Strength in Grace and Beauty
Story and photography by Susie Ippolito
Terrie McNeil, founder of Soul Beautiful, Inc., and That Hair Place in Baldwinsville, is an inspirational woman. Her positivity is contagious and her spirit is vibrant. Terrie lives her life’s mission to create beauty from ashes and, in the process, serves as a reminder of women’s responsibility to care for one another.
Terrie has been on a lifelong journey that led her to create Soul Beautiful, a nonprofit foundation that gives surprise makeovers to women undergoing cancer treatment. Recently, Soul Beautiful evolved to include “any woman who is broken from a life circumstance or illness,” Terrie said.
When Terrie was just 9 years old, her mother was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer at age 41 with five children. Her mother lived for nine more years, going in and out of remission. Terrie watched her mother’s appearance change many times as her illness progressed. Throughout her teenage years, Terrie wished she could help her mother look and feel better, but she didn’t have the skill set to help. At age 16, Terrie decided she would go to BOCES for cosmetology to gain the skills to help her mother.
Terrie’s mother passed shortly after Terrie graduated high school and two weeks before she got married. Terrie never got a chance to help her mother feel better.
“I knew at that point that I wanted to help women with cancer,” Terrie said. “It is my way to pay tribute to my mother and to honor her.”
You give what you get
It’s often said that when we give of ourselves, we get back far more than we give and many of the benefits are unknown to us in the moment. Terrie is a living example of this. Her generosity and kindness are her way of paying forward the many ways people helped her family though her mother’s illness.
“People always gave of themselves to help our family,” she said. “I could not comprehend that at 9 years old but, looking back, I realize that I was brought up this way. I never forgot everyone that gave and how it impacted our lives.”
A generous spirit seems to come naturally to Terrie, who describes herself as “an all-in girl.” She recalled the first time she donated her own money.
“I was in church and I had just finished babysitting. I think I had $8 in my pocket. I remember the basket came by and something in me said ‘Just give it all,’ and I did!” Terrie remembered. “I remember putting it all in without hesitation.”
It is with this same spirit that Terrie created Soul Beautiful. She followed her heart and listened to her instincts and, once again, went all in to gain the knowledge she needed to accomplish her goals.
Follow your heart
In 2017, Terrie became an affiliate salon for Hello Gorgeous, a nonprofit foundation that gives surprise makeovers to women undergoing cancer treatment. She connected with the foundation’s owners at a hair show in New York City.
“Little did I know, I would meet someone who would help me obtain a plan for something that has been a dream of mine for a long time,” she remembered.
Terrie wanted her salon to be part of their program. She was initially told That Hair Place was not an ideal match because the salon doesn’t include a spa. Terrie was disappointed but didn’t take no for an answer. Instead, she asked them questions about how to do it herself. The Hello Gorgeous foundation was so impressed with her yearning to make a difference that they allowed her to become an affiliate salon.
Terrie went through intensive training on how to address the special beauty needs of a woman undergoing cancer treatment.
“Her immune system is compromised, so we have to take care of certain aspects of how we do things,” she explained. “Everything we use is brand new and/or disposable.”
Soon after Terrie started giving Hello Gorgeous surprise makeovers to local women, she “had a heart to launch out and do it on [her] own,” she said.
In January of 2018, Terrie incorporated Soul Beautiful and was recently approved to be a nonprofit organization.
“A vision is just a dream until you have a plan to see it through,” she said. “Working with Hello Gorgeous for a year gave me a good idea on how things need to run.”
To fund the makeovers, Terrie accepts donations of gently worn accessories, handbags and clothing to sell at The Soul Beautiful Boutique located inside her salon in Baldwinsville. Terrie has been able to fully support the program with the proceeds from the boutique and 100 percent of the funds go towards the makeovers.
Get past the struggle
At various times in her life, Terrie had to choose between her desire to help women battling cancer and all the curveballs life was throwing her.
Soon after she lost her mother, her young husband was diagnosed with cancer. He beat it, living a long life until he was diagnosed again decades later. He was sick for three years. In that time, they faced the requisite battles with health insurance copays and exhaustion of resources to cover prescriptions costing more than a mortgage payment.
During that season of her life, Terrie kept her faith and she knew she had to “get past the here and now and the struggle that [she was] in in order to get to the purpose of it,” she remembered.
Terrie’s purpose is clear; it’s to focus on helping hurting and broken women in the area, she said. Her mission is to tie beauty and self care into “an important soul truth,” she said.
“It’s about making an imprint on the soul and how we feel in the moment,” Terrie said. SWM
To learn more about That Hair Place and Soul Beautiful, Inc., visit thathairplace.org.