Erin was tall, though you wouldn’t notice it at first glance. Her baggy clothes hung loose off of her bony frame and she was in a perpetual slouch, shoulders stooped and head hung just low enough to minimize eye contact. Years of torment from her peers and lack of affection from her family had led her to the only form of coping she could find, and the anorexia was taking its toll on her body.
I had known her for years, and any friendly word would quickly bring out that quiet smile. But something about Erin was always guarded, and few were ever able to get close enough to clearly see the hurt she carried, let alone attempt to heal it. What began as cruel taunts of “scrawny” and “ugly” from children began to manifest in a very real way.
When Erin looked in the mirror, all she saw were the damaging effects of her disease. The flat, dull hair; skin riddled with severe acne, protruding collarbones, and the rather large nose that was hers through genetics. Everyone noticed, but no one said anything other than to occasionally whisper amongst themselves that maybe someone should suggest to Erin the possibility of seeing a counselor.
Of course I was also saddened by the deterioration I saw in her. But we didn’t know each other very well, so I figured I couldn’t do much to help her situation. However, as a stylist, I did know how to make people pretty, and I thought that maybe guiding her through that process might make her feel just a little better about herself.
I approached her with the explanation that I needed some volunteer models to do makeovers on so I could take photos and build my portfolio. Initially she hesitated, but I pleaded with her to help me out, and eventually a day for the photo shoot was agreed upon.
She arrived early, looking nervous but excited. As she showed me the clothes she had brought for her pictures, I pulled out my arsenal of beauty tools and geared up for a miracle. At first she sat stiffly in my chair and didn’t say much, but as I gently brushed her brittle hair to a shine and coaxed her into talking about her interests for after graduation, I noticed she was beginning to relax.
A few flourishes with the curling iron and a mist of spray held her soft new waves in place, and then I began to work magic on her face. I gently covered and blended away the scars on her skin until all that remained was a young woman’s glow with emphasis on her luminous eyes that so few ever got the opportunity to see.
When the transformation was complete, I stepped back and laid down the lip-gloss. The girl before me was so different from the one who had sat down in my chair just an hour earlier. But I knew it was not my opinion that counted in that moment. Turning Erin to face the mirror, I watched her reaction go from shock to delight before tears welled up in her eyes.
I gave her shoulders a quick squeeze and handed her a tissue, teasingly warning her not to ruin her mascara. For the first time, I was seeing her with a real smile on her face. She touched her hair gently, not believing it was hers and kept turning her head from side to side as if trying to figure out how I made her nose look like it fit her face. Both of our spirits were high as we began the photo shoot, and for once Erin didn’t try to hide from the camera.
In the months that followed her makeover, I heard that Erin had chosen to use one of the pictures from the photo shoot as her senior portrait. The feedback from everyone who saw it was so positive that it inspired her to start taking better care of herself. She began developing better grooming habits and even went to a counselor to start dealing with the issues behind her battle with anorexia.
When I saw her again, her skin was clearer, she was standing taller, smiling, and looking people in the eye. As we talked, she told me of her plans to go to school and eventually open her own business.
Sometimes we forget self confidence doesn't automatically come with a new shade of lipstick or pair of shoes. It is about showing someone the beauty they already possess, and encouraging them to step out with new confidence. I will never underestimate the power a makeover can have in the life of a young girl who simply needs to know she matters.