Myrna Sears believes God made everyone beautiful. She and photographer Jay Perskie have set out to prove it with some man-made enhancements -- carefully placed strokes of makeup, lots of hair spray and the occasional feather boa.
The cosmetologist/photographer team has made over and photographed 125 clients in just one week, after opening Dazzle By Perskie Photographics on Oct. 19 in Marley Station mall.
There's no sign of the flood of business subsiding.
The new "glamour" photography salon -- head shots only -- is booked solid for the next three weeks, Sears says.
Why do customers so eagerly shellout $19.95 (an opening special and $30 off the regular sitting price) and spend two hours having makeup artists smooth foundation on their skin, contour their eyes, outline their lips, curl, spray and teasetheir hair and drape their shoulders with black velvet, royal blue tulle or gold lame?
Simple, says Sears -- to look like a million bucks and to feel even better.
"We create a Hollywood-type look," she says. "People can't believe what they look like. They feel pampered. They come in and play. It's their day."
Dazzle asks customers tocome in with no makeup and with clean, dry hair. They're given smocks to wear, leaving their shoulders bare.
The sitting price includes a consultation to determine which colors work best, a complete make-over by licensed cosmetologists or makeup artists, a dry-hair styling and costumes consisting of shawls or scarves in demure pastel or seductive leopard skin, dangling earrings, rhinestone broaches, lacy black gloves and classy pillbox hats. If they choose, clients can completely alter their look with a wig or false eyelashes.
Photographers give each person three distinct looks by shooting them in various costumes with various color backdrops. Packages of photos start at$29.95.
On a recent day at Dazzle, an elderly woman and a mother and teen-age daughter sat in swivel chairs, facing large mirrors illuminated by vanity lights.
Karyn Bengermino, supervisor of makeup, worked on Ashley Tate, a student at Archbishop Martin Spalding High School. Bengermino contoured Ashley's blue eyes in natural tones, outlined her lips in blood red, teased her straight, shoulder length brown hair into a wild mane and draped ruby red and black tulle around her shoulders.
Ashley barely recognized the girl in the mirror, who looked like she'd stepped from the pages of Cosmo. She'd come to Dazzle with her mother for fun, she said, but also with thoughts of someday pursuing a modeling career.
Like Ashley, some modeling hopefuls comein to compile a portfolio, Bengermino says. Some customers want photos for gifts. Others want a boost of self-esteem. Or they're high school students looking for better senior portraits. Most come for the fun of playing "dress up."
"We try to focus on the look that they want for the picture," says Bengermino. "If they go for something sexy, we'd use richer colors more than pastels. You would put pastels on someone who wants a softer look. The theme of the picture is what we're always trying to create."
One fortyish woman, presented with color proofs of herself smiling seductively in a leopard-skin hat and fur, laughed and said jokingly, "I've always been a vamp at heart."
Dazzle co-owner Perskie has learned from 25 years as a professional photographer that the average person doesn't like to be photographed,usually fearing how he or she will look.
But because of the make-overs, "a lot of people are coming in who would never come to have a picture taken. They enjoy the experience and love the way they look. They leave here, and they look happy."
Sears and Perskie have beennext-door neighbors for about 10 years, but have known each other only casually.
Sears, a licensed aesthetician, has owned "All that Glitters" nail salon in Pikesville for five years. Perskie -- third generation of a family business that served as official White House photographer for Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson and Carter -- ran a studio in Glen Burnie until April and still runs two others in Baltimore and Washington.
About a year ago, Perskie had considered getting into "glamour" photography, but ultimately decided against branching into the unfamiliar field of cosmetology.
But then,coincidentally, Sears approached Perskie with that very idea. They pooled their talents and gave it a trial run at Sears' Pikesville salon.
"We set up the camera and did one Polaroid and said 'this thingis fantastic,' " Perskie says. "With the greatest photography and this kind of makeup, by the end of that day we knew this was a winner."