If your hair is a little too sprayed, your skirt is a little too short and your makeup looks spackled on, you don't need a makeover. You need a makeunder. Every person who's hiding behind outrageous fashions and mile-high hairstyles can learn a little something from style expert Carson Kressley.
The last time Carson was here, he tackled men's fashion faux pas. Now, he's back to help four women—and one man—tone down their looks and let their true selves shine.
For his first style challenge, Carson flies to Alberta, Canada, to meet Dawn, a 44-year-old mother of two. "Once we got a look at Dawn," Oprah says, "we knew there was a story underneath all that."
When Carson meets Dawn, she's done up from the top of her hair sprayed extensions to the tips of her hot pink heels. Over the past 20 years, Dawn has spent a lot of time and money to create this look. She has breast implants, lip and Botox injections, eyelash extensions, fake hair and nails and a wardrobe that leaves little to the imagination.
But, Dawn says, she didn't always look this way. "As a child, I would say that I was very much a girl next door. I was very shy," she says. "High school, for me was really, really hard. I was told by teachers that I wasn't going to make very much out of myself. It was a really sad, lonely time for me."
After being told she wasn't good enough or thin enough, Dawn began to change her look. When she was 21 years old, she started working out, dieting, tanning and dressing differently. "People started giving me attention," she says.
Two decades later, Dawn's beauty routine is all-consuming. Some mornings, it takes her from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. to get ready. "Now I don't do math, but that's a long time," Carson says. "It's taking her away from her family, from her job, all those things."
Dawn's teenage children, Geneva and Troy, say they're embarrassed by their mom's appearance and they don't want people to continue judging her...or mistaking her for a porn star. "I would have to say that my look doesn't match my inside as much as a person might think. I am a mother, first and foremost," Dawn says. "I would really like for both my son and my daughter to be proud of me."
Before Carson returns to the States, he helps Dawn remove her makeup and hair extensions. Then, he lays out the ground rules. "Until I see you in Chicago, no makeup—foundation, coverup, eyeshadow, lipstick—no tanning bed, no bronzer," he says. "No extensions in your hair, and no outfits that show almost all of your boobs."
After she's learned to embrace her natural beauty, Dawn's new look is revealed. Her bleached extensions were left on the salon floor, and her real hair is cut in a flattering, layered bob. Her makeup and wardrobe are also more age-appropriate. A purple Diane von Furstenberg wrap dressshows off her figure without revealing extreme cleavage. "I feel beautiful," she says. "I feel classy."
Carson says Dawn's new look truly reflects the woman beneath all the beauty products. "When I first met her, I was like: 'Oh my God, stripper without a pole. What am I going to do?'" he says. "Then, I got to know her. She is the most wonderful mother, the kindest-hearted person. ... I think so many women who fall into these beauty addictions of overdoing the hair, overdoing the makeup are trying to layer it on. They're kind of hiding."
When it comes to beauty, the adage "like mother, like daughter" usually rings true. While most girls learn to use mascara and moisturizer from their moms, Vanessa, a 16-year-old from Illinois, learned that and more from her mother, Liz.
When Carson meets Liz and Vanessa for the first time, this mother-daughter duo is dressed in full makeup and hair...and it's only 9:30 a.m. "You're totally done up like you're going to Caesars Palace or something," he says.
Every week, Liz says she and Vanessa devote 20 to 25 hours on maintaining their over-the-top looks. "The hair takes about an hour itself, maybe longer," Vanessa says. "It depends on how big I'm going to go for that day."
Liz and Vanessa even dress alike, wearing almost all black from head to toe. "It was like The Addams Family when I got there," Carson says.
With Carson's help, Liz and Vanessa now look less like Morticia and Wednesday and more like their true selves. Carson took their hair down a few notches and applied makeup subtly to enhance—not hide—their features.
"I told [Liz] this when I got to her house. I said, 'Your pictures, with all the makeup, made you look more like you were 45 than 34,'" Carson says. "I think makeup is made to enhance your features, not to cover them up. When you pile it on, that is aging."
Liz, who's dressed in a bright DKNY wrap and leopard-print belt, says her new look is freeing. "It feels so good that everybody else likes it," she says. "I didn't think everybody else would like me like this."
Before her makeunder, Carson says he called Vanessa "Gosh Spice." "She kind of looked like Posh Spice, but it was even more, 'Oh gosh,'" he says. "It was about making her look age-appropriate. A 16-year-old doesn't need all that makeup."
Now, instead of dressing like her mom, Vanessa looks her age in a printed Rebecca Taylor dress and Steve Madden patent pumps.
For years, Cyndi hid her overweight frame under baggy clothes. She says she got dressed in the dark because she hated how she looked. Not anymore.
These days, this 48-year-old mother of two flaunts her toned figure in sleeveless tops and super-short dresses. Carson says women like Cyndi who've lost weight often go too far in showing off their new bodies.
Cyndi may love her style, but it's starting to affect her career. As a professor of journalism at the University of Missouri, Cyndi says some of her students and co-workers don't take her seriously. "Some faculty friends would say that the reason I get some conflicts in the classroom might be because I look more like the students," she says.
After undergoing a makeunder, Cyndi's too-hot-for-teacher wardrobe has been replaced by a Nanette Lepore jacket, BCBG blouse and skirt and a few strands of metallic pearls.
Cyndi says she didn't have trouble taking out the hair extensions or toning down her heavy makeup, but she does miss her acrylic nails. "I'm getting used to it," she says. "The nails were the hardest thing."
Carson says Cyndi had very long nails, which were decorated with artwork. "I'm not a big fan [of nails with artwork]. Call me crazy, but if there are seagulls or hearts on your nails...who's looking down there anyway?" Carson says.
The final makeunder candidate is a man who, Carson says, suffers from a common syndrome that only affects men—Rip Van Winkle Syndrome.
"[These men] forget about their clothes for 40 years, and they're like: 'I look amazing. It's what I wore in high school,'" he says. "I'm like, 'That was three decades ago.' So go shopping every presidential election or something."
The man in question is Wayne, a husband and father from Taylor, Michigan. Patty, Wayne's wife, turned him in because she says he's stuck in the '80s. In his closet, Patty finds 20 tie-dyed T-shirts with their sleeves cut off.
Wayne dons these outdated duds at night, when he performs with his band. "He's a software developer by day, and he's a rock 'n' roller at night," Patty says.
After a day with Carson and our style experts, Wayne is almost unrecognizable! "He could change his identity," Patty says. "It doesn't look like the same person, but I love it."
To begin the transformation, Wayne shaved off the mustache he's had for decades and cut his highlighted hair. "He had highlighted it in an attempt to kind of hold onto that '80s look and hold onto his youth," Carson says. "We died it a little bit darker, all one color. We made it short, added texture by putting pieces in and shaved off the mustache."
A new hairstyle coupled with a Varvatos leather jacket, vest and jeans makes Wayne look years younger. "It's been a thrill," he says. "I'm getting used to it myself, but people have been encouraging me. They're going, 'Your wife is going to love you.'"