For mothers of young children, the sound of running water usually means "bath time" and an attempt, between yelps and protests, to wash away the remnants of children's art projects, backyard camping expeditions and mac-and-cheese dinners.
The event is just one of the many selfless tasks a mother performs every day. Today is not every day.
The running water at Spa West in Westlake is meant for relaxation, to alleviate the stress, worries and problems that afflict mind, body and soul. The running water signifies the beginning of a day dedicated to Allison Fletcher.
A 32-year-old mother of two - Leah, 5, who loves makeup, and Mason, 2 - Allison works as a special-education teacher for sixth-graders in Euclid. She's been married to Chris, a supervisor, for six years. The couple lives in Twinsburg, where they moved from Ravenna to be closer to work and downtown Cleveland.
"We were ready to move to Cleveland," she says. "There is just more to do."
She finds time to spend with her children and husband - whether it's a trip to the library, where Leah listens to story hour, or taking in a movie, preferably a scary one - relegating her appearance to the last thing on her mind.
Chris works at night, leaving the morning routine of getting everyone up and ready to Allison. She also has to drop Mason off at daycare and make sure Leah is ready for her kindergarten class.
"I shower, dry my hair and put a clip in it," she says of her 30-minute morning routine before tackling the task of changing diapers, finding matching shoes and socks, brushing teeth, cooking breakfast, packing lunches and being on time for work.
Stylist Jennifer Kovalak takes into account Fletcher's hectic morning routine when discussing the impending haircut and color. There's no time for an elaborate style that requires a curling iron or hot rollers. Fletcher would like a classic style that's quick and easy to maintain, but is unsure of what she really wants.
They decide to make her hair, currently light brown from an at-home attempt to become blonde, darker by weaving in pieces of brown with blonde for dimension and dyeing the bottom half of her hair a darker brown.
"I like to have fun with color," Fletcher says as she runs through the list of colors she's dyed her hair. One color she would never do? "Red!" she declares. "It just wouldn't look good on me."
As for the length, Fletcher gazes at a picture of Jennifer Aniston and gushes that she wants hair like that. Who doesn't? So it's decided to keep her length, which falls past her chin, in an attempt to grow her hair out. Along the way, layers are cut in, split ends are chopped off and her style is rejuvenated.
"Oh, it looks good," she exclaims as Kovalak turns her around to the mirror. "I love it."
Next stop is makeup. Aesthetician Michelle Rappoli uses neutral shadow as eyeliner to define Fletcher's blue eyes, mascara to open them up and lipstick and lip gloss, a far cry from her everyday chapstick, to complete the look.
Standing tall and confident, Fletcher takes her place in the spotlight, ready for her picture to be taken. Already happy with her life, Fletcher now has a look that reflects it.
"I'm extremely pleased," she says. "They did an awesome job. It's just wonderful."
- Kim Schneider
Makeover by: Charles Scott Salon and Spa, Rocky River
A compulsive contest entrant, Jennifer Lane never expects to win. She signs up for anything, whether the prize is a free vacation or $25. "But I have never won anything until now," she admits.
Lane's luck changed as she entered the world of motherhood seven months ago. Her son, Hezekiah, has been a huge joy in her life, but definitely keeps her busy.
Before Hezekiah, Lane taught high-school-level French for several years. Now she finds herself a full-time mom. A makeover is exactly what Lane, 26, needs to free her from what she refers to as "the world of spit-up, dirty diapers and no sleep."
Her husband, a urology resident at The Cleveland Clinic, is only worried whether he'll recognize her at the end of the day.
With a look of excited anticipation, Lane gives the stylists at Charles Scott Salon and Spa in Rocky River free rein. "They're professionals and I trust them," she says. "Besides, I would never know what to ask for."
So, tugging this way and that on Lane's hair, Chaz Henline, stylist and owner of Charles Scott salons in Rocky River and Westlake, plots a plan of action. He notices that her thick, curly hair has been cut too thin on the bottom and too short on the top, so he decides to bring those layers closer together in order to better frame her face. A shorter hairstyle, he says, will enhance her facial features and make her eyes more dramatic.
With no objection from Lane, just an ear-to-ear smile and a nod of the head, the stylists get to work.
"What we want to create is a structurally sound haircut that Jennifer can re-create at home," Henline explains as his scissors fly through Lane's hair. Still smiling, Lane listens as he gives her a crash course on how to style her new 'do using just her hair dryer.
He says the shorter hairstyle gives her the option of wearing it curly if she's pressed for time or straight if she dries it. It's the low-maintenance, great-looks haircut for which Lane was hunting.
Color specialist Maryl Velbeck says Lane's hair needs a little more life and a lot more color. Using four different colors of gold, chocolate and cinnamon, Velbeck adds a radiant highlighting shine to Lane's dull hair. "This will give her hair a soft, subtle, multidimensional effect that goes throughout the hair," says Velbeck.
While four colors seem like a lot, she points out that the added colors mean less maintenance in the future. "This hair color is perfect for someone who doesn't have time to dye their hair very often," Velbeck adds.
Accentuating the new cut and color, makeup artist Simona Pavel goes for a natural look. Focusing mainly on the eyes, Pavel adds taupe to Lane's eyes and some shimmer to her skin.
Rinsed, cut and dried, Lane stands in front of the mirror, practically speechless. "It's so great," she says, "Wow, I love it."
- Beth Stallings
Makeover by: Ohio Clinic Skin Care and Day Spa
Beth Vance sweeps into her makeover on a gust of snow straight out of December (even though it's really March). While the icy wind howls outside, the staff at Ohio Clinic Skin Care and Day Spa gives the mother of four a positively summery look.
"I was at work until 3 a.m. last night," the petite blonde says as she sits down for her "before" photo. "With the baby, the schedule just seemed like a better idea."
Vance, a police and fire dispatcher in North Olmsted, chose the 7 p.m.-to-3 a.m. shift so she could spend mornings with her 8-month-old baby, afternoons with her 17-year-old daughter and college-aged sons, and evenings with her brand-new husband. (They celebrated their first anniversary on Valentine's Day.)
You could say she's been having an adventurous year.
But through all the changes, one thing has remained constant: her look. "I try to hurry up and shower in the morning, sit the baby on the bed, hurry up and get ready for the day while talking to the baby so he doesn't cry," she says of her morning routine.
Today, her morning at the spa begins with a spray-on tan courtesy of massotherapist Nikki Nockowski.
"Summer is my busiest time," she says of the procedure. "It improves your real tan, makes it a little darker." Vance emerges from the room looking a little more glowing, but still natural.
Next, aesthetician Mary Weeast gives Vance a minty, seaweed-based alginate facial to cleanse and hydrate her face for the makeup application.
For Vance's fair skin, Weeast employs pinks and plums from Jane Iredale. She brushes on a light Dermalogica foundation, explaining that using your fingers can pull the foundation off even as you're applying it. Vance has been searching for a foundation that isn't so dark, and Weeast suggests using a tinted moisturizer.
To really make Vance's eyes pop, Weeast brushes a tiny bit of navy-blue mascara onto the tips of the lashes. She uses a raspberry shade on Vance's lips and cautions that a neutral lip liner is best.
"It'll work with just about any color you wear," she explains.
Vance's last stop is the chair of stylist and colorist Kevin Fisher. She finally chopped her long, straight hair a couple of months ago, taking it up to a shoulder-length, layered cut. But Fisher wants to do more.
He cuts three inches off the back and razors layers from the crown to the ends. He also texturizes the ends and gives her a bigger, angled bang.
For color, Vance had been driven into the hands of her daughter, who wielded a crochet hook and highlighting cap. "It was like torture!" she recalls. This time, Fisher uses highlights and lowlights to give Vance's hair a truly dimensional look with a lot of punch.
"It's a much more natural look, less like something out of a bottle," he says.
The snow outside has, if anything, gotten worse. But as Vance sashays past the receptionist, she receives a big, "You look beautiful, honey!" Her shimmering hair, bright and rosy face, and glowing skin give everyone a vision of the summer to come.
- Amber Matheson
Makeover by: Dawn Nicole Salon, Bainbridge
Jackie Williams hasn't been to a salon for a hair styling since before she became pregnant with her now 1-year-old twins. For her, the 35-minute drive to Dawn Nicole Salon in Bainbridge is more than worth it, since Williams does all of her own cutting and coloring.
A mother of three daughters, Williams, 35, says she doesn't have a style right now, because she feels as if she's been pregnant almost continually for more than three years. "I had Aaliyah and then never got back to an acceptable weight to go out and buy a new wardrobe," she explains. "It's hard to dress yourself when you go up to 194 pounds. I'm having a difficult time trying to look cute."
Long overdue for a haircut, Williams says she just couldn't find time. Whenever she tried at home, something would happen with the babies or Aaliyah would be at her ankles.
Whether her husband, Anton, noticed that she needed a haircut or not, he submitted her as a candidate for a makeover without her knowledge. "He surprised me right before Valentine's Day," she says. "He calls me to the computer, and there it was: 'Congratulations, Jackie. You have just won a makeover.' And I was thinking, Oh my God, I'm going to get a tummy tuck. You know how you dream."
Williams' only guidelines for her style are that her gray be covered and her hair remain manageable so she can continue to work out.
Angela Ruffin, who specializes in ethnic hair, is shocked that Williams has no expectations, especially since she's never worked with her before.
After cutting Williams' hair so her oval face looks fuller, and giving it movement so her hair will just fall into place without shaping, Ruffin moves to color.
Holding Redken samples to Williams' scalp, Ruffin says, "I'm going to bring out the little bit of brownish that I see in your eyes, complement your skin tone and make you look more natural by putting you in a caramellike-"
Williams interrupts: "No. Surprise me."
She says she's so relaxed she could fall asleep right in the chair as Ruffin shampoos her hair and the chocolate, mocha brown color with caramel highlights makes its debut. "This made it all worthwhile. Could you wash it again?"
As for the hairstyle, Ruffin chooses to curl some pieces under and flip others up for the full look that Williams says she likes when she goes out.
Williams says having twins prevents her from ever getting deep sleep and she'd like to get rid of the resulting bags under her eyes. Makeup designer Harvey Holocker not only removes the bags, but also melts 10 years off her face.
"I want to do a very realistic style of makeup, something that is fairly simple for you to do yourself," he explains. "You don't have too much eyelids showing, so I was thinking a smoky black to soften it."
Holocker uses color sparingly, only on her lips and cheeks. A berry lipstick mixed with a darker lip liner complements the ashy glow of her eyes. With every step, he shows her how to apply the makeup so she can replicate what he's doing.
"I feel beautiful," Williams says, staring at the reflection of a woman she can barely believe is her.- Kimberly Dick