TRUMBULL, Conn. — A Trumbull mom is still floating after appearing on the "Harry" show and she says she's thankful for the special gift she received from the host, popular singer Harry Connick Jr. of New Canaan.
Tanisha Akinloye founded the nonprofit Empowering Through Beauty Inc. in 2010, an organization that brings together communities, beauty industries, and philanthropic efforts to empower women. It helps women in underserved communities achieve dignity and hope through education, outreach and cosmetology services.
She was singled out by the "Harry" show's producers to appear on a Valentine's Day segment because of her nonprofit's work.
"I don’t know how they found me, but they [show’s producers] called and also asked how to reach my children because they wanted them to talk about me for the show,” said Akinloye whose kids are 20, 16 and 13.
“That morning I said bye to the kids who were going to school and took the train to Grand Central,” she said.
Meanwhile, her kids did not go to school — they were invited into Manhattan for the show as well.
"They came through Penn Station but I didn't know anything about it," Akinloye said.
At the taping, she was asked on stage by Connick from her seat in the audience.
“I heard about this extraordinary woman from her kids. She’s doing something so incredible for the world,” he said, asking Akinloye about her charity work.
“I started my organization because I saw the emotional, physical, and verbal abuse that clients dealt with and I could understand their pain that they were going through at the time because of my own experiences,” she said.
“I realized that the underserved population really needed my help. If women were struggling with just a haircut, I could make them feel good on the outside, then I could work with these women to make them feel good on the inside,” she told Connick.
“If you boil everything in this world down to the lowest common denominator you end up with love. And I think I've known you, what? Two minutes and I love you,” Connick said.
Connick then said, “We have some very special people here,” and Akinloye’s children surprised her by joining her on stage.
"She really gives so much of herself to please other people,” her son told Connick.
Connick also presented her with a $10,000 donation for the organization.
Akinloye told Daily Voice the money will be used to expand the nonprofit’s programs.
"When they walked out I was really surprised. I thought it was just a normal school day," she said.
"I had a salon until 2010. I would hear stories from the women about what they had to go through, the hardships. I closed my salon when I started Empowering Through Beauty."
Among its many programs, Empowering Through Beauty provides six weeks of training to women living in shelters in lower Fairfield County.
Akinloye said she works with many organizations, including the Bridgeport Rescue Mission, Homes with Home and the Open Door Shelter.
“My organization helps women find housing, get jobs and work toward becoming successful. Through our six-week program, most have gotten to live on their own," she said. "The money will be used to further develop our programs and continue to help and develop these women."
"What a person feels on the inside reflects on the outside," she said.
Click here for more information about Empowering Through Beauty Inc.