ENCINITAS — Last week local viewers enjoyed watching Tamara Tresenrider receive a dramatic makeover on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
The 1975 graduate of San Dieguito High School confessed to being stuck in the 1970s.
Two months after the show’s taping, Tresenrider has proven she’s not stuck anymore by sporting a new look around town she describes as “feminine, artistic and eclectic.”
Encinitas resident Lynn Gardner was Tresenrider’s roommate 30 years ago when she was finishing up her nursing degree.
“Tammy is a special person, a giver and a helper,” Gardner said. “She’s always been grounded and earthy, and she’s updated the look beautifully.”
It was actually Tresenrider’s interest in spirituality, not vanity, that led to an opportunity for a televised makeover.
In February 2008 she participated in a webcast co-hosted by Oprah and author Eckart Tolle about living in the moment. The following October she received an unexpected e-mail from the show.
“It read, ‘What’s happening in San Diego? Are you interested in a sexy makeover?,’” Tresenrider said smiling. “I wanted to get a makeover for a long time but I didn’t trust anyone. I totally trusted Oprah’s team.”
Husband Pat Livingston cautioned against getting her hopes up after she submitted an online application.
Both were surprised when a call arrived the following morning from a show producer.
“I said, ‘Oh, my gosh!’” Tresenrider remembers. “We talked several times throughout the day. I envisioned the whole thing — being on the plane, being on the stage and being with Oprah.”
Although she admits to being devastated when she wasn’t chosen, she quickly recovered when her intuition told her it wasn’t over.
Her hunch proved to be correct.
A year later in 2009 on a Saturday that fell on Halloween, Tresenrider received a call from the show telling her to come to Chicago.
On Monday at 9 a.m. a producer and cameraman arrived at her Leucadia home to take photos. At 2:30 p.m. she boarded a jet with the producer and traveled first-class to Chicago.
Tresenrider was overwhelmed when she entered her luxury suite at the Omni Chicago Hotel.
“I thought, ‘Stay in the moment. Before you know it’ll be over. So enjoy every moment.’”
The next morning she was taken by a limo to Macy’s where she met the other contestants and actress Rita Wilson who supervised the clothing segment of the makeover.
On Tuesday hair stylist Oscar Bland arrived from New York to transform her waist-length gray hair to a chic, brown hairdo with brown highlights. Celebrity makeup artist Collier Strong completed the look.
The contestants were whisked to the Harpo studio to practice walking on the stage.
“Everyone had dinner and we stayed up late,” she said. “Pat arrived around midnight.”
Wednesday morning, Nov. 4, Tresenrider checked out of the hotel with baggage, took a limo and went to Harpo.
“It was creative chaos,” she said. “People were coming and going. There was a last minute change before going on stage.”
She was corralled into the salon and hurriedly given blonde highlights. Then the team replaced her comfortable, flat black boots with 4-inch platforms.
Finally, it was time to make her entrance before a national television audience.
After the applause subsided Oprah asked her why she was crying.
“It’s like bringing who I am forward and having someone help me to do that,” she said. “Thank you so much.”
What Oprah didn’t know was that there was a back story.
Receiving news of the makeover on Halloween day signaled a new beginning in another way.
Halloween 2009 was the 10th anniversary of the death of her mother and stepfather who were among 217 passengers on EgyptAir Flight 990 that plummeted into the ocean in what U.S. investigators concluded was pilot suicide.
This was the first Halloween since the tragedy that was marked by happiness.
“I knew it would be an incredible experience,” she said. “Oprah’s essence is graciousness. Her staff treated me like a queen.”
Since returning home, Tresenrider’s vintage clothes have been replaced with a hipper wardrobe from Nordstrom.
She also found a hairdresser to maintain her trendy new hairdo.
“My husband loves it,” she said. “I told him, ‘I’m not done with this.”