How Far Can We Push Three Unsuspecting Makeup Artists?

I asked for ridiculous looks at free makeup counters. Find out if the customer is always right.
Publish date:
May 13, 2011
sephora, makeup forever

My Assignment:

Go to 3 make-up stores and get 3 make-overs: Jersey Shore, Vampire and a black-eye.

Makeover #1: Snooki

On a crappy rainy Wednesday two top secret Janepratt interns and I headed to Sephora. After a few minutes of wandering, a hip looking girl stopped me in the Benefit aisle, “Do you need any help?” she asked.

Yes, I need to look like Snooki, I thought, But why would someone like me would want to look like Snooki?! Commit. I took a deep breath and launched into an impromptu story: I was a schoolteacher in the Bronx and I’d just started dating one of the school’s security guards, Vinny. He was 6 years younger than me and went to the gym three times a day. I was crazy about him, but worried that I wasn’t his type.

“I need you to help me look like the kind of girl Vinny usually dates,” I said, “He’s into Italian girls...”

She picked up a bronzer.

“…who like to party.”

She grabbed some blue-eye-shadow and liquid liner.

“He’s from Jersey Shores,” I added.

“Like Snooki?”

“Exactly! Can you make me look like Snooki?!?”

Her expression said, that’s a terrible idea, but she sat me in a stool anyway and started applying base and then bronzer. “Darker,” I told her, “More Italian.”

It took a lot of encouragement, but eventually I looked sweet potato tan. “I’ve never changed myself for a man before!” I beamed.

“You shouldn’t have to,” she said, clearly struggling with the ‘customer is always right’ philosophy, “He should like you for you.”

“I agree,” I pulled a comb from my purse and teased my hair into a Snooki poof, “But it’s fun to date someone who helps me let my hair down.”

“How did you two meet?” she asked.

"Well, I recently started drinking…”

I told her the story of the drunken staff party where Vinny and I first hooked up. Then I listed all the ways I’d become irresponsible since dating Vinny and how fun it was.

“Can I ask you a personal question?” She interrupted me.

“Of course.”

As she struggled to find the right words, I started to panic. I’d blown my cover. Is this for a magazine? I imagined her asking,

“Do you ever dress up in sexy costumes for Vinny?”

“Oh totally!” I answered with relief, “He loves playing fireman.”

“I’ve done that sort of stuff for a guy before too!” she confessed.10 minutes and few more juicy stories later and my Snooki make-over was complete. While I looked horrifying, I discovered two things: Absolutely nothing fazes people who work retail. And I should actually consider using some bronzer.

Makeover #2: Sparkly vampire As soon as we walked into my second location, Sephora #2, an outgoing employee (a little Jersey Shore herself) came up to me and said, “Oh my God, I love your Snooki poof.”

“Can you help me?” I said, like it was a matter of life or death, “I just red boxed Twilight Eclipse and now I wanna look like a Vampire soooo bad.”

“Totally doable. You need to be super pale—”

"Can you make me sparkle like the vampires when they’re in the sun?”

“Totally.” She reached for what I thought was a bottle of perfume, took it and sprayed it on my hand. Glitter. Everywhere. It was magical.

“You should own this product anyway,” she said, “You can use it all over.”

“Good call. I’ll put it on my boobs and my vajayjay.”

“Oh my God you’re hilarious,” she hit my shoulder, “How old are you?”


“Shut-up! You act just like a teenager!”No need for a full explanation, she began creating my vampire look. Fifty bronze-removing wet wipes, a layer of pale white base, red eyeliner, and a whole lot of glitter later and I felt just like Dakota Fanning in Twilight-16, blonde, invincible, immortal.

Until an angry manager interrupted us, angrily asking if we had the company's permission to take photos in the store.

"Someone definitely contacted publicity," I lied.

"So if go call the store manager, he'll know about this."

"Of course!"

As he stormed off to call someone, my new friend turned to us and said, "You should probably leave right now." (We ran.)

Makeover #3: The Black Eye

Now it was time for the ultimate test: getting a makeover counter to give me a black eye. Could I do it? I wiped off my Vampire face and we headed into Make Up Forever.

A middle aged black woman walked up to me and asked if I needed assistance.

“Yes… I have a strange request, could you give me a black eye?”

Without a moment’s hesitation she said yes, but I needed an appointment. “Do you need the black eye today?” she asked.


“Unfortunately we’re fully booked.”

I shifted my weight from one foot to the other, trying to look like I was stressed out, “The thing is,” I launched into another fully improvised tale, “I’m a hostess at a restaurant, and I don’t want to work tonight. I called in sick but my boss didn’t believe me. So then I told him, fine, I’m not actually sick, I had a bad fall. He didn’t believe that either and now he’s making me come in. But the thing is, if I have a huge black eye, he can’t make me seat tables.”

She looked at me for a moment, like she was trying to decide something and then she said, “I got it.”

I followed to the other side of the store. Outside of her boss's sightline she started applying purple cream eye shadow, and then hints of black. Unlike the other girls, she didn’t speak to me once. I was oddly touched by the gesture. It was as if we’d engaged in a secret pact one woman to another; I needed something that she was in the position to give, and even if it meant against the rules, she was willing to help me out.

When she finished she took a step back to look at her work. “That’s the best I can do without an appointment,” she said, “But it should be enough.” At that, she walked away.

As cheesy as it sounds, the generosity of my three make-up artists had shown me that people are more willing to walk in someone else's shoes than I ever would have imagined. Sure, I got stares on the street as I walked home with my black eye, and my gut reaction is to interpret any attention from strangers as judgment. But for all I knew, these people were looking at me with compassion and thinking, My God, I hope she breaks up with Vinny soon.