How to Get Selected for Ambush Makeover on "The Today Show"

Your Guide to Getting a Makeover From Someone Who's Done It!

Brigette Dineen stands between Louis Licari and Jill Martin on the set of The Today Show.
Brigette Dineen stands between Louis Licari and Jill Martin on the set of The Today Show. Vanessa D., who also received an Ambush Makeover, stands on the left. Brigette Dineen

Did you ever wish you were picked for one of those whirlwind makeovers you see on morning and daytime talk shows? The Today Show Plaza in New York City is one of the hottest spots to be for a chance to appear on "Ambush Makeover."

How One Woman Got On "Ambush Makeover"

Did you know that those makeovers aren’t as random as you think? Truth is, you might be able to stack the deck, so to speak, so you’re the one selected. That’s how Brigette Dineen, a registered nurse from Cleveland, Ohio, approached her visit to "The Today Show" and it landed her a spot on Today’s “Ambush Makeover”.

“I did not know ahead of time I would be selected,” she says. “But I watch this segment every Thursday, and I did my homework before I went to the show. I started by researching online to learn when and how they pick their makeover subjects and where the best place to stand in The Today Show Plaza would be.” 

Brigette and her husband Brian Dineen traveled to New York City to celebrate Brigette’s graduation from nursing school. Getting made over by Louis Licari and Jill Martin was only one stop on her whirlwind talk show tour. But it was the most exciting and the one she planned far in advance.

Here are Brigette’s 9 tips on how to get selected for an "Ambush Makeover" – and what to expect when it happens.

1. Get to the Plaza Early

We set our alarm for 5:30 a.m. because I wanted to be in line at The Today Show Plaza by 6. When we woke up, it was raining, and we were so tired, but I dragged myself out of bed. I was secretly glad it was cold and wet because I knew it would keep some people away. After all, we were in New York on a Thursday specifically because of "Ambush Makeover!" 

We waited for about 20 minutes to get into the area with the barricades and "Today Show" banners that you see on TV. You have to go through security to get to the place where viewers see the audience standing outside. There were free "Today Show" rain ponchos available. If you didn’t have a banner, no worries. They had blank posterboard to make your own posters. 

2. Don’t Look Cute

I did nothing except get dressed, wash my face and put my hair in a ponytail – and for good reason. If you look cute, they aren't going to pick you. 

3. Make It Known You're There for a Makeover

Louis Licari came out into the Plaza around 7 a.m. and starting looking for potential makeover subjects. Nobody seemed to notice him, so I yelled "Louis!" and he came over and talked to me. Louis and Jill Martin do the makeovers; Louis does the hair and Jill does the clotching. 

I told him I was a big fan and, basically, I wanted a makeover. He talked to a few other women which made me nervous.

When Jill came out, she came over and talked to me, too. She asked me if I was the girl who emailed her, and I said, “No.” Then I was afraid I would lose to the girl who emailed her.

But she came back and offered me the makeover, which I excitedly accepted. They asked Brian if he was okay with it, and he said, "Sure if I get to go inside." He was still pretty much clueless about the whole process at this point. 

4. Hone Your Acting Skills

Once you’ve been accepted, early in the morning, you have to re-enact the whole process for the cameras. Make sure you act surprised, as though they’re offering it to you for the first time, even though you’ve already sealed the deal.

5. Warn Your Spouse

They brought us inside for pre-interviews and that’s when I broke the news to Brian that he would be talking on camera. 

I said, "By the way, they are going to ask you why I deserve a makeover, so just say I'm a good mom and I work really hard and all of that stuff." Thirty seconds later, they were shoving a microphone in his face. 

It was better that way, he didn't have time to be nervous. 

Then they ushered the husbands back out in the rain and whisked Vanessa -- the woman from Texas also getting a makeover -- and me off for three hours of pampering. 

6. Don’t Let Your Feelings Get Hurt

First, we went into this room with all of these clothes, and Jill squeezed us into Spanx and had us try on all of these dresses. She is very blunt. She would say, "I hate that," or, even better, "Your body looks amazing in that."

Jill asked us what we thought but, ultimately, she chose what she wanted us to wear. They have all of the mirrors covered throughout this whole process so you just trust them and do what they say.

7. Be Amazed by the Team Effort

Now, Louis is in charge of the hair and Jill picks the outfit and accessories, but they have a team working with them and everyone is SO NICE. Enid, who does the makeup, gets no glory on-air, but she is just so sweet and cute. She was appalled by my beauty routine ("You don't use moisturizer?!"), but so encouraging and, honestly, a huge ego boost. 

Someone is putting coloring on your hair, someone else is cutting it, Enid is putting on your makeup - and this is all happening at the same time. Every once in a while, Vanessa and I would look at each other like "is this really happening?"

Then, hair and makeup are done and we were off to put the dress back on. By this time, they have also picked out jewelry and shoes for us. Even as we were waiting behind the door to walk out into the studio for the big reveal, they were putting last minute touches on our hair and makeup. Enid gave us a quick spray tan from the knees down only. This whole time, everyone from the producers to the interns to the makeover team was telling us that we look beautiful. 

8. Remember Those Acting Lessons? Time to Do It Again!

They kept telling me to have a genuine - but animated - reaction. I knew this from watching at home.  You hate when the person doesn't seem impressed by the makeover. You want them to be excited. 

I had three hours to rehearse my reaction, but once that door opens and you are in the studio, it all goes out the window. 

I was starstruck by Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford and still a little in shock by the whole situation. I suddenly couldn’t think of any of the cute, witty things I was going to say. 

Then the whole thing is over in a matter of seconds. Hoda and Kathie Lee give us a quick handshake (or hug? I can't even remember) and they were on to their next set and segment. They are gorgeous in person and seemed very nice, but you don't get to have a conversation with them. 

I always imagined the makeover ladies getting to sit backstage and maybe have a glass of wine with Kathie Lee and Hoda, but no luck. 

9. Final Decision: Change or Wear the Dress?

I kept the dress, but they took back the shoes and jewelry. And at that point, you have to decide if you want to walk back to your hotel in a fancy dress and running shoes or change back into the crappy clothes you wore there. 

I could not thank the makeover teams enough. Then, we were back out on the street, the crowd was gone and the whole thing was over. 

It was a whirlwind and, without a doubt, beyond any expectation I had of the experience. It was amazing and fun and surreal and I am still, after the fact, in total shock over the whole thing. 

It was one of my favorite days I've ever had in my life.