Queer Eye Season 7 Hero Mary’s Thrift Shop Got A Makeover, Too

The SisterHearts founder is still turning her prison trauma into purpose.

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Antoni Porowski, Tan France, Jonathan Van Ness, Maryam Henderson-Uloho, Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown in ...
Ilana Panich-Linsman/Netflix

While vacationing in New Orleans more than 20 years ago, Queer Eye Season 7 hero Mary Henderson-Uloho was arrested. “I met a guy. We were just having some fun when the police stopped us,” she explained in Episode 6 of the Netflix reality series. “They wanted me to lie on this man. I didn’t talk. I refused.” After serving 12 and a half years in prison, followed by another 12 and a half years on parole for obstruction of justice, Mary, a mother of seven, remained in Louisiana, rather than returning to her home in Dayton, Ohio.

In order to “stay focused on surviving inside prison,” as Mary put it, she had to turn off the maternal piece of her brain. Not only did she miss out on seeing her children growing up — something that took a toll on Mary’s mind — but her first-born son passed away in a motor vehicle accident while she was behind bars. The 65 year old describes not being able to go to her child’s funeral as a “breaking point” of sorts. “Prison dehumanized me, desensitized me, and demoralized me,” she explained. “Something happens to your brain in prison where you can’t do your time inside if your mind is outside.”

Within a year of leaving prison, in June 2014, Mary founded SisterHearts, Inc., which includes a thrift store and encompasses a decarceration program that focuses on providing formerly incarcerated individuals with a safe environment to achieve their goals with dignity. According to the nonprofit’s website, the program is centered around decarceration, offering a space for healing while rehumanizing those suffering from the trauma of incarceration. SisterHearts also provides personal development training, transportation, bank account support, driver’s license support, and other resources to assist returning citizens as they reintegrate into society.

As her partner and Queer Eye nominator, Anthony Taylor, who Mary met through SisterHearts, explained on the show, she spent all her time helping people sort through prison trauma, but nobody ever helped her with her struggles. That partly contributed to Mary having difficulty seeing value in herself. With some help from the Fab 5, however, she was able to begin sorting through some issues, namely relating to her role as a mother. After Mary found a way to forgive herself, the guys even surprised her with a mini family reunion, affording her a fresh start with her children and grandchildren.

Ahead of the Season 7 premiere in May 2023, Mary described her Queer Eye filming experience in an interview with a local CBS affiliate. According to the SisterHearts Thrift Store owner, she knew she’d been chosen as a hero but didn’t know when the crew would arrive for the shoot that lasted about four days. “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,” Mary said. “I mean, it was the most phenomenal you could have ever imagined, and those guys are truly what they appear to be on TV.”

Though it’s unclear what progress she’s made in her relationships with her kids since filming wrapped, SisterHearts is thriving. After Mary put on a live fashion show in January, she announced she was revamping the thrift shop ahead of a planned Queer Eye viewing party. “We’re developing a boutique inside the thrift store now,” she wrote in April, previewing some freshly painted murals in the “new and improved” shop.

One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is how much Mary’s heart is still invested in helping better her community.

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