Tears began to fill Rosa Hawkins’s eyes. “My daughter’s as tough as nails,” Hawkins said, “She’s strong, and has more self-esteem than anyone I know. But if that was happening to her? I’m sorry. I tear up. It’s out there, and it’s happening.”
Hawkins, of Rockville Centre, was talking about bullying. In a conversation with the Herald, Hawkins, 44, who owns a beauty salon in Franklin Square, broke down when she imagined how she would feel if her 12-year-old daughter, Olivia, was ever bullied.
According to the National Education Association, one in three American students is bullied in school, and nearly half of all adolescents face some form of bullying online, or cyber-bullying.
Hawkins said she has seen an increasing number of teenage clients who are being bullied — in school, online or both — and she recognizes the role those in her line of work can play in helping victims. “We’re trying to create awareness of how the beauty industry can get involved with these younger people, and help them feel better about themselves,” she said. “When you feel better about yourself, you’re not a target anymore. That’s who’s targeted: those who walk with their heads down.”
The idea of helping bullying victims, Hawkins said, came to her when she heard about the experience of a longtime client’s 15-year-old daughter. According to Hawkins, the teenager was pushed in front of cars and had to be escorted from one class to another because both girls and boys bullied her. The mother and daughter came to Hawkins’s salon, Di Rosa Haircare & Esthetique, for a lift. With her mother’s permission, the girl changed her hair color to a vibrant red and got an entirely new style. The drastic change, Hawkins said, practically transformed her personality.
“Her self-esteem and the way she felt about herself — not just her color — made her walk a little differently the next day,” said Hawkins, who has owned the salon for 17 years. “When she went back to school, everyone noticed and accepted her. They were impressed by her courage to put herself out there. She’s changed, just by seeing herself differently. Maybe from taking the step or maybe just from her thinking she looked better. Whatever it was, it worked. Her personality got a makeover. She said it changed everything.”