Essence turns Dixon into a style leader

February 18, 2005|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

City Council President Sheila Dixon is one tough woman, whether working out at the gym or playing hardball politics at City Hall.

So, uh, Madam President Tough-As-Nails, what's the deal then with the honey-brown highlights, the sexy camisoles and the ... (gasp!) false eyelashes?!

The truth is, folks, Dixon's steely, "don't-mess-with-me, don't-mess-with Baltimore" exterior belies a softer, feminine side not often seen at council hearings or Board of Estimates meetings.

You might not have picked up on it, but the trained eyes at Essence magazine did, and - with the help of a makeup artist, a hairstylist and a fashion expert - gave Dixon a makeover.

She was one of three women in the public eye who received a style lift for a feature in the March issue, out on newsstands today.

So with one fancy haircut, a few false eyelashes, several highlights and a couple of new outfits, they've taken Dixon from traditional to stylish and sexy.

"My driver, when he picked me up, he didn't even recognize me," Dixon says, with a laugh, recalling the first reactions she got to her softer, new look. "This is like a dream of mine, to be in Essence. I've been reading the magazine for 20 years."

The makeover team at Essence - the leading African-American women's lifestyle magazine - had provided the driver for Dixon during two days' worth of pampering and primping in New York. Over 48 hours, they first highlighted, trimmed and layered what they called her "helmet hair," and swept the style into an easy, flirty flip.

Then they redid Dixon's face by defining her eyebrows, lengthening and curling her lashes, and accenting her cheeks in soft pink and her eyes in cool slate.

Focusing on eyes

"She has beautiful eyes," says Mikki Taylor, Essence's beauty director and cover editor. "She's one of those women, when she fastens those eyes on you, you know you better sit up and pay attention. So we just played those up."

Dixon, who usually wears makeup but had never been schooled as to what shades looked best on her smooth, caramel-colored skin, loves the look.

"I never wore false eyelashes. I didn't even wax my eyebrows until pretty late in life, which was like a couple years ago," she says. "But now I'm like, `Hey! When I'm dressing up sometime, when I go to black-tie events, I might do that [wear false eyelashes].' And I had never curled my lashes. Oh, no! But now I do, because I have nice, pretty long eyelashes."

Taylor says Dixon only needed a "tweaking," but a big change came from the wardrobe advice that experts at the magazine gave her.

As council president, Dixon, 51, usually wears suits in dark colors, with modest blouses or turtlenecks.

"Sheila walked in looking like the consummate politician - of decades gone by," says the intro to Dixon's before-and-after shots. "We needed to update her look to reflect the forward-thinking, modern woman she is today."

They've encouraged Dixon to dress in lighter colors, such as the soft lavender BCBG Max Azria suit she sports in the magazine spread, paired with a sexy black and purple camisole. They also suggest she wear her suits more fitted - showing off what six days at the gym gets her - and that she buy more feminine accessories.

Offsetting toughness

Dixon says she is eager to shed her self-described "professional casual" look and garner more of the compliments she received when she got back from New York three months ago.

"I do have that reputation of being tough, and that's because I'm very serious about what I do, but I do try to offset that," Dixon says. "So some of what I picked up from this, I'll do now. It's a much more feminine, sexier style."

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