Diana Pierce isn't the only Alaska woman to wear coveralls, steel-toed boots, safety glasses, a hard hat and gloves. And she isn't the only Alaska woman to feel like she's lost her femininity to the challenges of ice, snow and cold.
Sending her thoughts on the subject to television talk show host Oprah Winfrey, Pierce won a glamorous makeover, became a guest on Winfrey's show and reclaimed what she thought she'd lost.
In September, the 39-year-old Kenai resident responded to an opportunity posed on Winfrey's Web site and submitted her thoughts on "feeling frumpy, losing my femininity, wanting to feel pretty again, and feeling better about myself and the way I look."
A short time later, she received a telephone call telling her she and two other women had been selected.
"They just called and told me over the phone," said Pierce, a single mom whose children are 12, 16 and 18. "I was very surprised."
On Sept. 22, a film crew from Anchorage and a television producer from Los Angeles flew to Kenai and spent the day following Pierce and her children.
"They even went to work with me," said Pierce, an operator at Agrium's fertilizer plant in Nikiski.
"They filmed me doing my job and filmed me at home. They interviewed me and asked questions."
The next day, Pierce headed to Chicago, where she and Darla, a mother of seven, and Iris, a widow with three children, spent three days being outfitted, having their hair and makeup done and being reminded how special they are.
"I got spoiled rotten," said Pierce.
The whirlwind three days began with makeup guru Kevyn Aucoin taking the women under his wing. Author of "Face Forward," Aucoin's clients include Julia Roberts, Tina Turner, Janet Jackson and other well-known celebrities.
"This was no little makeover," Pierce said. "It's amazing what he does. He's fabulous."
After working his magic on Winfrey's three guests, Aucoin left Chicago for his next assignment: makeup for Cher.
"The limo driver told me that he overheard (Aucoin) talking to Cher," Pierce said. "It was going to cost $4,500 for one makeup session."
Next, the women went shopping.
"We all piled in limos and went to Nordstroms," Pierce said. "We" included the film crew recording the adventure.
Each of the three women was assisted by Kithe Brewster to find an outfit for $2,500.
"All he does is dress movie stars," said Pierce of the consultant who works out of New York. "It was amazing. He knew every designer by looking at how they do their clothes."
Although the women were allowed to make decisions regarding the clothing selection, Pierce put herself in Brewster's hands.
"I said, 'This is the only time that someone who dresses movie stars is going to dress me. I'll wear whatever he picks out. I don't care what it is. I'll wear it," she said.
Coming in below budget, Pierce's new wardrobe pieces included a multicolored sequined skirt, a top make of sheer, purple fabric with sequins down the front and a pair of purple snakeskin-print boots with stiletto heels.
"They said I could take (the boots) back and get something else, but Oprah loved them so I can't get rid of them," Pierce said.
Topping it off was a rhinestone necklace and purple drop earrings.
The next day, Orlando Pita and his assistant Laurie Foley styled the women's hair.
Pita's client list is similar to Aucoin's and includes Julia Roberts, Madonna and Tina Turner.
"I told Orlando nobody would ever be able to cut my hair like this again," Pierce said of her new cut and color. "And he gave me his number in New York and said if I was ever in New York to call and he would cut it again."
Last on the agenda was appearing as guests on Winfrey's show, which aired Friday.
"I was the last one and I was extremely nervous," Pierce said. "I held the assistant's hand until it was time for me to go on. Once I went out, I didn't even remember what I said."
What Pierce does remember is mentioning her hometown.
"I made sure to say, 'Kenai, Alaska,'" said Pierce, who has lived in the Kenai area for more than 20 years.
Having returned home and trading in her stiletto heels for steel-toed boots and her sequins for coveralls, Pierce said the experience has changed her.
"I think it's hard for us women in Alaska to take time for ourselves and dress up to go anywhere," she said. "There are things we can do to make ourselves feel pretty. It might be as simple as nicer jeans or slacks or doing our nails or having our feet done. All those little things that make you feel pretty even when you have to deal with snow and cold and ice and all those things that make you feel unfeminine."
And Pierce said the experience reminded her that beauty goes deeper than skin.
"It really changed me -- not on the outside, but on the inside.
"I realized I want to talk about some of these things to other women. I want to get together some of my friends and meet new women and talk about uplifting things. To say, 'Hey, I need some support,'" she said. "Not the negative things we can get into, but the uplifting things and encourage one another in what happens in our day to day lives and help find solutions."
A video clip from the show, before and after photos of Pierce, information on the makeovers and opportunities to become guests on the show can be found on the World Wide Web at http://www.oprah. com/index.html.
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