School for Cool

by Mandy Stadtmiller

New York Post – October 17, 2006

Seven days to a brand new you? No problem. Armed with a team of experts – beauty, fashion and lifestyle – The Post took two Forest Hills High School students for a makeover to help them take the fall season by storm. “The main point,” says “How to Be Popular” author Meg Cabot, “is learning how to project yourself. People are drawn to people who are excited about something. Even if you are enthusiastic about your dark black paintings that you do about the people that you hate, that’s better than not having any interests at all.”

Besides, she notes, people considered “geeks” in high school are usually the ones who make out like bandits later on. “All those girls who went to school with Bill Gates are probably kicking themselves now,” Cabot says.

So meet our future Bill and Melinda. (Please note: No cooties implied here, whatsoever.) First up is a 16-year-old junior who was actually compared to the Seattle tech gazillionaire by a classmate of his. A big “Halo” buff, Andrew Caldecutt has a near 4.0, wants to be a pilot and digs the Harry Potter series. He thought “Click” looked pretty funny.

Next up is 17-year-old senior Esther Park. Currently taking AP psychology, a big fan of Korean pop music and the designer of her church’s new logo, Park has a twin sister. She has every constitutional amendment memorized.

“A geek usually means the good grades kid,” Caldecutt observes.

“I think geeky means that you’re very introverted,” Park adds.

But … that was then.

Day One (when the bulk of the makeover happened) introduced the two students to fashion expert Ali Fatourechi, creative director of Genetic Denim, who gave each of them a more “rocker” look with emphasis on layering and accessories that pop (see captions).

“It’s all about subtle details,” says Fatourechi, 28. “Don’t go for anything too over-the-top or exaggerated, or you’re trying too hard. Find a balanced look.”

Giving Park a pair of heels to accentuate her skinny pants and Caldecutt some boots to accentuate his denim jeans, Fatourechi focused on pieces that would be classic and work together. For instance, a skull necklace on Andrew to go with the hoodie to go with the leather jacket.

Soon after it was time for beauty and grooming overhauls courtesy of Oscar Blandi salon. Upon arrival, Park and Caldecutt are asked if they like any celebrities. Sure. Can they name a favorite celebrity? Halle Berry, Park pipes up. Well, Oscar has actually done her hair before. “Oh, wow,” Park says, her eyes going wide. “That is so cool.”

While Caldecutt’s hair is finessed, Park gets her makeup done – for the very first time in her whole life – by makeup artist Pamela Sablofsky. She uses Laura Mercier products to bring out some of Park’s best assets, like her pouty lips and crescent eyes. To both students, Sablofsky provides SkinCeuticals to improve their complexions and keep down oil.

“I evened out Esther’s skin with oil-free foundation and concealer and used bronzer to warm her up a bit,” Sablofsky says. “Her eye shadow is clean and shimmery, light and pretty with a plum accent, and we’ve used pink blush, pink lipstick and a fun, sparkly lip gloss.”andrewbeforeafter

Just as important to the transformation process is the haircut performed by senior stylist Luca Blandi. “With Andrew, I went shorter on the sides and back,” Blandi says. “I cut the top with diagonal layers so that he will have a little bit of length on top.”

Park’s look was all about adding volume. “I took three inches off the length and a good four inches off the layers,” he says. “She can very easily blow dry under or flip it up.”

Day One, mission completed. On to Days Two through Seven, with the all-important matter of lifestyle coaching thanks to image guru David Wygant, who gave both students customized exercises based on their personal goals.

“They learned that they could be the friendly person instead of waiting,” explains Wygant, 44, based in Los Angeles and New York. “Both of them had been big ‘waiters.’”

For Park, he encouraged her to approach her parents about difficult subjects by taking baby steps and dealing with one topic at a time. He also suggested when she is trying something intimidating to arm herself psychologically – like putting a picture of the dog she loves on her cellphone. The result? For the first time, Park approached a teacher she thought was scary but soon realized was totally nice. She also talked to her parents about applying to more expensive colleges. “They said they’ll support me,” she reveals, “even if I go to Harvard and it costs like a million dollars or something.”

For Caldecutt, Wygant suggested that he observe people who are good conversationalists to see what works. Several breakthroughs occurred, including the realization that many times people who are more outgoing simply smile more. The result? Caldecutt talked to several new people and found himself naturally skilled at the gift of gab.

“It opened up a lot more for me,” Caldecutt says. “I was in math class and I heard a kid sitting behind me mention the ‘South Park’ premiere about a game called ‘World of Warcraft,’ and I had seen that episode too and I thought it was funny. So I said, ‘You watch “South Park”? What do you think?’ We both liked it, and we were both laughing about it.”

Park said she couldn’t stop smiling. She still can’t.

“I felt like a big spotlight was on me,” she gushes. “But I felt like it was a really good spotlight! My self-esteem was pretty low before, but when I went to school with the heels and the new clothes and the hair everybody was really complimenting me, and I’ve never really had that before and even my teachers complimented me and I guess it got me to be more outgoing.”

She takes a breath.

“I spoke out loud and to my friends and usually I’m a little bit quiet and when I got that outfit everybody was talking and I got into a big conversation. I usually just put one sentence out but I actually carried the conversation,” she says.

“It was awesome.”

Instant Cool

According to image and lifestyle consultant David Wygant.

  1. Be up on what’s up. “If someone is talking about movies, you can say, ‘Oh I loved the movie ‘Halloween 17,’ and oh I loved that scene when the head fell off.”
  2. Try hello practice. “Everyone is attracted to the person who is very friendly and open. Walk around and say hello to everyone.”
  3. Look at life like a big TV. “Observe things you can talk about. If a kid has on a new iPod, you can say, ‘Wow I’ve never seen that.’”
  4. Just relax. “In conversation, something is going to lead to something else. Learn to be a good listener and don’t think about what you have to say next. Let it come naturally.”
  5. Realize that it really is all about them. “If someone is mean it’s about them showing an issue of superiority. The fact is you don’t want to be friends with that person anyway.”