And just what is "bad" to these members of the beauty police?
"It can be anything from orange hair with black roots, to running pantyhose, to fuchsia lipstick," said stylist Mary Alice Haney, the pretty blond. Haney has done her tour of duty at Harper’s BazaarParis, at GQand Allure.
"Tell her about the yellow clippy, William," said Shanta, who is the show’s spokesperson. That morning he saw a woman wearing a yellow clippy in her hair. He grabbed it and threw it on the ground. Then he stomped on it. "It smashed into a million little pieces," said Whatley gleefully.
"I’ve been dying to make over my mom," said Shanta.
"This is the Gigi method," said Gigi. "Start with a compliment, then go into the negative." Gigi stood up straighter. "For example, ‘You have beautiful eyes,’" she said, "‘but your hair . . . !’"
"What about the Stepford Wives?" asked Whatley, pointing at a gaggle of impossibly thin, large-breasted women of indeterminate age — all wearing summer dresses and pastel pumps. Simultaneously, the Wives turned their sunglassed faces toward the windows of the nearby Pottery Barn.
A middle-aged nerd in a bow tie? "Too easy," said Gigi.
Finally they snipered a woman with frizzy brown hair strolling arm in arm with her husband. She was in her mid-40s. She wore khaki shorts.
"You are going to look fabulous!" cried William Whatley.
"Fabulous!" cried Mary Alice.
"Fabulous!" cried Gigi, at which point they whisked the woman into the Ambush Makeoverbus, which doubled as a full-service beauty salon. Several dressing stations had been set up inside the bus, along with a television monitor playing nonstop episodes of . . . Ambush Makeover.
"See how she’s got these little bangs here?" said Whatley. "We’re going to bring the line up to here," he cupped his hands around her jaw line, "then loosen this up . . . ," he made a karate-chopping motion next to her ears, ". . . and give you long, sexy layers. How does that sound?"
Where makeovers were concerned, there was a fine line between needing versus deserving, Whatley said. A woman with a bouffant hairdo, for example, neededa makeover. That much was certain. But then there was another type of woman, a woman who looked disheveled or depressed, whose life had gotten so busy and out of control that she didn’t even have time for herself anymore. This woman — or man, even — deserveda makeover. An hour later, their current ambushee’s new look was done. She emerged from the bus beaming, hair sleek, lips glossed. The team gathered to strategize for their next attack. In a month’s time, the bus would travel to Phoenix, Austin, Miami, Orlando, finally ending up in New York. Coast to coast, more battles would be fought along an Axis of Ugly. The war for beauty is far from over.