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Fear Factor

Photos by Matt Haas

March 2015

Beauty is a tricky subject. No matter how often it may be categorized as vain or egocentric, it’s a topic that inevitably affects each of us in some capacity, large or small. We asked four Milwaukeeans to discuss how they’ve personally dealt with a beauty-related fear ­— from wearing a toupee and going gray to chopping off long hair and getting permanent makeup. Their answers just may inspire you to overcome your own fear.

Going Gray

For Tara Wilke, choosing to embrace her natural gray hair color was a decision inspired by her frequent business trips to the South. Wilke and her husband own McNabb & Risley, a fine home furnishings store located in Thiensville, and her role as creative director requires her to travel South to buy merchandise for the store. She says she admires how many Southern women choose not to color their hair but still look "so chic and polished."

She first showed signs of "going gray" in her mid-30s and began highlighting her hair to cover the gray. That changed early last year — a year that included not only her decision to stop coloring her hair, but also her 60th birthday. "At 60, it’s not about trying to look young or beautiful," she says. "For me, it’s about embracing my age and looking my personal best."

Tara chose to go gray at age 60

She adds that she never felt any pressure to look younger — something she owes all to her mother, who is of Italian descent. "While the U.S. focuses on youth culture, Italian women are taught at an early age that they can and will be beautiful throughout their entire lives," explains Wilke. "My mother taught me that your age is only a number and that it should not define you."

Wilke worked closely with her hair stylist, Trent Noah at Urszula and Company in Brookfield, to ensure the process was a seamless one. "One of the biggest things of the process is being ready for that big change," says Noah, who adds that the growing out period varies from person to person. Fortunately for Noah, Wilke was more than ready for her new ‘do. "I love my gray hair and what it represents to me," she says.

When asked when she feels most beautiful, Wilke’s answer is a testament to her well-rounded lifestyle. "I feel most beautiful when I am being creative and productive at work, riding my bike, kayaking, and surrounding myself with people I love and who love me," she says.

Charity Chop

For some, overcoming a certain beauty fear may mean helping out a good cause, too. Such was the case for John Perszyk of Franklin, who cut 9 inches off his hair last December. Perszyk donated the hair to Hawk’s Locks for Kids, an organization established by Green Bay Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk and his wife, Laura. The charity collects donated hair for children who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy and other treatments.

"I started to feel selfish about keeping it (the hair)," remembers Perszyk. So he called his best friend’s girlfriend, Jenny Kopp. Kopp is a hair stylist at Impressions Day Spa in Mequon. "I’d been trying to get him to do it for months and months, but he was so obsessed with it," laughs Kopp. She creates a customized plan for each of her clients to make them feel comfortable and excited about their new look, and Perszyk was no exception. "She gave a lot of insight and options and most importantly, kept me calm," he adds.

Nine less inches of hair and a generous amount of positive feedback later, there’s no denying that Perszyk felt more secure about his decision to cut and donate his locks. "If you keep hearing positive things about yourself, you, in turn, think positively," says Perszyk. "I was a little shocked, of course, but much more confident."

John Perszyk donated nine inches of his hair to Hawk's Locks for Kids.

That new sense of confidence was felt in his professional life, too. Perszyk has worked at MKE Sports and Entertainment for almost two years, handling group ticket sales and game day operations — a job that involves interacting with clients on nearly a daily basis. "I wanted to look a little more presentable in a business setting," he says. "I don’t look like I’m living on the streets anymore. I’m more clean cut, and I feel more respected."

A Permanent Choice

Permanent makeup isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. Its history dates back to the early 20th century, but its emergence as a socially acceptable alternative to traditional applied makeup has been relatively gradual. The cosmetic procedure employs tattoos to produce designs that resemble actual makeup, and common uses include permanent eyeliner, eyebrows or lip liner, among others.

Betsy Kimmel, a Fox Point resident and mother of three, had been toying with the idea of getting permanent eyeliner for years. A few of her friends had received some form of permanent makeup, but considering Kimmel’s low tolerance for pain and the very nature of the procedure (a needle does come uncomfortably close to the eye, after all), she repeatedly pushed it off. "I’ve signed up every year for the last five years and would then get cold feet and cancel" recalls Kimmel. But earlier this year, she finally overcame her fear.

Her salon location of choice was Faces II Esthetic Salon in Mequon, where owner Cheryl Rebholz has been applying permanent makeup since 1992. She often blends pigments, creating a customized color that best suits her client’s personality and lifestyle. For Kimmel, she used a combination of black and teal to enhance Kimmel’s natural beauty and bright blue eyes. "The color complements her lifestyle," explains Rebholz. "She’s active and runs marathons, so a full black would’ve been out of character."

Betsy Kimmel canceled five appointments before committing to permanent eyeliner.

Regarding the actual application process, Kimmel says it was less painful than she expected but felt "like you wanted to itch it very badly." Rebholz administers a topical anesthetic and ice pack treatment before each eye-related procedure to minimize discomfort. "It’s a very strategic process, and everything is sterile," she adds.

And despite her satisfaction with the results, Kimmel’s answer to our "when do you feel most beautiful?" question best reflects her dedication to living an active and healthy life. "I feel most beautiful when I’m doing yoga," she concludes with a smile.

The Toupee Trick

It’s not uncommon for employers to ask more of their employees than what’s included in their job descriptions. So when Steve "The Homer" True landed an on-air job at WISN 12 and the network’s fashion consultant insisted he wear a toupee, True agreed without hesitation. "It was a trend at the time," he says. "It did make me look younger, so I can see why." True, who turned 60 last November, first started losing his hair at age 25.

He spent 12 years wearing the toupee — an attribute that quickly became his signature. "I’d grab my jacket, my hairpiece and two pieces of tape, and on I went," says True. He was the station’s 5 p.m. sports anchor, and in 1996, he won the Emmy Award for local sports broadcasting. True still remembers the day the design of Miller Park was revealed. "I wanted to open and close my ‘toupee on-air look’ like how the roof would open and close," he says with a laugh. "I said on air that this station will be the place where you can find out if the roof will be open or closed tonight and then I opened and closed my toupee and said to the anchors, ‘back to you Marty and Jerry’ and the broadcast went on as usual."

Steve "The Homer" True nixed the hairpiece after leaving TV news.

For many people, the action of taking one’s toupee off while on live TV would have been a terrifying experience, but not for True, who took it in stride. "It wasn’t hard to do at all since I only wore it during TV appearances. My situation may have been different than most, but I was comfortable with it on, it made me look younger and better on TV — but I was OK without it too."

In 2003, True said au revoir to the toupee when he transferred to the network’s radio division. He joined ESPN Wisconsin 540 in 2005, and his main duty includes co-hosting a daily three-hour talk show, titled "Homer & Gabe." True counts Al McGuire, Robin Yount and Aaron Rodgers among his favorite interviewees.

And although his nickname, "The Homer," traditionally refers to someone who favors the teams they broadcast, True practices a much less biased approach. "The first rule of Homerism is that I’m not an idiot," says True, adding that he refuses to lie about a team’s potential. That frank, easygoing attitude — something undoubtedly reflected in his steadfast willingness to sport a toupee — is something to be admired, that’s for sure.



This story ran in the March 2015 issue of: