EM Recap Season 2, Episode 6: From Hometown Homely to Big Apple Beautiful
Air Date: 10/23/03
This week’s episode sends us out to the East Coast for a “Special New York Edition” of Extreme Makeover. Was it just me, or was anyone else weirded out by the differences, however slight—it seemed more like this episode was set in Bizarro Land than the Big Apple. No palm trees, no boob jobs, no Dr. Perl/Dorfman…and no Sam! The voice-over guy didn’t even sound the same. You know, it’s probably just me. What can I say; I guess I am an L.A. girl at heart after all.
Lady Looks Like a Dude
Our first candidate is 36-year-old Michel from Worcester, Massachusetts. That her parents chose to use the French masculine spelling of the name (no “e” at the end) was oddly and unfortunately prophetic, because for her entire life Michel has been mistaken for a man. Also odd and unfortunate is her striking resemblance to tequila-hawking rocker Sammy Hagar. “It’s kind of bothersome when people call you ‘Sir’ and you know you’re a girl,” Michel confesses. It is a predicament only Peppermint Patty understands.
Michel says that this gender misidentification is the primary motivation for her Extreme Makeover. The single Michel also feels her looks have impeded her ability to attract men, noting that when she goes out with her girlfriends “It’s totally obvious that they’re getting the drinks sent to them, and they’re getting hit on, and I’m totally not.” Babelicious blonde friend Liz Penagos (who must be the one getting all the drinks), supported Michel by accompanying her to EM tryouts and recalls that Michel showed up at the EM round table with her hair up in a baseball cap, and when it was her turn, whipped the cap off and said “I want to go from Ken to Barbie!”
All joking aside, Michel feels like there is a part of her, the feminine side, which is not being fulfilled. “Maybe I want a kid, maybe I want a husband.” She gets choked up saying, “It would mean the world to me…to be able to show you all that I am, and express all that I am in the most honest and real way, and for me to leave this life of being this strong chick…[it’s] not really who I am.”
In the Special New York Edition’s first departure from the Regular Ol’ L.A. Edition, there is no big family party to announce to Michel that she has been chosen. Instead, there is just a snowball fight (why?), and an unnamed blonde from the EM crew (whom we later see functioning as a interviewer/babysitter for the candidates) telling her “You’re getting an Extreme Makeover.”
She later breaks the news to her friends as they sit for a powwow in her living room. One friend mocks the EM process. “If you wanna make little, tiny changes that’s fine. But if you walk out in a pair of stilettos and 80 pounds of makeup, and the skirt thing going on, I’m gonna be very upset.” Why? Because Michel’s going to come back looking better than you? The show is called Extreme Makeover, not Little Tiny Makeover. Supportive buddy Liz comes to Michel’s defense: “If she’s ready to accept the change, I don’t care how any of us feels.” Michel lays down the law, “Well I [I]have[I] been chosen and I will be going for an Extreme Makeover. I value your friendships and I hope that you’re gonna follow through with me on this.” You go, girl! Sorry, Jealous Red Shirt Friend (they didn’t show her name), it’s off to the bottom of the totem pole for you.
The Best Advertisement for Sunscreen…EVER
For our next candidate, we return to the Lone Star State again to meet Kenna DuBose, school counselor from Amarillo, Texas. Kenna says she is from a sun-loving generation that didn’t know the negative effects of the sun, a generation that didn’t care about SPFs but simply “slapped on some baby oil and you went out and baked yourself. No one knew about sunscreen or sunblock and I’m paying the price for it now.” Her passion for the outdoors and sports like tennis has engraved a topographic bas relief of wrinkles on her face, making this single mom look shockingly older than her actual age of 45. I mean, she looks way, way older than she ought to, by 20 or 30 years.
A former tennis instructor, she was once called “Coach Raisin” for being “short and wrinkled”. Kenna’s older sister Diana Schwede, a lovely looking lady, is commonly mistaken as Kenna’s younger sister. And at singles dances, the only men that approach her are “over 70”. Still, for 17 years, Kenna has foregone taking care of herself in order to raise her son Kenton DuBose. “She’s made countless sacrifices,” her sweet teenaged son says of his mom, “She’s raised me from nothing so that shows what kind of woman she is.”
There is a great dissonance between how she feels and how she looks. A vital and active woman, “What I feel on the inside is not what’s showing on the outside.” She feels good about who she is as a person, an accomplished and spirited woman blessed with a wonderful family and a great personality; the only thing is unhappy with is the reflection that greets her in the mirror. Kenton says that his mother cries because that is something she can’t help without surgery, but she doesn’t have the money for it.
Again, there’s no family party, but the mystery interviewer lady in Texas playing tennis with Kenna (is it the old host of “Ready, Set, Cook” from the Food Network?). They pop open a tennis ball container to reveal a ball with the note “You have been chosen for an Extreme Makeover” on it. Personally, I actually prefer having one of the candidate’s loved ones announce the good news. We also find out this week’s candidates will be in New York for 6, not the usual 8 weeks they spend in LA-LA Land. What, did they have a smaller budget for this so-called “Special Edition”?
Kenna brings the tennis ball to the sporting goods store where Kenton works and shows it to him. Excited, he gives his mother a warm hug, and then we’re told that he will be accompanying Kenna to New York for one day to help her make the transition. What? Why? No other candidates have family accompany them on their trips. Is this how the New York Edition is making up for the 2 week difference and the money they’ve saved by not having the usual family party? What other things are they going to change arbitrarily and for no reason? What is this, Paradise Hotel?
If You Can Makeover There, You Can Make It Anywhere
The candidates are off to the Big Apple, and we’re treated to shots of the New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty, Empire State, and Rockefeller Center (where your own recapper got engaged, by the way, since my husband is from New York; I disclose this lest you think I’m totally LA biased). Michel checks into her hotel, as Kenna and her son tour the city, riding a horse and carriage in Central Park, going to the top of the Empire State and visiting Ground Zero.
For the first time (that I’ve seen anyway), EM has just one doctor doing the surgery for both candidates, only adding to my theory that the NY Edition seems somehow cheaper than usual—or maybe it’s more that NY is so much more expensive than anyplace else that the same budget doesn’t go as far (which reminds me, we’re still paying off our wedding). Dr. Daniel Morello is the plastic surgeon for both Kenna and Michelle.
He meets with Kenna first, who of course mentions that her major concern lies with the wrinkles in her face. She would like a full face lift, something that will also address her eyes and brow. Dr. Morello proposes fat injections in her frown lines, perhaps removing some of the muscles that cause the lines (!) and removing skin from the eye, and defining her jaw line. Even Dr. Morello observes that Kenna looks “20+ years” older than her actual age. Using computer imagery, he gives her a preview of what her new face may look like. Pointing at the computer projection, she says “That’s what I feel like on the inside.”
Next, he meets Michel, who says “My face needs to be tweaked to have a more feminine appearance.” She would like her nose refined, lips plumped, and chin enhanced. Dr. Morello shows her an elastic rubber chin implant that looks like the end of a bar of glycerin soap. He then shows Michel what an eye lift might look like, by picking up her face with his fingers. As with Kenna, he shows her what her results after surgery may be like using computer imagery. “That’s totally what I envision, it’s like you’re reading my mind,” Michel says, delighted.
Dr. Morello will be performing a surgical two-for-one, with Kenna receiving a face lift, brow lift, eyelift, fat removal (from chin), and laser resurfacing for her wrinkles. Michel will have a nose job, an eyelift, fat removal from cheeks, a chin implant, and a browlift.
Michel heads off in a limo before dawn, ready and looking forward to “going to sleep and waking up with my new face…when I wake up, it’s on.” They show her walking to the elevator accompanied by the Ready, Set, Cook host, who says “Going up” while pushing the elevator button. “But I’m going to come down looking like a totally different person,” Michel says. Dr. Morello marks her up, pointing out that these are landmarks (surgical guidelines), not all incisions or football plays. Then it’s all needles, tubes, and latex afterwards. Dr. Morello finds that Michel has some pimples near her mouth, which may compromise her lip augmentation, so to avoid infection he decides to postpone the procedure for a later date, when the blemishes have healed. He’s good to go with the rest of the stuff though, so they lipo-vacuum under her chin before inserting her new chin, then move on to her brow and eye lifts. Finally, he moves on to Michel’s nose, which he literally bangs at with a silver mallet and chisel, like a scene from some twisted Warner Bros cartoon. Then that’s all folks, and Michel is wheeled out of the operating room. Hours later, swaddled in a bright scarlet blanket and greeted by Dr. Morello who is himself dressed in bright red scrubs, Michel is awakened. All the red looks creepy and satanic, but all he’s doing is telling her that the surgery went fine and she is free to recuperate back at her hotel (no Shanteque!).
The next day, it’s Kenna’s turn. She leaves in a limo with the blonde interviewer lady as well, and they chat on the way to the hospital. Kenna is under the scarlet blanket, but this time Dr. Morello’s decked out in a snazzy, patriotic red/white/and blue. He also marks Kenna with so many lines there’s barely a spot left unmarked, pointing out again that these are more landmarks than incisions. “Thank God,” Kenna says, relieved. He starts with Kenna’s brow lift, with a blink-and-you’ll-hopefully-miss-it glimpse of what looks like the bloody top her head! Her surgery is particularly grisly, and post-surgery she takes much longer than expected to coming out of her anesthesia. Dr. Morello that although she needed additional time and medication, she was safe and just had a different reaction than most people. With her head a cocoon of cotton, she’s wheeled in a wheelchair back to her hotel with two assistants/nurses.
The day after her surgery, Kenna returns to see Dr. Morello, feeling terrible and looking like an X-File victim with her eyes all stitched up. Dr. Morello says, “Kenna’s recovery will be a little more taxing than Michel’s; she’s a decade older and that always has an impact.” He removes the drains from her head which have been causing discomfort.
Four days later, Michel and Kenna each visit Dr. Morello’s office. Michel’s recovering is going extremely well. He takes off her bandages and hands her a mirror, warning “everything is swollen,” still, Michel is pleased and excited. “Even the small amount of pain that I have now is still like a badge of honor, saying to myself, you got through this and you’re moving on now to this next important phase of your life.”
Kenna’s more awake and feeling better when she goes in to see Dr. Morello again. She also look a lot better. Tough she still has much healing to go, and has stitches around her eyes, her face is remarkably smoother, and she already looks decades younger, closer to resembling her pictures from the 1970s. Dr. Morello tells her that he would still like her to undergo laser resurfacing to further help undo the years of sun damage.
Thirteen days later, Michel and Kenna both return to the hospital for additional work. Dr. Morello does the lip augmentation for Michel with human donor tissue (which is supposed to last longer than collagen), and then Kenna gets laser resurfacing, paying special attention to the frown lines around her month. She will need two weeks to recover from the laser resurfacing.
Dental Double Team
Kenna and Michel go to see dentists, Dr. Marc G. Lowenberg and Dr. Gregg Lituchy, to transform their smiles. After shaving down her teeth, Dr. Lowenberg puts 6 porcelain veneers on Kenna’s upper front teeth, which will last up to 20 years. He then bleaches the rest of her mouth with a one-hour procedure. Michel goes in next, but foregoes the veneers for simply whitening her teeth (“I think I have a few more good years with my real teeth before doing the veneers”) with the Zoom procedure (recapper sighs and thinks dreamily of Dr. Dorfman back in L.A.).
Work It, Girls
It’s now time for bodywork with fitness and nutrition expert David Kirsch, who has worked with supermodels Naomi Campbell and Heidi Klum. Kenna is already very athletic, but he helps her to achieve more muscle tone to define her body. Kenna ends up dropping 10 pounds. Next he tackles Michel, whom he describes as a “typical workout enthusiast that got off to the wrong path.” In contrast to Kenna, Michel has too much muscle density, which works against her desire to look feminine. It’s a tricky project for David, who explains that while it’s easier to add a little muscle and tone, it’s a lot harder to take it way. Cardio, light weights, and a lot of repetitions are the key to more womanly curves as opposed to Conan the Barbarian bulk. Ultimately, she loses over 30 pounds, going from a size 16 to a size 8.
Clothes but No Cigar
For fashion counsel, the ladies’ maestra is Allure fashion magazine editor-in-chief Linda Wells. WASPy and humorless, she’s not half as fun to be around as Sam Saboura. Kenna says the clothes Linda asked her to try on are a lot more “revealing” than anything she’s ever worn, but she’s game to try a sexier style approach. The big challenge is with Michel who confesses, “I’ve never worn a dress in my life…except for Halloween.” Linda says that clothes with certain cuts can instantly help make her appear curvier.
My Fair Lady
In addition, Michel is sent to etiquette expert Nicole Devault of the Plaza Hotel to learn to act more “like a lady”. Then, in a segment that is like a time warp to the fifties, Nicole teaches Michelle how to sit in a skirt (her first skirt ever, a pink tulip cut) and how to walk in heels. Funny, these are all things I learned for free from my drag queen friends, plus how to do the best eye makeup in the world. When Nicole asks Michel to show her how she walks, and Michel trudges across the carpet like a trucker across tarmac. “Shoulders back, head up,” Nicole advises. Now if only they could do something about Michel’s raspy voice.
The Classy Knoll
Both ladies are sent to hair stylist Stephen Knoll, owner of Stephen Knoll salon in Manhattan, and stylist to celebrities such as Cindy Crawford, Elle Macpherson, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Stephen says that the first thing that popped into his head when he saw Michel was that she should be a redhead. He colors her hair a rich, autumnal shade of honeyed auburn, and gives her hair a good straightening. He keeps it long to emphasize her femininity. Yay! No more Hagar the Horrible! “I don’t think I’ll be wearing many baseball caps with hair like this,” Michel says, pleased.
Stephen then works on Kenna’s hair, who says, “I’ve never been in such a professional, high-falutin’, elite hair styling place before.” Yes, she uses the term “high-falutin’ without any irony. Stephen gives her a softer, layered style. Looking in the mirror, Kenna compliments Stephen by saying “You done good!” I bet he doesn’t hear that too often in his high-falutin’, fancy-pants beauty shop.
Oh Mercier, Mercier Me
For makeup, the ladies report to Laura Mercier, esteemed makeup artist of Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, and Gianni Versace and creator of her own makeup line. Laura, a beautiful, European woman, describes everything she’s done in an ultra-sexy foreign accent that is so musical I was too distracted to really remember anything she talked about specifically. Michel says she’s never ever worn makeup, but is open to it now. Laura helps teach her what to do to achieve a soft look. She then tweezes Kenna and does her face, after which Kenna says, “That was the prettiest I’ve ever been, even at 45 years old.
The Young and the Rested
Kenna is back in Amarillo, feeling like “Cinderella,” riding in a white stretch limo that, in case you forgot you were in Texas, is decorated with longhorns on the front grill. Once the bandages were off and the healing had occurred, “I saw a Kenna that had been inside of me all this time.” Her family is anxious to see the Kenna that has been gone for six weeks. Her son says that today is the first day he has been nervous, while Kenna’s mother says that she brought tissues at Kenna’s request, adding that they’ve never been apart for so long.
No winding staircase this week, just a curtain being swept aside before Kenna steps out, looking smooth, radiant, youthful, and fresh. Her darling son, who has surely won viewers’ hearts, exclaims, “I am absolutely blown away at how beautiful she is, it was outrageous the results that came out of this. I just couldn’t be any happier for her.” Kenton also adds that he’s sure men will be knocking down the door, which is alright by him “as long as they’re nice guys.” Her dad, Tye Godwin, quips, “I thought I was gonna hafta raise my daughter all over again, she was very young.” Diana says that no one will ever confuse Kenna for being the older sister ever again. Emotional, Kenna admits she is overwhelmed by the experienced, “I think I look better than I’ve ever looked! I want everybody to know how happy I am and it’s been a long six weeks but boy was it worth it.”
I Enjoy Being a Girl
All we see of Michel in the limo is a glimpse of strappy gold lame heels, already a shocker. She has returned to Worcester to be reunited with her friends and loved ones. Everyone is excited, but some are trepidatious. Sherry Dubrole (who seems sweet but needs to give the mom from That 70s Show her flip back) says that everyone used to say that she and her sister were so much alike. “She’s not gonna be my twin anymore, it’s a little bit scary for me.” Penny admits, “I’m a little nervous that she’s gonna be the more feminine one in our friendship now.” And what of her naysaying friend, Penny Buchman? “This is big, this is taking one of my best friends and changing her.” Friend Tracey Oeullette says, “Well, I’m glad she did it; anything to make her happy and feel more comfortable with herself…I think it’s great.”
Gliding out like a graceful swan on gold stilettos, Michel emerges from behind the curtain to the applause and cheers of everyone in the room. “Extreme Makeover has turned Michel into the woman she’s always wanted to be, and she looks good doing it,” Tracy declares. Liz deems her, a “Super Michel!” Michel herself says that, “It’s both exciting and scary because obviously some friends are going to have a hard time letting go of the ‘boy Michel’ and embracing the ‘girl Michel’…”
EM has one more surprise, however: an all-inclusive week-long trip for Michel and a guest to the Dominican Republic. Not that I’m not happy for Michel, but why does she get a vacation? None of the other candidates have. Maybe I’m just confused by this whole New York Edition thing. Even the body shots are different, with no “bullet time” 3D shots. Anyhoo, I digress. She looks fabulous and, yes, more feminine, with a sexy redheaded Jessica Rabbit thing going on. Somebody buy this lady a drink!
You’re all beautiful to me! Feel free to send any questions or comments to snowflakegirl@fansofrealitytv. com.