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Guerilla Makeovers

Change, In the Span of a Day

Are you one of the millions of well-adjusted but occasionally self-conscious men or women who wouldn't mind a makeover but may not go so far as to humiliate yourself on The Swan or Queer Eye for the Straight Guy? However, if you're willing to get a few tips on how to clean up nice from some no-nonsense experts, then Guerilla Makeovers just might be for you.

Preserving the magic and fun of playing dress-up (minus the quibbling and bitchy disapproval associated with most makeover shows on television), the San Francisco-based Guerilla Makeovers is the brainchild of Jon Peahl. Peahl and a few of his friends started the organization not long after the phenomenon of reality television hit the nation a couple years ago. "We were sitting around in the living room, watching a makeover show, probably Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and we realized we knew a lot of people who could use a makeover," says Peahl. Not only did he and his friends know people who could use a makeover -- they knew they could probably do the makeovers themselves. Peahl decided to take matters into his own hands and start his own makeover consulting service. Since then, a busy week for Guerilla Makeovers has gone from four to six customers a week to four to six customers a day.

Guerilla Makeovers is primarily for entertainment purposes, according to Peahl, who hails from a travel and tourism background. "We initially thought it would be a great San Francisco experience for people coming to visit from out of town," he says, referring to the large out of state and Canadian contingent that takes advantage of Guerilla Makeover's services. At the same time, Peahl and staff have had clients ranging from folks who want to look spiffy while addressing the United Nations to bachelorettes readying themselves for a pre-party. Guerilla Makeovers has also done a few dog makeovers, including one that will be aired on Animal Planet in early spring.

But despite the entertainment allure, Peahl finds that his clients aren't simply doing the makeovers for fun, but out of a genuine desire to make changes to their personal style. "We've done makeovers for everyone from a 13-year old having a birthday party to a 67-year old woman who decided she wanted to date again after a period of mourning her husband," says Peahl, who describes a common theme in most of his clients: "These are usually people going through a major life change, whether it's a new job, new relationship, or just simply waking up and finding they've been in a rut for twelve years."

Luckily, clients desperate to make an inside-out change have a highly capable staff to count on at Guerilla Makeovers. Staff include: former runway models, former dancers, actors, clothing designers, and creators of custom cosmetics. Depending on a customer's needs, he or she is paired with one staff member who will be in charge of overseeing the makeover. The makeover typically begins with an in-depth consultation, says Peahl, in which a consultant discusses every aspect of a customer's lifestyle, such as what the customer does for fun; what his or her skincare regimen is; whether he or she likes to iron or dry-clean, etc.

"Every makeover varies, and some clients are only interested in certain things," says Peahl. According to Peahl, about 50% of his clients seek consultation for clothing only, while a third want assistance with hair styles. On the day of the makeover, a consultant meets the customer at the designated time in Union Square. The shopping and makeover experience is typically three to five hours long and can include anything from dieting tips to a new outfit to a day spa trip. Nothing is filmed, but before and after photographs are taken.

For Peahl, it's hard to pinpoint extreme, drastic changes in clients in the span of five hours. However, "we have had customers cry at the end of a makeover because they're so happy. And we've had some fairly comprehensive head to toe changes."

While Peahl often bills Guerilla Makeovers as San Francisco's answer to Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, he admits, "Reality is a lot more difficult than reality television, though we try to produce fairly similar results. We want to transition into a personal shopping service. The traditional view of the personal shopper is that it's a luxury for the rich. We want to flip that around and advocate for the average shopper."

One tip Peahl has for people who are interested in making a personal style about-face is that, "Change really starts from within. We can work miracles from the outside, but without the fundamental change in the way someone thinks, you won't see any lasting change. You need to want it first, then stick with it."

*Makeovers start at 10AM in Union Square