Transformation salons are wonderful.
For those who don’t know what a transformation salon/studio is, it’s where a girl like us can go to get what is commonly referred to as a “male to female transformation”. Some studios offer photography services, provide clothes, wigs, and some even offer a night on the town, or at the very least, going out for a drink with you en femme. Some studios also provide you with a place to just… relax en femme. These options can get pricey but for some of us you can’t put a price on an experience like this.
I’ve never really had the full “transformation” experience, mainly because, well, I don’t need to. Salons like this are usually the option for those who aren’t as out as I am and are perfect for those who don’t have their own wardrobe, wig, or a place to dress. At one point the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area had two studios like this, but the owner of one moved out of state and the other doesn’t seem to be in business anymore. I did visit both studios for makeovers and I was delighted by the results. One studio offered photography and I couldn’t resist having pictures taken of my new look in a very cool building (and roof).
How does one find a place like this? Google, bitches. Search “transformation studio + city name” or “male to female salon + city name” and you should see results (if they exist).
So, what’s a girl to do when she needs a place like this but there isn’t a transformation salon in their area? Improvise. Do it yourself. There are independent salons, or at the very least, Ultas, MACs, and Sephora (all very trans friendly in my experience) in every city. True, they don’t offer wardrobe or wigs, but it’s where we can at least get our makeup done. When it comes to scheduling a makeover, one thing to avoid is requesting a “transformation”. This is, in a word, a weird thing to request. A girl like us knows what that means, but it’s not a common word, at least in what we mean by it, outside of our community. Instead, just schedule a makeover/makeup application.
When you get to your appointment you’ll chat with your artist about what you want. I have two artists I see on a regular basis and they always ask what I am doing that day. If it’s for a photoshoot they ask what I am wearing (to match colors, etc), or what kind of look I am going for. If it’s for, well, anything else, they ask what I am doing that day. Makeup for a day out shopping can be different than makeup for a night out at a nice restaurant. From there we’ll discuss what I want. It’s usually the same things, such as contouring to help give my face a less… square-ish shape to a more (traditionally feminine) heart or oval shape appearance. I ask for a cupid’s bow for my lips, and eyelash application. I ask for my lips to be slightly overdrawn to give my lips a fuller appearance. I ask for color correction along my jaw/beard line. After an hour or so I look beautiful.
It’s helpful (for the artist) to be specific. Asking for a vague “transformation” isn’t useful. You want a transformation? Okay, a transformation into what? Every girl looks different, and there’s no right or wrong way to be femme.
Oh! And for god’s sake brush your teeth before you have your appointment. Your artist will get VERY close to you and bad breath isn’t just gross it’s also rude. I tend to have a mint in my mouth while I have my appointment.
Okay, so that’s makeup. Now what? You need clothes. Ulta is not going to have a wardrobe to choose from so you’ll have to bring your own clothes. Is it ideal to change in your car or in a restroom? No. Are there other options? Not really. Sorry. Same with wigs. I understand that not all of us can have dresses and wigs at home. I get it, I really do. It’s intimidating to say the least to shop and purchase clothes and wigs and heels. Keeping them in our own home isn’t always an option. As much as I discourage hiding this side of you from your significant other, I also understand that not all of us can come out. I mean, you probably SHOULD, but I get why some of us don’t. Renting a hotel room to get dressed in is also an option.
If you need to provide your own clothes and aren’t able to shop in-person, then the internet is going to be your bestie. Have things sent to a p.o. box. Amazon offers temporary mailboxes (in malls, stores, etc) where you can have items sent. You may end up purging these items afterwards, of course. As painful as it is to do that.
After your makeup, clothes, and hair, what’s next? Well, what do you want to do? If you rented a hotel room you can spend time there. You can drive around, go shopping, visit a museum, go out to the mall or whatever you’re comfortable with. However! You may be feeling bold and beautiful after your makeover (which is a good thing) but this can easily lead to us getting lost in the pink fog. When a girl like us is in the fog we tend to do things that aren’t always well-thought out. As much fun as it is to hit the mall, is it really a mall you should visit? I go shopping en femme a lot, but the mall that is five minutes from my home is not a place Hannah visits.
I have nothing but sympathy and empathy for girls like us. I know how hard it is. I know we have a side of us that demands to be acknowledged. We are not easily understood. What we want and need to fully express our femme side takes a lot of time, money, and planning. It can often require a skilled and open-minded makeup artist. Having all of these stars align is not easy. But we are also resilient, beautiful, strong bitches. We practice walking in stilettos, fastening a bra behind us, lacing that waist cincher, taking our measurements. We know how to remove every fleck of mascara, every evidence of nail polish, every trace of lipstick. We can get dressed in our car, a gas station bathroom, and take flawless selfies. We adapt, we overcome.
If my website has a mission statement, it’s that we are all beautiful, there’s no right or wrong way to be a girl, none of us are too tall or too male to be femme. If my website has a goal, it’s to be honest and real. And sometimes that can be hard to swallow. I wish I could say you could strut into a Sephora and they will turn you into a supermodel. That there’s a transformation salon in every town. That the world will celebrate and love HER as much as you do. We put up with a lot when it comes to living our lives. If we want to be “transformed” then sometimes we have to do it ourselves. I mean, in a way. There’s not always a makeup artist that will provide us with everything we want or need to become HER, so we may need to get creative and move out of our comfort zones. It’s up to us to make this happen if we want it to happen.
4 thoughts on “Do It Herself”
I’ll just say if it wasn’t for the trans salon in my area (which is DANGEROUSLY close to fully shutting down… http://www.carlas.com if you live in the Bay Area, check it out!), I would have never met Alicia.
I will mention one disagreement with you here, Hannah. A “transformation” was literally what I got (it was even the name of the service I got), so while it might be a weird word, I wouldn’t discourage people from pursuing one if it’s available. After 22 years of struggling with my gender, that transformation was the best birthday present I could ever give myself. It literally changed my life!
Hi! I should have been more clear. 🙂 Asking for a transformation at a transformation salon is totes okay, asking for one at an Ulta is a different story lol
Hi Hanna- I so want to date beautiful all-american TS’s and CD’s. You are the most lovely of them all. How tall are you and where can we see more of your fabulousness? Is there any chance that we can actually meet you or hear your mellifluous voice?
I *do* love my transformation salons! I have visited salons in California, Las Vegas, New York, Seattle and Florida. I typically use those opportunities as “glamour shoots” and not as prep to go out. It’s been hit-and-miss on photo quality over the years, some that I *love* and others that never see the light of day on the web. My favorite was the now closed Emerald Fantasy in Seattle. I ended up “going out on the town” with Alexandria Fletcher, the transwoman who did my makeover. And it was the only time I ever got to visit the fitting rooms at a Victoria’s Secret!