On Friday, March 5, pop superstar Beyoncé and her mother and business partner, fashion designer Tina Knowles joined us for the opening of the Beyoncé Cosmetology Center at our Phoenix House Career Academy in Brooklyn. The new Cosmetology Center will offer a seven-month cosmetology training course, helping our clients gain the career skills they need to lead productive, rewarding lives in recovery. Here, the music icon discusses her and her mother’s inspiration for creating the program—and what we must to do to erase the stigma of addiction.
PH: What first drew you to Phoenix House?
Beyoncé: When I started doing research to play the role of Etta James in “Cadillac Records,” the film was covering a period in her life when she was struggling with drug addiction. I read about the work that Phoenix House has done and continues to do to help those in that same struggle.
PH: Before you took on the role of Etta James, what was your attitude about drugs and alcohol?
Beyoncé: I understood that if you drank too much or did drugs that it could be dangerous. I read a lot about people who have lost their careers, their homes, their children and sometimes their lives after becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol. I always asked is it not easy to just stop, to just say no, like we were taught? I understand now that it is a disease and just like no one chooses to catch a cold, no one chooses to be an addict.
What were the most important—or the most surprising—things you learned from the women in treatment at Phoenix House?
Beyoncé: The most important and surprising thing I learned from these incredible women is how strong they are. They have accepted that they are struggling but they have made the decision to get better. They are driven and focused to break the addiction and do better for themselves and their families. Their stories are still filled with hope. They refuse to give up.
PH: What inspired you to create a cosmetology center at our Career Academy and what do you and your mother Tina believe it can do for the people we serve?
Beyoncé: The inspiration for the center really came from the women I met at Phoenix House. It was their stories of what they had been through and how positive they were about the future that inspired me and my mom to come up with something that would teach them a skill, make them feel good about themselves and prepare them to return to work. No one knows about beauty more than my mother. She owned a beauty salon when I was growing up and I spent a lot of time there, I loved it and everyone supported and inspired each other. My mother and I believe that anyone can succeed with a little help. The cosmetology center can help these women, and men, to achieve their goals to be independent, self-fulfilled and ultimately help in their recovery process.
PH: How can we best remove the stigma that keeps so many victims of addiction from getting the treatment that can help them control this chronic disease?
Beyoncé: The first thing is to recognize that drug addiction is a disease. No one chooses to be a drug addict. When someone gets sick, everyone works to get them better. There is no blame and no judgment. If everyone understands that as a fact, I think the addict would feel more comfortable seeking treatment. It has to be so difficult to have to cope with the disease of addiction and to also feel afraid to seek help.
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