Nicole Taipale, 16
Cathy Austin, 48
Just breathe, reads the rose tattoo on Nicole's back. "I got it because my older brother and I both have cystic fibrosis, a lung disease," she explains. At 4'11" and 90 pounds, Nicole has a lithe dancer's body (she's been studying ballet since age 2½), but she says she'd like to look "a little older"—she's often taken for 12 or 13. Jeanine Lobell, founder of the Stila makeup line, does her up with "lots of lashes, smoky eyes, a pale, shiny mouth," and ultrahip stylist Sally Hershberger gives her "Gisele" hair (bouncy curls à la supermodel Gisele Bündchen). The look is perfect with a bubbly blue strapless Jovani dress ($350), which Nicole may wear for her prom.
Her mother, Cathy, a childcare provider and preschool teacher in Citrus Heights, California, has never paid much attention to her looks—she wears no makeup and admits she hasn't changed her hairstyle since high school. She's transformed with a new chic, easy shag ("I think she dropped ten years," Hershberger says). "I love your hair!" Nicole tells her mom, who looks stunning in a floaty black Tadashi gown ($388). "But can you style it on your own?" "No, you're going to do it," Cathy says, and they both laugh.
Marley Kornowa, 17
Maureen Kornowa, 46
Marley quickly learns one supermodel gambit: Hold out for your favorite photographer, in this case Nigel Barker ("I watch Top Model religiously," she says). Diagnosed with stage 3 metastatic melanoma 17 months ago, she's matter-of-fact about the side effects of her cancer treatments ("It's good they layered my hair for fullness, 'cause it's so thin from the meds") and candid about her high heels: "These shoes really hurt!" But she loves the way her dress, a short, luminous navy blue Camille La Vie sheath ($120), shows off her legs: "It makes me feel more confident."
"Since the diagnosis, all this—the makeup and primping—has become so unimportant," says her mother, Maureen, executive director of a local charity in Buford, Georgia. As her own makeover begins, Maureen admits, "You do feel better taking care of others when you take care of yourself." Once her beauty renewal is complete—soft, dewy-looking makeup; a sexy layered cut from stylist Oscar Blandi—Maureen makes a showstopping entrance in a beaded Naeem Khan poncho dress. "The fun part is that I'd never have picked this off the rack," she says. "I feel like a million bucks—not bad for a 46-year-old mama!"
"This is the first time they're getting their inner girl back," says stylist Mary Alice Stephenson.
Halie Hudgins, 17
Cheryl Hudgins, 44
Basketball and boys are what Halie lived for—until a year ago, when she was found to have cancer of the parotid salivary gland. For six months after her surgery and radiation she couldn't smile or taste food. Now she can (catch that big, gorgeous grin), and she's even back playing hoops. At the studio, Halie is quiet at first, allowing shyly that she's planning to major in pre-law. But she bursts into happy tears when she puts on her Beyoncé-worthy, practically backless Versace gown, and she hits her poses like a pro.
"Halie's cancer is rare, and it tends to recur," explains Cheryl, who teaches at the same Pittsburgh area high school that her daughter attends. "So we have to keep monitoring...and praying." Although Cheryl says she isn't that appearance-conscious, she adapts fast, encouraged by our resident experts ("I could get used to this! I should wear heels more often.... I could start wearing lipstick, too"). When Halie sees her mom appear in a silvery low-cut David's Bridal dress ($208), she says, "Wow! You look gorgeous." "Even the girlfriends?" asks Cheryl, gesturing to her cleavage. Halie: "They're big, but yeah! Show the girlfriends."Backstage Pass: See what went into the gorgeous photos on these pages, plus go behind the scenes of the shoot with Gayle
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