One of the questions I'm most frequently asked about Today show's Ambush Makeover is whether all the makeovers are really as happy with their new look as they appear to be on TV. I have always proudly answered "yes!" -- until last week's attempt. Much to my dismay, we broke our perfect record. Every single previous makeover had left Studio 1A in an extreme state of nirvana, but our unbroken string of good luck ended with the last one. The makeover candidate, whom I will call Ms. X, ended up in tears.
I was as devastated as she was disappointed. I interview all potential Ambush Makeover candidates before they're picked from the crowd and I had asked Ms. X all the mandatory questions: Did she realize that she would have a new haircut, a different hair color and makeup? Did she realize that she would look like a new woman after the makeover? She said she did, but then was a bit reluctant to let us cut her hair. We negotiated and agreed on a length. We decided to take a couple of inches off the back of her hair, framing her face with layers.
I thought we were on the same page. Well, we might have been on the same page but we must have been reading two different books. Within minutes of the hairdresser's first few snips, Ms. X was in tears. I tried to console her, but to no avail. It turned out she had never really wanted to be made over. I never even had a chance to color her hair. I had been so excited about unleashing Ms. X's beauty potential that my sensitivity radar was way off. I can usually spot a woman who knows she needs a change but can't step out of her safety zone. This time, I wasn't listening to her closely enough. After years of making dramatic changes, I am usually extremely conscious of a woman who is reluctant to go for a change. Ms. X wasn't emotionally ready. We had to run back to the plaza to find a more willing makeover. Luckily, there were many woman excited to be chosen from the crowd. We went into overdrive and made our new makeover very happy.
Lessons from Louis
As I have always said, the most crucial part of a visit to the hairdresser is the consultation. The consultation is vital to a great hair color or hair style. This is the precious time when the client communicates her desires to her hairdresser. Although it may sound like a rather simple conversation, the hairdresser has to be keen and listen to every word the client speaks. This kind of attention to the client's vision can require time and patience. After listening to the client, it's the hairdresser's job to assess whether the idea is suitable and practical for the client's hair texture, complexion and facial structure. Sometimes the most important words are those that are never said. If a woman makes a reference to her girlfriend's hair or how she used to wear her hair when she was younger, she is sending you a message. I call these the words between the lines. They are the silent volumes of her likes and dislikes.
The best advice I can give anyone considering a new look is to think it out thoroughly. Are you really ready to make a change? This is especially true if the change is dramatic. If you have any inhibitions or hesitations, make only the smallest changes now, the ones you are comfortable with, and wait until you are absolutely ready before making a major change.
My fantasy is that Ms. X woke up the next day and loved her haircut. I thought she looked great but it is her hair and she has to feel comfortable and beautiful with her new look. Change is almost always good, but only when you are ready for it.