There is nothing better than looking good and doing good at the same time. Jessica Yuda-Humer, founder and president of Wailani Beauty, shows the way.

The Oak Park High School alum has created certified nontoxic, vegan and cruelty-free (not tested on animals) nail polish in an array of beautiful and fun colors.

Her business plan is driven by her respect for all creatures. Even the name “Wailani,” the Hawaiian word for “heavenly waters,” reflects her love of nature.  

“When I lived in Hawaii, I was in the ocean almost every day. I’d be swimming with sea turtles or wild dolphins and think ‘this is heaven,’” says Yuda-Humer, who now lives with her husband in West Hills. “The ocean inspires me.”

It’s a natural fit for Wailani to partner with Los Angeles-based Rescue + Freedom Project, a nonprofit that saves animals around the world from laboratory experiments, euthanasia at high-kill shelters, the meat trade and abuse. 

RFP is dedicated to providing the animals with veterinary care and rehabilitation and finding them permanent homes. Attorney and animal rights advocate Shannon Keith is its founder and president.  

Wailani donates 10% of proceeds from sales of the nail polish to benefit the animal welfare group.

“Working in the cosmetics industry, I know firsthand what type of testing is done on animals. This is one way I can help an organization working tirelessly to end animal testing through legislation, while rescuing every animal they can,” says Yuda-Humer, who also volunteers at RFP events. “My polish is perfect for animal lovers and beauty consumers alike.”

Outreach

The group opened a Rescue + Outreach Center in Agoura Hills last September to serve as a sanctuary and rehabilitation facility for animals waiting to be adopted, as well as a place to educate adults and children about living a cruelty-free lifestyle.

Tragically, the center was destroyed in the Woolsey Fire two months later. All the animals were safely evacuated and have either been adopted or are being fostered. There are plans to rebuild, but the location hasn’t been decided.

Originally founded in 2004 as ARME (Animal Rescue, Media and Education), the charity served hundreds of shelter animals in Southern California.

“We quickly built a reputation as the team to call for senior and special-needs animals slated to be put down because of the cost of their medical care,” says April Arrington, vice president of Rescue + Freedom Project.

Rescue

In 2010, a research laboratory asked ARME to pick up two “experimentally-spent” beagles, a term the laboratory used. Because of their docile temperament and size, beagles are the breed of choice for research labs.

“The video of the beagles taking their first steps of freedom, touching grass, seeing the sky and playing for the first time went viral, and thus was born the Beagle Freedom Project,” says Arrington, who was so moved by the video when she first saw it six years ago, she reached out to the group and became involved.  

Under the ARME umbrella, the Beagle Freedom Project became the worldwide leader in saving animals (mostly beagles) from experiments. Over 1,500 animals have been rescued from laboratories in 36 states and 8 countries, she says.  

With increased media coverage of the rescues, the group became better known and counts many celebrities, including Miley Cyrus, Whitney Cummings, Sia and Andy Cohen, as supporters.

Last year, ARME and the Beagle Freedom Project merged and was renamed the Rescue + Freedom Project, “expanding our reach to rescue animals from all types of exploitation and caged cruelty,” Shannon Keith said in a video announcement.

Animals that have been helped include dogs, cats, pigs, goats, peacocks, horses, rabbits, ferrets, mice, rats, guinea pigs and fish.  

Success Stories

Chi Chi’s story is particularly inspirational, says Arrington. In 2016 in South Korea, Chi Chi was doomed to become meat for someone’s meal. The butcher threw the golden retriever away when her bound legs began to rot. Local animal welfare activists found her with legs still tied together in the trash outside the slaughterhouse. Because of infection, her legs were amputated. ARME facilitated her move to the U.S. and arranged for her adoption. Now fitted with prosthetics, Chi Chi’s sweet nature and indomitable spirit has led her to becoming a beloved therapy dog. In a fairy tale ending, last October, Chi Chi was named American Humane’s 2018 American Hero Dog. 

One of its most high-profile cases was the “Spanish 40 Rescue” in 2011. “When our group heard a lab in Spain was closing and the beagles were going to be killed, we flew them all to Los Angeles and found each one a home,” says Arrington.

Building Trust

Survivors of laboratory experiments or any cruel confinement typically demonstrate the same behavior when freed—fearfulness. “Everything is new to them,” she explains. “The majority have never seen sunlight or even another animal. But most are resilient and after a few months become trusting.”  

A team of animal behavioralists, specialty veterinarians and dedicated fosters work with especially fearful animals before they are available for adoption.

“We have an incredible foster and adopter base helping us by opening their homes and hearts to these animals, so we can rescue more cruelty survivors,” says Arrington.

According to a video on RFP’s Facebook page, dogs in labs associate humans with pain, so who they first encounter after liberation is important. Fosters have the responsibility of teaching them how to walk up stairs, how to walk on a leash, how to drink from a bowl—essentially how to be a dog. Most importantly, they teach the animals what it’s like to be loved.

Education & Advocacy

Arrington says there are humane alternatives to animal testing: “Non-animal methods of research, such as computer modeling, organ or skin on a chip, microdosing, or in-vitro testing are already in use and are more accurate, faster and cheaper.” 

Another important part of the group’s mission is advocacy. Last April, four members of the Rescue + Freedom Project Kids program gave a presentation to the LA City Council for a motion mandating that city facilities use only cruelty-free products. The proposal is still in the works.  

Additionally, through RFP’s efforts, the Beagle Freedom Bill has been enacted thus far in nine states, including California. The law requires laboratories to offer healthy dogs and cats to the public for adoption after the experiments have ended.

There are many opportunities for people to help. “One major challenge for most rescue groups is finding fosters and adoptive families,” says Arrington. “Following us on social media and making a donation are welcomed, too.”   

Living a cruelty-free lifestyle is yet another way to make a difference: “Be sure household products and cosmetics you purchase have not been tested on animals. We’ve made it easy for consumers by creating the Cruelty Cutter app. A scan of the product’s barcode will show if your shampoo, for instance, is cruelty-free.”

Yuda-Humer also recommends checking the website LeapingBunny.org for its shopping guide.

Arrington says RFP partners with cruelty-free brands and showcases products it loves: “One such product is Wailani Nail Polish. By supporting Wailani, you’ll be supporting Rescue + Freedom Project and the cruelty-free movement.”

For more information, visit WailaniBeauty.com and RescueFreedomProject.org.