Cancer survivor gets makeover

By Stacey Soble | 03/19/2010 11:28:00 AM


Before: As she celebrated her first-year anniversary as a breast cancer survior, Kelly Markson also struggled with her new unruly curls, choosing to pull it back with a hair band most of the time.

Kelly Markson, Ph.D, an economic professor at Wake Technical Community College, and a wife and mother of two, had long, thick hair for most of her adult life. Then she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and within two days of receiving her first chemotherapy treatment, her hair began to fall out in clumps.

"The most painful part of it was seeing how upset it made my daughter," says Markson.

When she finally completed her treatments, cancer-free, her hair began to grow back. At first, it was straight as expected, but as it continued to grow, Markson discovered a mass of unruly curls that became more unruly and bushy when it dried after shampooing. Determined to have the long hair again that she and her daughter missed so much, Markson let it keep growing, holding the mass at bay with a thick hair band.

A couple months ago, Markson heard about an essay contest sponsored by Lather Hair Salon in Raleigh, North Carolina. "Help me, Lather. I need a make-over!" offered a free and thorough makeover, including cut, color, styling and makeup application, to the applicant who penned the most compelling 250-word essay on why she needed or deserved a makeover.

Markson's story won the hearts of the salon stylists, who chose the winner from nearly 30 essays. Her essay detailed her experience, adding that her mother-in-law, who helped to care for her during her chemotherapy, discovered she had lung cancer and died two weeks later. More recently, Markson's husband, who works at Sony Ericson in Research Triangle Park, will lose his job in October when that facility closes. 

But  one line in Markson's essay really caught the stylists' attention: "My eleven-year-old daughter wants her mommy to look pretty again."

After: Jessica Willams, owner and senior stylist of Lather Salon, tackled Markson's unruly curls and created makeup that played up her blue eyes. (Photography by Cohen Studios.)
When Lather's owner and senior stylist Jessica Williams called to tell Markson she'd won the contest, they set the appointment for March 16. As it turned out, Markson's makeover corresponded with her one-year anniversary of being cancer-free. 

To start Kelly's makeover, Williams looked for a way to tame the wild curls and allow Markson to keep growing her hair in a more controlled manner. Williams decided to leave the length on the sides and "de-bulk" the back and the bangs by cutting and texturizing both. She would also trim up the back just a bit "to let everything grow out more evently," she said. 

For color foiling, Williams decided to add gentle blond highlights all over to add some "sparkle" to Markson's natural hair color, which is a medium brown. She also suggested that Kelly should start using a moisturizing shampoo, such as Drench by Sebastian. Before she began styling the hair, Williams applied Sebastian's Whipped Creme, a smoothing product to help define the curls.

With the back of Markson's hair rimmed and thinned, Williams then cut and texturized her bangs, using a round brush and blowdryer to straighten and shape side bangs. She then used a diffuser on the back of her hair so the curls would stay tame and in place.

For Markson's makup, Williams focused on a natural, daytime look, applying a natural foundation and a subtle blush, blending the two with a foam pad. She then used a soft brown eye shadow to darken the brows, and a medium brown shadow for the crease of the lids. A lighter neutral shadow provided highlights on her lids and just below her brows. For eyeliner, Williams used a brown shadow applied with an angled brush, topping it off with dark brown mascara. For Markson's lips, Williams used a nude lip liner, then filled in with Tulle lipstick by Bobbi Brown. 

"Kelly has great skin and beautiful blue eyes," Williams said. I wanted to bring out both, which is why I chose a very natural foundation and highlighted her eye by adding depth with the brown shadow."

Markson was delighted with the results. "I'm finally feeling better," she said, "so it was time to start looking better as well. I'm just thrilled."

Immediately after the makeover session, Markson moved on to Cohen Studios in downtown Raleigh, where photographer Max Cohen created a portrait of her new look, the first professional portrait she'd ever sat for. Cohen also provided Markson with a free portrait, joining in the celebration of her one-year anniversary. 

Back at Lather Hair Salon, Jessica Williams was so touched by other essays, that in the week leading to Markson's makeover, she gave two runners-up free haircuts. "This was such a wonderful experience," Williams said. "These ladies deserve to be pampered and I'm just so honored to be the one doing the pampering." 








Stacey Soble Stacey Soble, Editor in Chief of Salon Today

Stacey has been involved in the conversation of salon business for 14 years—as a reporter, a consultant and as the Editor in Chief of SALON TODAY.

Read Stacey Soble's Blogs You can e-mail Stacey at


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