“Why do you think your first relationship failed?” I’m asked. My eyes are closed while a makeup artist tilts my head back, applying thick layers of creamy foundation to my cheeks and forehead. I am not used to being on this side of an interview, nor am I used to wearing so much makeup. Normally, I am the one with questions typed out, planned, a pencil in hand. The man questioning me patiently waits for my response. Why do you think your first relationship failed? he asks again. I mumble something about it fizzling and young love, and staying friends, and then failing to stay friends. “Hmm,” he responds, jotting down notes. “And what would you look for in a man now?” The makeup artist asks me to please keep my eyes closed.
The man in front of me is Justin Brown, former CEO of Brown Modeling Agency. He has just launched Perfect Profile, a new Austin dating resource that promises to “help singles showcase their best selves online.” I am not single. I have been in a steady relationship for five years with Matthew, a guy I’ve known since I was 13. But they offered to try out their package deal on me—which includes time with a makeup artist, a wardrobe consultation, a photography session, advice from a dating coach, and a perfectly written dating bio—and I was interested in the prospect of a transformative makeover.
To really give them something to work with, I show up to the Austin Monthly office with frizzy hair and no makeup (which, now that I think about it, is actually how I show up to work every day). At 11 a.m. on a Friday morning, they sit me down in the conference room and get to work.
“We don’t want to make a different person,” Justin explains to me, which goes against everything I initially thought he was here to do. But he means it. Instead of transforming me, Leah Trogan, their talented makeup artist, asks me to explain my skin routine and figures out a look that will make me feel more like myself. While she works on my appearance, Justin asks me about my interests and hobbies and dating history, in order to craft together a well-worded bio that encompasses my personality. (I ask him for tips on bio writing, but he isn’t too eager to divulge his secrets … after all, that’s what the company’s paid to do.) At moments, it feels awkward, confessing to a stranger my relationship needs as my colleagues eat their lunch nearby, but gradually I tell him more and more. I commit to his process.
After my makeover is complete, it’s time for profile pictures. Justin tells the photographer, Melissa Leyva, that he wants me to have a “bright” vibe in my photos, in order to reflect my “upbeat” and “happy” nature, which, it being a Friday afternoon, I’m sure I have. (If he had showed up to my work on a Monday, would his analysis of me have been the same? Probably not.) With this in mind, Melissa and I spend over an hour chasing puddles of sunlight for me to pose in. In one picture I am holding a coffee cup in the sun. In another I am laughing in the sun and putting on my chic sunglasses. Look natural. Look happy. Look fun. I do everything they tell me to. A couple of times I break away from their instructions and make goofy faces, which, for a few shots, Melissa thinks is funny (yay!). However, as her laugh begins to weaken, I realize goofy isn’t quite what they’re going for. “Just keep fake laughing until it turns real,” she advises me, which is actually pretty great life advice. Days later, when she sends me my photos, the laughing ones will be my favorite.
Before the makeover, Justin asked me to send him a few pictures of me actually doing things in order to add variety to my dating profile. I sent him plenty, including one of me lying next to a baby sea lion on a beach in San Diego, which is arguably the coolest picture I own.
Since I have a boyfriend, he explains that he would create the profiles on multiple platforms, take screen shots of them, send them to me for the purpose of this article, and then delete my accounts. There was obviously a miscommunication, though, because on Monday morning he reaches out to me to let me know I already have “hundreds of men interested.” Panicking, I call Matthew. He laughs.
I take a deep breath and login to my accounts, which up to this point I have never seen before.
Yes, there are many messages, but as I scan through each profile, pick-up line, and bad pun, I realize that I don’t actually care about any of them. But not caring is a lucky feeling, I realize. For so many of my friends, the inability to find a partner leads to loneliness and inward feelings of What’s wrong with me? The answer, of course, is nothing.
Though Justin Brown is obviously pro-online dating, he knows the trouble that can arise from it. He tells me a story about a grocery store experiment. The manager of the store sold three different types of jellies: strawberry, blackberry, and grape. The customers, given only three options, bought plenty, each one having their own preference out of the three. The next month, the manager sold 20 different brands of jellies. Sales plummeted. The moral of the story? “We will make no decision when we think there’s a greater chance of making the wrong decision,” he says.
Swiping through the faces of hundreds of men, my eyes begin to blur. After just a few hours of being on the app, I have become a pro at immediately finding “The Fatal Flaw” in their profiles, be it a weird smile or a misspelled word in their bio. I point each problem out to my boyfriend, who shakes his head. “You’re so harsh,” he tells me. One man sends me a message: “That picture is OTTERLY adorable!” Can’t he tell the difference between an otter and a sea lion? I immediately think, then stop myself. Maybe Matthew is right. I close the app.
Perfect Profile did everything they said they would: without changing who I am, they found a way to display the beautiful parts of me. In every picture, I’m in the sunlight, the rays making my hair look golden. But what about the days I spend in the shade? The days where I’m not laughing or wearing chic sunglasses or happy?
“The problem I have with online dating is that everything on your profile is something you could lose—like your looks,” my coworker tells me a few days after my swiping escapade. “What I want to know is if the person tips. Or how they treat the elderly.”
There’s no way to tell whether or not Perfect Profile will find you your one and only, nor was that ever my goal. However, having their help is a sure-fire way to spike your confidence, which you kind of have to have if you’re going to venture into the world of dating. There’s something about getting dolled up that makes you feel good, and seeing the best parts of you shine is a reminder of your own self-worth. In the end, the only person’s opinion that mattered was my own.
Except for, perhaps, my mom’s. After seeing the photos, she asked if she could have prints of them to frame—which, let’s face it, is a better compliment than any boy could give me.
Try Perfect Profile out for yourself: From now until Feb. 14, enter to win a full makeover experience. Only need a service or two? A la carte pricing is available as well. Click here for more info.