Johnsons experience 'makeover'

Spring in Minnesota is a time of metamorphosis, the dull wool wardrobe shed for colorful garb, a new 'do in the offing, perhaps. The waning days of winter inspire change. "The Johnson family is ready," Kerry Johnson told the Ladies' Home Journal ...

Spring in Minnesota is a time of metamorphosis, the dull wool wardrobe shed for colorful garb, a new 'do in the offing, perhaps.

The waning days of winter inspire change.

"The Johnson family is ready," Kerry Johnson told the Ladies' Home Journal in March.

Kerry, a Park Rapids Area High School English teacher - "and frugal garage sale shopper" - had been intrigued by the idea of a family makeover.

Ladies' Home Journal was about to choose a family for a head-to-toe beauty and fashion transformation.


The people chosen would be flown to New York City, photographed in the "before" motif - strolling down Times Square - then escorted to the most prestigious salons and fitted in the latest fashions.

The new-fashion-fangled family was to be featured in the pages of the November issue of Ladies' Home Journal.

'Take me; I'm yours'

"Imagine...springtime in northern Minnesota," Kerry wrote. "Well, we're not quite there yet as the lake in front of our house is still frozen" (a scenario difficult for the New York City magazine editors to visualize). "And we still have snow in the yard, but...

"Ian's hockey is done!" she wrote of her 11-year-old son.

(Husband) "Scott's competitive ski season is done!

Eight-year-old "Maya's dance is just winding down! However, my training for running races is just picking up.

"You guessed it. We're a family on the go. We love it that way. We're also game for adventure. Whether that adventure is just a mile down the road or in New York City, we're game."


Ian, she explained, was in need of a haircut. "Hockey players in this part of the world often don't cut their hair until the season is done."

But the season was over, "and Ian hasn't cut it yet!

"Help!" was her plaintive cry.

"Maya is a tomboy with such a girlie side too," Kerry wrote. "When she gets her hair cut, she wants the full treatment."

And a growth spurt had spawned the need for new clothes, she told the editors.

Scott, his wife had determined, was a prime candidate for a makeover. "Sure there's not much to be done with his hair (or lack of it), but he's in great shape and I wish he'd try some more edgy fashions.

"Me? Well, I teach high school English so I am always ready for an adventure. I would love nothing more than a total makeover. Take me, I'm yours."

They did.


From Potato to Big Apple

Kerry sent her entry off via e-mail, the magazine soon calling for a phone interview.

Living in rural Minnesota made clothes shopping an excursion, she explained of the 45-minute drive to Bemidji. ("That was beyond their imagination.")

The magazine asked for more photos - and measurements.

"We wanted the readers to see themselves," explained Ladies' Home Journal beauty director Patricia Reynoso of the selection process. Teachers and nurses are among the magazine's prime reader category. Kerry "hit home," she said.

"Kerry was physically attractive, but we could see she'd lost her way a bit," said Reynoso. "We wanted to update her style so the students could relate.

"And the kids are adorable," she added in a phone interview.

Just a few days later, a message on Kerry's phone asked her to call Reynoso. But her secretary "blew her cover."


"Congratulations!" the receptionist exclaimed when Kerry identified herself.

The scream on the Minnesota end of the phone raised alarm. "You didn't know yet?"

Kerry set off through school hallways announcing her win.

"Big Apple, here they come" was soon broadcast on the high school's public address system.

This was to be no ordinary departure. A limousine would carry the Johnsons to the nearest airport. But the logistics of finding a limo driver in rural Minnesota - and an airport in the middle of this vast forest - baffled the metro corps.

"It's 40 minutes to the airport, but two seconds to the lake," Kerry told an incredulous audience of her residence on Potato.

But by Saturday, Aug. 5, the Johnsons were headed for Manhattan, their destination two blocks away from Grand Central Station.

"We didn't go to New York to sit in a hotel room," Kerry told her family upon arrival. And they set off to see the sights.


"We felt very safe, so comfortable. But we stuck out as tourists. Everyone else had suits on," she recalled.

Monday, they met their photographers, including a film crew from Inside Edition, there to capture the "before" images.

Directions called for them to "look natural - but walk three inches apart" and "point - like we don't get out much."

"Kerry has amazing fashion savvy despite a 'shopping problem,'" said the magazine's fashion/beauty/ creative director Carla Engler of rural living. "She's aware of what's out there.

"From khaki to suits, our goal was to introduce the hipper elements," Engler explained. "But it was not to be inappropriate," for classroom.

The Johnsons were soon headed for "fittings," enormous closets holding clothes for each member of the family.

Coats, sweaters, jeans, skirts, leggings - an unbelievable amount of clothes, Kerry recalled.

"We wanted her wardrobe to be something her students could relate to," Engler said. "And the kids were open to style," she said of Maya and Ian, Maya serving as her mom's fashion consultant.


"And cost was no consideration," Kerry said of $300 sweaters. Clothes were chosen for the photo shoots with the family instructed to choose favorites as "keepers."

"They were a fun family to work with," Engler said. "They had no resistance to new ideas."

Off for the 'cures

After fittings, it was off to Cornelia's Spa on Fifth Avenue. "I'd never had a manicure, pedicure or facial in my life," said Kerry, who was to learn her skin was dehydrated.

Maya and Scott were treated to manicures and pedicures. But Ian was absolved from the obligation, drinking smoothies and listening to tunes on an iPod.

Once again, the family made selections for a bag of booty.

Tuesday found them in Soho for haircuts. Cutler Salon, they learned, is a celebrity hangout. Unfortunately, none of them was on board for tendril taming.

Maya's two-hour stint in the barber chair, with cameras rolling, made her "antsy."

But with coiffures complete by 2 p.m. - the revamped family set off on a jaunt around the city, taking the subway to Central Park and seeing "The ("incredible!") Lion King" on Broadway. "You forget there are people in those costumes."

At 11 p.m. they were strolling back through Times Square. "There are as many people at an intersection as there are in the whole town of Park Rapids," Ian remarked

The Johnsons were off to the Hudson for their photo shoot Wednesday, make-up and hair artists trailing.

Thursday - their "day off" - became a Chevy Chase "Family Vacation" scenario. After boarding a ferry to view the Statue of Liberty, the rain began to fall - in buckets, the first time all week. But it didn't dampen their spirits.

'Very fortunate'

When the time came to head home, New York had been placed on orange alert after terrorist attacks had been averted in London.

"Thankfully, we were leaving Friday," Kerry said, noting a day earlier, passengers had been camped out everywhere in La Guardia. The Northwest flight departed just an hour late. They caught their connecting flight to Bemidji to meet with Bill - their limo driver - who was waiting with a smile.

"We went to Burger King in a limo," Maya said.

Sunday, bags unpacked, Kerry headed off to Itasca State Park where she served as worship leader at the Cathedral in the Pines.

"I couldn't have been in two more different worlds," she said. "But I'd go back in a second - the energy, the fun, just to soak it all up."

Cosmetics have entered her cosmo. "She wears mascara now," Maya noted.

"And I'm spending a little more time on myself," Kerry said - "15 minutes compared to two."

"We never know how it's going to turn out," Reynoso said. "We were very fortunate."

"It was great. We'd all do it again," Kerry said.

The November edition of Ladies' Home Journal is scheduled to be on newsstands Tuesday.

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