antonio never imagined that he would wind up homeless. He used to reside in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, and he made a living as an electrician. But his life changed completely when he turned 30. An accident at work left him without the ability to continue doing his job. Eventually, his financial problems got out of control, and he became terribly depressed. That’s when things got really bad for Jose.
Jose’s life as a homeless man didn’t happen right away. “It’s a long process,” he explained. “A depression starts. In a depressed state, your mood is not the most regular. And then you go out onto the streets.” Jose was out on the streets after he couldn’t pay his bills. He told himself that his situation was only temporary. He earned money by parking cars in public areas like town squares. He assumed he could earn enough money to get himself a new place, but sadly, that never happened.
Jose accepted his fate and adjusted to life on the streets. He earned enough money to buy food and survive by doing odd jobs and parking cars. Over time, he became part of Plaza España, and any business owner who needed a handyman knew that this is where they needed to go to find Jose. These owners didn’t just provide him with work, they also became his friends. They even nicknamed him “Josete.” But then, Jose met a man who would help him in a different way, and it changed his life forever.
For the past 25 years, Jose didn’t know any other life other than being homeless. Then, a man named Salva Garcia approached him. Salva is the owner of a hair salon near Plaza España called La Salvajeria. “When we met, I had a studio in the square where he helped park cars,” recalled Salva. “I always joked with him telling him he had to cut off his mane, but he resisted.” But then, Jose had a change of heart.
When Jose ran into Salva again, he told him that he was now willing and able to accept his kind gesture. So, Salva decided to offer him a free haircut if Jose allowed him to take some “Before and After” photos. Jose said yes, and Salva hired a photographer. While they waited for the photographer to arrive, Salva bought Jose some coffee. While they sat, Jose shared his story about what his life was like. Then, Salva thought of a great idea.
After hearing Jose’s sad tale of homelessness and depression, he said, “It was clear that his story deserved to be told and that Josete deserved another opportunity to get ahead.” Then Salva decided that in lieu of a photo shoot, he would film a documentary. He brought in a production crew to interview Jose and to document his makeover. Jose seemed ecstatic about the opportunity to share his story. “I can’t be happy with the life that I have,” he shared. But would his new look make him happy?
Before the makeover began, Salva decided to remove all the mirrors from La Salvajeria so that Jose wouldn’t be able to see how he looked until the makeover was finished. But there was a mirror on the other side of a window, and Salva asked Jose if he wanted it opened or closed. “Open now, to see myself like this for the last time,” he said. “Then we close them to see if, when they open again, something else opens up in my life. Like a symbol.” Then the makeover began.
Jose had long shoulder-length hair that was shaggy, and Salva and his team started cutting right away. They also gave his scraggly beard a trim, but they didn’t shave it off completely. The next thing they did was to dye his hair, which had gone gray. Soon, his original brown hair would return. Finally, they trimmed his eyebrows and shaved his neckline. With only a few finishing touches, a new Jose would emerge.
Salva knew that a new hairstyle just wasn’t enough. So, he decided to buy him a stylish new outfit that would turn this 55-year-old man into someone more youthful looking, and hopefully give him a chance at a new life. Jose didn’t know what he would look like as he put on his white shirt, bright-red pants, and new shoes. Then he sat down on the chair in shock as Salva opened the window.
Jose placed his hands on his face and gasped. Then, he said, “This is amazing, dude.” He stood and turned in every direction so he could get a better look at his new appearance. “My God! I don’t recognize myself!” Then his eyes began to tear up. “Salva asked, “Are you excited?” And Jose responded, “Honestly, yes.” He was stunned, and he knew others would feel the same way.
Jose told Salva, “They’re not going to recognize me, I assure you. The whole neighborhood, nobody’s going to recognize me.” It turns out that he was correct. Jose returned to his old hangout near a monument in Plaza España. Those who knew him did a double take before they realized that this was in fact Jose. Waitresses at restaurants showed how much they approved of his new look by giving him a thumbs up and smiling. But some had no clue it was Jose.
Jose ordered himself a beer at a bar table in the square. He had spoken to the waiter who served him several times, but when he brought him his beer, he assumed that Jose was just some random stranger. Then, Jose asked, “Don’t you recognize me?” After the waiter realized it was Jose, he told him, “You don’t look like you!” Now that Jose had a whole new look, Salva wanted to give him a chance at a brand-new life too.
Salva managed to get Jose a room in a shared apartment thanks to the help of an anonymous donor. He also sought the help of an organization to provide Jose with financial support and assistance to secure a job. Jose was also able to fix his cataracts, which had formed as a result of a poor diet and exposure to the elements. His life was finally taking a turn for the better, and to say that he was grateful would have been an understatement.
“The team didn’t just record a video, they are helping me a lot with everything,” said Jose. “It was a magical day. When I went out into the street and people didn’t recognize me or they told me how good I looked it was very emotional. And now with everything that’s happening, I’m like on a cloud. Nobody expected this result and it’s very beautiful.”