When Deb Weisskopf from Oxford, Iowa, was about to turn 55, she decided to go all out and mark the milestone in style. Perhaps that was because the mother of two hadn’t had much “me” time over the years. Furthermore, working nights as a clerk at a neonatal clinic meant that her beauty routine – which consisted entirely of mascara and a stripe of eyeliner – had become pretty basic.
In addition – and just like her 61-year-old sister Sandy Fetzer – Deb had played it safe with the same permed hairstyle for decades. So, in June 2016 the two sisters made the journey across the country to New York City in search of some much-needed glamor.
But it wasn’t the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty that this pair of siblings headed for on their celebratory trip to the Big Apple. No, Deb and Sandy had made their cross-country trek in the hope of being chosen for an Ambush Makeover on Today.
Actually getting on the program, however, was easier said than done. Indeed, competition to be featured on the popular Ambush Makeover segment is tough. And that’s not least because the show employs the skills of two much sought-after stylists: Louis Licari and Jill Martin.
Licari is a celebrity colorist and the show’s resident consultant for all things fashion and beauty. Celebrity stylist and author Martin, meanwhile, has hosted a number of TV programs over the years before bringing her fashion expertise to the Today line-up.
Furthermore, the talented Ambush Makeover team are renowned for their jaw-dropping transformations, so perhaps it’s little wonder that people travel from far and wide for a chance to have them work their magic. Among those folks were Deb and Sandy, who lined up outside the Today Plaza and alongside all the other hopefuls in the pouring rain, hoping to get noticed.
It wasn’t the first time Deb had made the journey, either. In fact, she had lost out on a place on the show on numerous previous occasions. This day, though, the sisters had come prepared.
In a bid to catch the attention of the show’s producers, the pair had made a sign declaring, “We came all the way from Iowa.” And it worked – the two siblings were picked to undergo the makeover of a lifetime. “We’re just really excited,” said Deb when she found out they had been selected. “It’s our sister trip and we’re going to make the most of it.”
And make the most of it they did. First to take her seat in the stylist’s chair was elder sister Sandy. She works as a food specialist at a Catholic school in Iowa and, unbelievably, the grandmother-of-five had been sporting the same curly locks for more than four decades.
“She has been getting perms since high school,” explained Today host Kathie Lee Gifford. Plus, Sandy doesn’t dye her gray hair at all. Indeed, this was one grandmom who was definitely in need of a makeover. And little sister Deb agreed, saying on the show, “She works hard, she’s got her kids and her grandkids, and it’s just time to pamper her now.”
With that, the expert team got to work. First, it was time to say goodbye to those outdated curls. Instead, Sandy was given a sleek new ’do by hair stylist James Fang – and it changed her appearance entirely.
“She had these bangs and we tried to sweep them to the side and to make them a little softer,” explained Licari. “Of course I’ve lightened her hair color – just a pinch – but again it looks like it comes from her, not from me, which is key.”
Next, Martin worked her magic in the wardrobe department. And when the grandmom finally emerged, the studio audience went wild. Gone was the double denim get-up: instead, the 61-year-old looked utterly sleek and sophisticated in a navy pencil dress with a bright-red waistband.
The transformation was so dramatic, in fact, that the new and improved Sandy literally didn’t even recognize herself. She just kept spinning until Gifford stopped her and pointed out her reflection in a mirror. And when she finally caught sight of herself, she couldn’t believe her eyes. “Oh my gosh, I look like a different person!” she exclaimed.
And with one makeover complete, it was then time for the stylists to get their hands on younger sister Deb. Like Sandy, Deb stubbornly sported a perm and hadn’t updated her gray, curly locks in decades. When the Today team got to work, however, the perm was the first thing to go.
James Fang took Deb’s outdated style and gave her a sleek, modern one that took years off her. “He did a long pixie, but then pushed the side back to create a sort of faux-asymmetric look that’s so chic,” explained Licari. “I made her hair lighter, which made her look like a movie star, I think.”
When the new Deb stepped into the studio, moreover, the audience reaction was amazing. Not only was she sporting a young and trendy new hairstyle, but Martin had taken the opportunity to show off her slim figure by putting her in a black Maggy London dress with sheer paneling and black stilettos.
Sister Sandy, however, still couldn’t see what Deb looked like yet. She’d been told to face the wall, so that the siblings could both see each other’s transformation at the same time.
But when the two finally turned around and caught sight of one another, their reaction was perfect. “Oh my God! You look so different! Happy birthday,” said Sandy. Deb joked, “I don’t know who we’re going to go home as!”
And since returning home to Iowa, it looks like this pair have ditched the perms for good. Sandy’s social media posts, at least, reveal that the grandmom has totally embraced her new look – with not a gray, curly lock in sight.
Furthermore, the Today team succeeded in making Deb’s birthday one neither sister will ever forget. “It’s been two weeks since NYC,” Sandy wrote in a Facebook post in July 2016. “Fantastic memories made with my sister Deb and nephew Josh. Many thanks for the positive comments to our exciting Ambush experience!”