Destanee Clark, 20
Denise Clark, 47
Destanee doesn't get much of a chance to indulge what photographer Nigel Barker calls her inner diva. With ten brothers and sisters back in Toledo and a congenital cardiac problem—truncus arteriosus—that has required three open-heart surgeries (one more to go), she's hardly a prima donna. Today, though, she forgets the scars on her chest (superstar makeup artist Scott Barnes camouflages them with powder and foundation over a surprise weapon: red lipstick). Shimmying into a slinky Tory Burch gown ($1,195) she's chosen, she turns on the charisma, totally unfazed by the cameras ("You should try out for Top Model!" says Nigel).
Destanee's mother, Denise, has arrived at the studio in a somber mood ("We aren't out of the woods yet," she says) but lightens up as the team spoils her. "This is the most relaxed I've been in 23 years—that's how old my oldest is," she says as she gets advice from brow guru Eliza Petrescu, and a platinum manicure. When Mom comes out in a black Empire-waist IGIGI dress ($280), draped in diamonds ("Ooh, that jewelry! I feel like a movie star!"), her daughter does a little hip wiggle of approval. "Everything just came together," says Destanee. "The hair, the makeup, the dress, the shoes. It was so exciting to see myself this way for the first time."
Go behind the scenes of the shoot with Gayle