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How Not to Nominate

Monday, October 15, 2012
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Clinton Kelly and Stacy London host the reality TV show "What Not to Wear." Photo from TLC.

Dear Miriam,

My sister is really pretty and a great person, but I think she dresses terribly. She works in a lab, which is her excuse, and she's a student, so she doesn't have a lot of money to buy new clothes. I want to nominate her for the television show "What Not To Wear," but I'm afraid she'll be really insulted. How can I nominate her so she sees it's for her own good and not just to embarrass her?

Signed,
How Not To Nominate

Dear Not,

Let me start by saying that I am totally obsessed with "What Not To Wear." I cannot get enough of it. Watching someone go from a schlumpy mess to polished and put together in the span of an hour-long program always seems like a small miracle. (And the schlumpy-turned-polished episodes are far superior to the slutty-turned-reserved episodes). I have teared up more than once. Inevitably, the "contributor" shares how the week-long makeover changed her both inside and out. Her confidence and competence turned out to be linked to her wardrobe, and the makeover has made her a happier, more productive person. (Yes, it's always "her." They used to make over men, but, alas, no more — not that there aren't plenty of eligible candidates out there.) This is a satisfying, humbling and emotional voyeuristic experience.

All that being said, the idea of putting someone you know and love through the associated humiliation isn't necessarily something I can recommend. The secret footage, the elaborate ambush, the crying on national television...  The $5,000 the show gives participants to buy a new wardrobe may be adequate compensation, but this episode featuring your sister would be on reruns forever. People would recognize her. It's a far cry from a straightforward path to better clothes.

Here's another option: For your sister's next birthday, recruit all the family and friends who normally give her gifts to go in together to hire her a personal shopper and buy her gift cards to a few professional but affordable stores in her area. Really do your homework and find a personal shopper who understands her student lifestyle and won't try to make her into someone she's not. You could do the same thing with  a make-up artist and hair stylist. She could have a "What Not To Wear" experience without it being televised.

If you're truly set on Stacy and Clinton being the key to your plan, then consider asking your sister if you could nominate her. At the very least, she deserves to know that you think her appearance is unacceptable. There have been a handful of episodes over the years where the subject of the makeover either nominates herself or is knowingly nominated by a friend. She still gets the ambush and the full treatment, but she has an inkling that it's coming and may be spared some of the mortification of finding out for the first time what her friends and family think about her on national television.

If you do nominate her and she does get chosen, please remember that both of you will be televised, so anything you say should be considered carefully. If you nominate her and she doesn't get chosen, you can still arrange a home-grown makeover as described above. Whichever way things go, be sure to emphasize that you love and support your sister. Remind her that you want what's best for her, and you know that she has a better shot at a successful career if she looks the part.

Be well,
Miriam

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