Wednesday, June 20, 2007


"WW: New York, New York, it's a wonderful town..."

The long story:

In February, I was notified that I'd won a grand prize, this Grand Prize: One (1) Grand Prize - A hair cut/style by Serge Normant at Serge Normant for John Frieda® Salon; A personalized prescription of John Frieda® products; A trip to New York City (including economy airfare and hotel. A local winner will be provided door to door car service). Approximate retail value (“ARV”) of Grand Prize is $2000.

Anyhow, I was contacted by the PR agency in February and asked if I had specific dates to choose from or if I could choose any date. And the contact from the ad agency replied that they would have to find out when Serge Normant would be in town. Fast forward to late April when I was asked if I could fly out on June 17th, have my haircut and fly back on June 18th.

Oh and I could bring a guest! Well, there was no question as to who I'd bring - my mom. She's never been to NYC (neither had I) but she's older than I am and has wanted to go her entire life.

My weight:
Ugh, my weight - I've accepted the fact that I'm always going to have issues with my weight but have been working really so extra hard at losing weight.

I changed my workout routine and started weight training. The first week I was so sore and wanted to quit but I continued and man, has it paid off!

At last week's weigh in I was down 65 lbs since joining WW! I've since lost all the weight that was gained during the time my mom had the heart attack and the recovery process.

Ok, since joining WW I haven't bought any normal clothes - sure underwear and pajamas but nothing else as I have clothes from my different stages of fat over the years.

But my skinny fat jeans were fitting me like clown pants so it was time to buy new clothes.

All my life this has been a huge burden and has always reduced me to tears and this situation was not any different.

Leading up to it, I felt so sick and there were moments where I thought of declining the prize. I talked to my sister before clothes shopping and she told me something along the lines of "Don't focus on the size, you may not be the size you want to be but you'll get there - accept where you are now."

I reached for the size I wore pre-Graves disease and then a size down from there and then another size down.

For the first time in my life I've had to size down. All my life I've sized up and now I've not only sized down once but twice!

Yeah, I'm not where I want to be but I have to say that I do look eons better than where I once was!

I have another admission regarding my weight. I once saw and episode of Airline where they asked a passenger to buy an extra ticket because of her size. Now, this has never happened to me but all the sudden I became worried that such a thing might happen to me.

All of my life I've had this thing with scanning a room to see if I was the fattest person in the room. I haven't done that in a really long time but at the airport I did it and at that moment, felt confident that I would be okay.

SI: I'm really so proud of myself regarding SI! I haven't done so since my mom's recovery which really shows the personal strides I've taken.

Certainly there were moments especially leading up to this trip where I really felt the need to do so. At times, life can be so overwhelming and it's always been what I've turned to to deal with stress.

I can't say it's been easy not injuring myself - I'm not at that point yet. Rather I've been using every precaution not to do so, making SI the last option that I take rather than the first.

Back onto the trip:
We were only supposed to stay in NYC for that one day - fly in on Sunday and fly back on Monday but I asked if they could fly us out a day early and I would pay the additional hotel night's fee.

Thankfully they agreed!

We flew out early Saturday morning on American Airlines - they flew us 1st class.

Which is so crazy as I am the thriftiest person in the world and would never fly first class but I'm telling you flying first class on someone else's dime isn't bad!

Anyhow, first class where they served breakfast. While the masses have to pay $3 for M&M's, I got breakfast and none of this plastic cup crap - they serve in glasses!

Oh and if you sit in the first row in 1st class, you can't have any carry on with you during take off and landing. They made us store our purses overhead!

Hello, first class flyer here. How dare you take away my purse!

Did you know that first class on American Airlines has it's own magazine? Heidi Klum was on the cover - that magazine was more interesting than the one for the masses featuring Jamie King.

We had a layover at O'Hare where I saw a cardboard cutout of Anderson Cooper! Then we boarded a different plane and man were we styling this time.

As soon as the plane took off, the flight attendant asked if we wanted anything to drink.

When they serve you your drinks you get warm nuts - cashews, pistachios and almonds. Guess which nuts I hate - cashews & pistachios so I just ate the almonds - all five almonds!

Then they come around asking what you want for lunch - turkey wrap or chicken salad.

I got the turkey wrap and my mom got the chicken salad - and then the flight attendant goes around with two bottles of wine: chardonnay & cabernet sauvignon.

I just love cabernet sauvignon and far be it from me to decline a glass. Nevermind that I'm a lightweight and 1/2 a glass with dinner gets me loopy. My mom hadn't had a drink since last year - before the heart attack but she asked for a little with lunch - so here we were, two light weights up in the air and laughing our heads off over nothing.

Oh and the guy who was sitting in front of me may have possibly been an air marshal because he was huge like a football player and refused all the amenities from first class minus the cookie. Plus, he got up and pretended that he needed to go to the bathroom at one point where he quickly scanned the plane and gave a look like "Shoot me a look and I'll drop kick your ass on this plane!" Of course I don't really know if he was an air marshal as you can't really ask, can you? I have to say, in future recounts of this story - he will be!

Anyhow, I spotted the driver right away as he was carrying a sign with my name on it.

Oh and further proof that I had too much to drink while in the plane. When you exit LaGuardia, there are these railings which obviously have apples on them but when I saw them upon arrival I thought they were pumpkins and I thought to myself "Is New York known for it's pumpkins?" It later clicked that they were apples not pumpkins!

Anyhow the driver was very sweet, he wasn't sure where he was taking us at first and had to make a couple of phone calls. Then he mentioned that he was told that he was picking me up for some sort of promotion for Glamour magazine and he called my mom and I the Glamour Girls.

We stayed at The Grand Hyatt New York and we had planned on hitting the museums the next day but everyone was telling my mom to take the bus tour so we went down to ask about it - simply ask and before I know it, the woman buys us two day passes for the bus tour.

And off we headed to Times Square to hop on the night tour. I have to say that if you're only in town for a limited time, especially if it's your first time ever, the bus tour is fabulous!

You get to see a lot in a short amount of time - like Cliff Notes of the city.

The next day we were walking to Times Square and ended up finding a street fair so we shopped around there for a while and then headed off to the bus tour. My mom wanted to have lunch in Little Italy so we got off on that stop and were a bit lost as Chinatown is so massive compared to teeny, tiny Little Italy. At one point my mom fell which worried me that perhaps she was overexerting herself. Once we found Little Italy, she felt better and we ate lunch and dessert there. Then we hopped back on the bus with no real plans at that point. Headed back to Times Square and then she mentioned wanting to hit the street fair again which we did. I could tell that she was really exhausted at that point and I forced her to sit down for a while.

After some time she had enough energy to walk back to the hotel and then we just crashed once we were there. I mentioned that we should consider just staying in because she was so exhausted and I was really worried about her. She took a nap and I ended up falling asleep soon after.

After a few hours, she woke up and said "Get up, I'm not spending my last night in New York staying in a hotel room!" I asked her if she was okay because I was fine staying in if she needed to but she insisted. So, off we went again to Times Square to do the night tour again - this time earlier than the night before.

Photo of the Fuller "Flatiron" building I took on the 2nd night tour.

Oh about the tours, they seem to take different paths each time so you end up seeing different things while on the same tour. While on the tour, she spotted a little deli close to Bryant Park and mentioned that we should pick up dinner there after the tour, which we ended up doing.

It really was the perfect day, I couldn't have asked for anything more at that point.

Now for the haircut:

We spent that morning in the hotel room up until an hour before check out and then spent the rest of the time in the lobby of the hotel because another driver was supposed to take us from the hotel to the Serge Normant salon.

Ah, my hair! Now, this is a rather strange prize for me to have won because I have always had issues with my hair. As a child, I had rather thick hair which was always tangled and my mom would fix my hair every morning, curling and styling it as it was rather long.

In fact, the first time I was ever caught injuring myself was when I was five. I hated how my hair looked and I started hitting myself and my mom caught me.

In the fifth grade my mom said either I had to get up every morning to curl my hair or else I'd have to get a perm, which I did. Along with the perm came the ultra short haircut which I wasn't expecting. I spent that entire year looking like Greg Brady!

Before being diagnosed with Graves Disease, the majority of my hair fell out and I looked like a balding man with a mullet.

When my hair grew back it, it grew back very thin. When I wear it in a pony tail, the circumference of it is smaller than that of a dime. Very thin!

I don't even remember the last time I had it professionally cut. Post-Graves, I've been cutting it myself. Just a simple choppy bob - very choppy as I'm cutting it myself.

I refer to my hair as "Buddha hair" as I don't have much hair and from certain angles look rather bald.

I wanted my mom to get the haircut as I felt she would appreciate it more but when I asked the PR agency about it they said they couldn't transfer the prize due to legal issues so I had to have the haircut.

The actual haircut started off late because the salon (which is a whole new salon - they just opened it in what was the meat district) they were doing a photo shoot there for British Glamour so it was me and then those people - that was it but they were focusing on those people first.

The contact person from the pr agency was there and as soon as we walked in she came up to us and was so sweet, she really took care of us. Because it was scheduled at 2:00 p.m. we were so pressed for time - we got there right at two because it's one way and some of the streets were blocked and it's new so the driver was totally confused - it doesn't look like it's open yet because there is all this construction.

So, Lauren - the contact person asked if she could get us lunch or anything and I wasn't hungry but my mom is insulin dependent and needed to eat. My mom was getting mad because I was insisting she eat something and she kept saying no. And I asked Lauren to please get my mom something because she's diabetic and needed to eat.

Serge came over and introduced himself - explained that he was running behind because of the photo shoot and looked at my hair - talked to us a bit.

Now the #1 question that everyone asks me is if he's a snob.

Anytime I'm presented with an opportunity I happen to think of the best case scenario and the worst case. I always hope for the best but tend to focus on the worst, so as not to be disappointed.

In this case however, I didn't think he was going to be a snob. I had seen him on Oprah years ago where he was on with Julia Roberts, he's done her hair for years and even did her hair when she won the Oscar.

I have always found that Julia Roberts is very down to earth, humble and genuine. So, I figured that she would surround herself with good people.

There was one interview where she was on the set of Steel Magnolias and she mentions that everyone on the set was complaining about little things with the exception of Dolly Parton. Dolly wouldn't complain at all and that really had an impact on her.

And you know how much I love Dolly so I figured Dolly + Julia + Serge = Good People!

Anyhow, it started off late - maybe like at 3:00 - maybe later? I don't know as there wasn't a clock around. The salon is rather small. There is a huge chandelier and then some pony hair ottomans in the middle and then huge mirrors on the side with the chairs in front. Really pretty and they've got brown and white towel lined up in the shampoo area.

Oh, Serge asked how often I get my hair cut, etc.. and I mentioned that I cut my own hair - that I just start hacking away at it and he gasped and gave me a look of horror, then looked at my mom and said "Mother!"

Months ago I tried Clairol Shine Aid in my hair and that really damaged my hair so I had reddish streaks in the front. And Serge asked if I had colored it or what was going on and I explained that I had used that Shine Aid and he was shocked at how it damaged my hair.

And he said he couldn't believe a product would cause so much damage.

I told him I was wanting to grow my hair out but he was more than welcome to do anything he wanted - I was up for anything and he suggested a shag haircut which kinda made my heart sink. My mom has pictures of herself with a shag from the 70's and I always thought it was the most unflattering hairstyle she's ever had - well, that and the frosted tips. Oh and last year when she had blond highlights put in.

Ack - once again rambling on! But I was up for anything and said that was fine!

They washed my hair and then he started cutting away - he is genius! He cut off all the damaged area - I kinda have bangs - haven't had any since middle school but these are just a small part to the side and the whole thing is wispy and gives me more volume.

While he was cutting my hair I mentioned that I had seen him on Oprah and he was so humble about it that you would have thought I said "I saw you at 711, buying a Slurpee!"

Seriously, he ranks up there with Dolly and SJP. Very genuine and beyond sweet!

John Frieda, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Serge Normant at the opening of the John Frieda Salon in New York taken from Elle.com

I asked him who were his favorite celebrities to work on and he said "Julia Roberts of course, Sarah Jessica Parker, Julianne Moore and Elizabeth Hurley. But I love them all!"

He mentioned that I have a lot of natural shine on top which is funny as my sister has always said that my hair is rather dull.

I mentioned that I don't have too much hair to work with and how the majority of it fell out Pre-Graves. And he said "You have good hair, I'll give it more volume!"

Then he asked "Are you healthy now?" and I said yes, with the exception of my weight that I'm really focusing on losing weight and he said "Oh, don't worry about your weight! As long as you're healthy, that's all that matters!"

He then mentioned how beautiful my mom was and I mentioned that she had a heart attack in December. He couldn't believe it "He said, she looks so healthy, so beautiful!" He then asked if she had a history of heart problems and I mentioned that she's also diabetic and we suspect that the medicine she was on for her diabetes lead to the heart attack. And then she said "Oh, that's why you were insisting that she eat something, because you know better!"

Then he asked me "Do you think she'd like a shampoo and blowout?" To which I said "Oh, yes!" So, he sent his assistant over to ask her but she felt that it was too much, the entire trip was too perfect and that was offering too much so she didn't accept. Although I was screaming from the other side of the salon "Do it mom!"

After cutting my hair, they put a glosser with a hint of color and then he styled my hair. At that moment I felt like a superstar, I don't know how to describe it. It just seemed like it was too much for me and if it's the best thing that could ever happen in my life - I am ever so grateful for it have ever happened in my life! He was dancing around as as he was styling my hair and at one point said, "Mama is watching!"

The second that he finished styling my hair it was 4:00 which was the time the driver was supposed to pick us up to take us to the airport. I had my digital camera hoping to take photos at the salon but there was no time. It was like freakin' Cinderella - clock struck and my dream was coming to an end. So sadly, no pictures of the salon! But you can see one here from New York Magazine:

Serge hugged my mom and I and wished us both good health. My mom said to him "Good luck in your new salon!" As they had the grand opening a month ago. And he said "I will have luck, you two have brought me luck!" And he told my mom "Next time you're in town you'll be the one getting the haircut!"

He's like the Kevyn Aucoin of hair. For a long time I dreamed of meeting Kevyn and having him make me up - especially when my vitiligo went mad. Sadly that dream never came true but it kinda, sorta did in a way with my hair.

Then Lauren said that she had this huge gift bag filled with John Frieda products. She asked if I wanted to take it then or if I wanted to, she could FedEx them to me.

We were carrying on so I asked her to send them to me. They arrived the next morning and I received not only the entire John Frieda Brilliant Brunette line but also a ton of products from the Frizz-Ease line.

We then got in the car and went to the airport. While at the airport I saw the same Anderson Cooper cardboard cutout I'd seen in Chicago and you don't know how tempted I was to take a picture next to it with my superstar haircut but I was afraid that airport security would tackle me for doing so.

I'm still trying to make myself believe that it wasn't all a dream. Especially to have gone from one extreme to the other - all of December and the months following my mom's heart attack when I would wake up and have to remind myself that I wasn't trapped in a nightmare to this - all of it - just so beyond perfection.

Quoting Oprah now "God can dream a bigger dream than we can dream for ourselves."

This for me was beyond my wildest dreams, everything was so perfect - the flight out there, the time spent in the city, Serge and the haircut!

My sister asked me to take a picture of myself when I returned home - it took us a while as there were delays and layovers. Mind you, I look quite scary 99% of the time as it is and this picture was taken at around 4:30 A.M. EST, more than twelve hours after having my hair cut. I was wearing so much sunblock that I decided not to wear makeup that day as it was irritating my skin so this is me, sans makeup, looking scarier than normal with a superstar haircut which went flat after the long flight: Me.

Not the best photo obviously but it was the only one I took as I was beyond exhausted and I do believe that Cinderella looked quite crappy post-midnight also!

Since I'm actually publishing this on July 2nd but started writing this out on June 20th:

It's been two weeks now since the haircut and I'm still having trouble accepting that it wasn't all a beautiful dream. I wish I could think of a word that best describes this experience. The first couple of days after returning from the trip I'd have moments where I'd end up full out sobbing because it was that perfect!

So, two weeks ago was the haircut and two weeks from now is my birthday. Despite the negativity of this past year, I have got to say I know that this will be the best decade yet! I was so lost in my 20's and would have easily declined this prize. Even the smallest effort to improve myself hasn't gone unnoticed, unrewarded.

I'm not where I want to be but someday I will get there and I hope that it's greater than I envision it to be! I hope this is the first of many good things to come but if it isn't - that's okay because to have had this. This entire experience has just opened my spirit that much more to a better me and I'm ready to walk whichever path life leads me down.


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