Tyra Banks might reign over America's Next Top Model, but in one Chicago neighborhood, it's the Genacelli Salon, owned by Cynthia Porcelli and Joseph Cartagena, who rule. This fall, the salon sponsored Lakeview's Next Top Makeover, a fun-filled contest and event to raise money for the renovation of Weisman Park, a local urban green space that serves 5,000 residents of the Lakeview/Lincoln Park area.

"This was the culmination of a seed I planted with the park's advisory council last February," says Porcelli. "For years, they've been coming up to me asking for gift baskets for different fund-raising activities and I thought, ‘I want to do something more, something spectacular.'"

Spectacular it was. Leading up to the event, the salon encouraged the community to nominate friends, spouses and family members for one of five makeover spots. The salon interviewed each nominee, looking for five brave souls willing to undergo radical transformations. The day before the event, Genacelli stylists completed the new looks and helped each finalist select cocktail attire from a local rental store.

More than 150 neighbors shelled out $25 for admission, which included the red carpet reveal, a silent action, a raffle, refreshments and product-filled swag bags. To add a little pizzazz, local female impersonator Miss Continental emceed the red carpet, ushering out the parade of five finalists.

Walk in the ParkWalk in the Park
Before images served as masks for the finalists in Lakeview's Next Top Makeover. On the red carpet, the five finalists dropped the masks to reveal their transformations by stylists at Genacelli Salon in Chicago. The event raised $3,500 for the renovation of a neighborhood park.
Walk in the ParkWalk in the Park

Results of the makeover. (Click pictures to enlarge)

"When we interviewed the candidates, we took 'before' pictures," explains Porcelli. "For each finalist, we took the images, blew them up and mounted them on foam core with a stick at the bottom creating a mask. Each candidate walked out behind the poster of his or her before image, and we did the reveal Oprah style," says Porcelli. "The transformations were so dramatic, many of the attendees' mouths dropped open in shock and two of the candidates broke out in tears of joy."

The model with the highest applause won a $500 gift card to the salon, and the event raised $3,500 for the park. But the owners are discovering the goodwill value for the salon is priceless. "People I don't know keep stopping me and telling me what a great night it was," says Porcelli.

"We've seen a lot of fund-raisers, but this was really different," says Marie Poppy, president of the Weisman Park advisory council. "Because we're making over the park, a makeover event was a great fit, but it also was fun, fun fun. The town is still buzzing about it."

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.

Read more about