NEW ORLEANS — On May 12, Netflix's 'Queer Eye' is back for Season 7, and this time the show is set in New Orleans.
The Emmy award-winning series chose a former inmate turned Arabi business owner as one of the people who receives a makeover.
Maryam Henderson-Uloho owns SisterHearts Thrift Store. She said she spent about four days with the 'Fab 5.'
“I stayed in a hotel and I had no interaction with anybody on the outside, and they took me around to get my hair done, makeup, we got clothes. I mean, it was the most phenomenal you could have ever imagined, and those guys are truly what they appear to be on TV," Uloho said.
Uloho said she knew she was chosen for the show, but she didn't know when the team would arrive.
“I was in the store, and I was just working normally like I do and they came in and I was just --- Everybody was just so amazed, so shocked. It’s like oh my god," Uloho said.
Before they ever showed up, she gave Netflix a condition; she wanted to talk honestly about her life.
“I said I would be interested in sharing my story, but they needed to know that my story revolved around prison trauma," Uloho said.
Uloho said she refused to lie to law enforcement about a man she met while visiting New Orleans for Mardi Gras. She was charged with obstruction of justice and sentenced to 25 years in prison. According to Uloho, she was released early because it was her first offense.
Still, she spent more than 12 years behind bars.
“I want people who went to prison to understand that there’s no way they went to prison and are not suffering from prison trauma. Whether it’s remembering the countless strip searches, shake downs, being locked up in solitary confinement, having your privileges taken away from you," Uloho said.
Within a year of leaving prison, she created SisterHearts.
“Everything in this store is an item that has history, has a past, just like us. It’s been thrown away, someone didn’t want it anymore just like us," Uloho said.
The thrift store employs ex-convicts. Including, Anthony Taylor who nominated Uloho to be on Queer Eye.
“I’ve been in and out of prison most of my adult life," Taylor said, “I was basically about to return to prison when I met Maryam.”
Taylor said he's been out of prison for three years now thanks to SisterHearts. He said prison 'de-humanized' him.
“It was always asked ‘What’s your number?’ Not, ‘What’s your name?’ I was referred to by that number and I accepted that, but in accepting that, it took away my identity. I no longer was Anthony, I was 120785," Taylor said.
Uloho provides a strong foundation for other ex-convicts as well.
Gary Falcon said he spent 18 years in Angola for DWI's.
“When I catch myself backsliding, I come here and I reminisce about where I came from," Falcon said.
He now volunteers at SisterHearts and donates items.
“I don’t drink anymore. It’s just a lot of progression forward, not backwards," Falcon said.
Uloho said she's helped more than 300 formerly incarcerated people through her 'de-carceration' program.
As she prepares to step onto Netflix's global stage, she wants her work to be the star.
“That’s what our de-carceration program does. It helps people to reverse the effects of prison trauma," Uloho said.
Her mission is for ex-convicts to recognize the effects of prison trauma, so they don't fall into a pattern.
“In my mind it’s the reason a lot of the crime is being committed in our city," Uloho said.
It's the first time Queer Eye has featured New Orleans. According to Uloho, it's also the first time they've ever showcased the formerly incarcerated community.
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