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The happiest makeovers reassure us we would all be knockouts with the right professional advice. To celebrate her 10th year on television, Oprah took 10 excited Chicago viewers to Hollywood last fall for movie-star makeovers that enhanced their confidence, they said, as much as their looks. "Makeovers," as guest star Brooke Shields told beefy and once-mustachioed Harold, the lone guy in the group, "are from the outside in."
But some hosts see makeovers as a way to degrade and abuse their guests. On an appalling Richard Bey Show, four husbands complained their wives had become "sloppy" and demanded that they be changed into clones of Raquel Welch, Angela Bassett, Janet Jackson and Claudia Schiffer. The mostly female audience groaned in sympathy as one wife, a construction worker, was dressed in leather bondage gear and another, a secretary, was tressed up in a garish wig. Worst of all, an overweight young mother was stuffed into a slinky dress; when her husband looked disappointed, Bey brought a shapely model in a bikini onstage to prance and gyrate next to her. These are not makeovers—they are takeovers, demonstrations of TV's power to humiliate and shame.
Still, making people feel good about their looks can give them hope about their lives. On a recent Gordon Elliott show called "Last Chance at Romance," some unhappy married couples were made-over together and seemed to see each other anew. Gordo urged his guests to be generous with their compliments; as his on-air therapist said, "We don't want to hear 'nice,' we want to hear 'gorgeous.' " Gorgeous may be the nice of the '90s, but if it turns ducklings into swans, it's worth the hype.