Reality Rocks - Archive

How Do I Look?: Plum Crazy

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

This "Reality Rocks" blog focuses on music in reality television, which means I've rarely had an opportunity to blog about the Style Network's highly watchable How Do I Do Look?. But an exception is this week's episode featuring club kid Plum (okay, her real name is Jennifer and at age 31 she's not really much of a "kid" anymore, but whatever).

Before you read on, go here and click on the third video ("How Do I Look? No, No, No!") to view highlights--or more like lowdarks--from Plum's failed makeover, so you know what I'm talking about.

You know, the last truly awkward moment I remember from How Do I Look? was when a redheaded rockabilly chick with a fondness for Buddy Holly geek glasses, striped pirate tights, and vintage rags was given an orange spray-tan, waist-length blonde hair extensions, and a Lycra hoochie dress from Forever 21. Post-makeover, this chick looked like she belonged in an episode of another popular reality show, The Girls Next Door. She didn't look at all like herself. Her dismayed rockabilly boyfriend took one look at her new slutty style (he actually called it a "costume") and flat-out informed her that if she'd looked like that when they'd met, he would've never even talked to her. Unsurprisingly, this not-so-reformed-rockabilly Betty announced she'd be removing her hairweave and re-dyeing her hair Bozo-red, as soon as possible.

However, this weekend's How Do I Do Look? episode with Plum was a rock-chick-makeover disaster of far more seismic proportions. It was so horrific, in fact, it was even preceded by a stern audience-warning disclaimer.

When will these makeover shows realize that rock 'n' roll people derive a great deal of their self-worth and self-identity from their outward appearance? For them, it's not just about looking good (because, granted, some of them don't really look all that good): It's about sending a message, making a statement, aligning with a specific scene. So taking away their black lipstick or blue hair is like taking away a piece of their soul, as dramatically silly as it sounds.

And the results are not all that pretty sometimes.

Case in point: Plum, a copiously tattooed, prominently lip-pierced, Frankenstein-platformed goth girl with a penchant for fun-fur, wipe-clean PVC, and straight-from-the-bottle peroxide. Unlike most How Do I Look? participants/victims, she already possessed a distinctive signature style that she'd cultivated over years of clubbing and general rebelling. This was an image of which she was clearly proud and with which she clearly felt comfortable. So I honestly don't know WHY Plum even bothered to sign up for this show in the first place. Maybe she did it for the free professional teeth-bleaching or the free trip to L.A., or maybe she was strong-armed into it by her more mainstream, mall-shopping friends.

Then again, those friends seemed so mismatched for Plum, I actually wondered if this entire show was staged and that everyone on this episode, including Plum, was just an actor. Because it was pretty hard to imagine someone as hard-headed and strong-willed as Plum even wanting a makeover, and it was equally difficult to imagine someone like her having Barbie-dollish suburbanite gal pals like Lana and Ariele, the two "accomplices" recruited by the show to radically rework Plum's tough rocker-chick look.

Anyway, regardless of whether or not the the show was staged, the How Do I Look? producers clearly wanted DRAMA--and oh boy, they got it. They drew in viewers with that enticing disclaimer intro and managed to create the most talked-about, blogged-about episode in How Do I Look? history.

Yes, it's undeniable that Plum acted immature on the show--she absolutely loathed the clothes, hairstyles, and makeup chosen for her by her friends and professional stylist Jordan Feldman, and she took their attempts to remake her very, very personally, as a downright betrayal. Consequently, some of Plum's behavior was embarrassing for everyone involved. In particular, the segment in which she tearfully tried on despised makeover outfit after despised makeover outfit was as painful for show hostess Finola Hughes and the viewers at home as it obviously was for Plum herself. Plum pretty much had a meltdown and tore the clothes so forcefully from her body, it seemed like she might reduce them to Incredible Hulk-style shreds.

This was one sour Plum, here.

HOWEVER, I do believe any goth, punk, rocker, or general misfit watching the show--that is, anyone who's dealt with ridicule and scorn for making "weird" fashion choices--probably could relate to Plum's struggle. Personally, as a girl who's rocked a few rainbow-bright Manic Panic hair colors in the past (much to my parents' and teachers' chagrin), I actually related a bit. I probably would have reacted the same way as Plum if someone had tried to strip away my day-glo-dyed identity back then. But granted, I would have acted that way at age 16, not age 31. And I would have never signed up for How Do I Look? in the first place, of course.

Which brings me back to my point a couple paragraphs ago: that the show's producers just wanted drama. Because you see, midway through the show, Plum decided she no longer wanted to be part of the process. She wanted to leave the set. She wanted to cancel the whole taping and go back to her closet full of platform monster boots, plastic dresses, dog collars, lunchbox purses, and ripped fishnets. BUT THE SHOW WOULDN'T LET HER GO. Finola--who I'm sure was just following producers' orders, since she seemed just as miserable as Plum throughout the entire episode--insisted she stayed. Finola practically forced Plum to try on all those hated outfits (which Plum wore with all the comfort and ease of an advanced eczema patient in a hairshirt). Finola made her go to the salon and get a Posh Spice bob. Finola made Plum awkwardly parade out for the finale in high heels she could barely balance in. (It should be noted that Plum's ONE request of her makeover stylists was "no heels"--a request they all breezily ignored.)

All the while, Plum was kicking and screaming--quite literally, really--and begging for this torment to be over, begging to leave the show. But she wasn't allowed.

Talk about a fashion victim!

By the end of this hourlong ordeal, Plum admittedly did look better. A lot better. But that hardly mattered, because Plum hated her new look. And more troublingly, by the end of this hourlong ordeal, she'd written angry goodbye letters to Lana and Ariele, cutting off their friendships; had been venomously chastised by pro stylist Jordan; had openly declared that she planned to donate all her makeover clothes to Goodwill or sell them on eBay; had angrily removed her vexing high heels before even marching off the set; and had cancelled her MySpace account because of all the post-show hatemail she received.

No, I don't approve of the way Plum handled herself. But I also don't approve of the How Do I Look? producers' show-must-go-on attitude after it became clear that there would be no happy ending here. This is supposedly a "reality" show, and the reality is, some rock 'n' rollers are perfectly pleased to look like weirdos, even if the rest of the non-rockin' world doesn't approve or understand.

So yes, maybe Plum's attitude needs a makeover...but as far as her appearance goes, she looks just fine to me.

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