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“Being Beautiful Is Not for Wimps”
Comments () | Published February 1, 2010

Even if women in Washington are more judicious when it comes to how they look, the time they spend trying to look as though they haven’t spent any time at all on their appearance—and the extremes to which they’ll go in the name of self-preservation—can be significant.

“I tried electric-shock therapy on the backs of my legs for cellulite,” says a DC woman in her mid-forties. “I would lie down on this bed and they would hook electrodes to different places on my body and send electrical currents through my upper legs. It was not a pleasant experience. I was always afraid that some wiring would screw up and really hurt me.”

Fear doesn’t seem an issue with Andrea Rodgers. Two days after receiving Botox, which won’t take hold for another few days, and Juvéderm, which feels like tiny grubs under her skin, she is in Old Town’s Back to Health Center, an alternative-medicine facility that offers acupuncture and chiropractic. She’s about to receive her first IPL treatment for the dark circles under her eyes—even though she’s not exactly sure what IPL, or intense pulsed light, involves.

“I’ll Google it when I get home,” she says. “It’s not that I’m a trusting person. It’s that I’m a vain person.”

Rodgers is more than she first appears. With her halo of blond hair, shiny Cupid’s-bow lips, and pinup girl’s body, she may look like a computer-generated avatar of Marilyn Monroe, but behind her veneered shell, Rodgers is a funny and warm woman. For all her artifice, she is, paradoxically, genuine. But after learning that Back to Health’s IPL machine is on the fritz and that a staff member is warming up a replacement, having some suspicion might serve Rodgers a lot better.

Lying on a padded table, Rodgers admits that she’d probably put leeches on her eyes if she thought they’d do something rejuvenating. Lucky for her, Tysha Talavera, the massage therapist who’s administering the IPL treatment, instead places two adhesive white patches, goggle-like, over Rodgers’s eyes. Dressed in black leggings, a long-sleeved black tee, and a white down vest, Rodgers looks ready to hit the slopes in Gstaad.

R.N. Mildred Duhaney, Back to Health’s master aesthetician and IPL specialist, joins Talavera. “It’s now optional for us to look our age,” Duhaney says.

In IPL, Tina Alster explains, an intense pulsed light is used to heat up and ultimately damage the inside of the blood vessels under the eyes, which cause the darker pigmentation. The body eventually clears away the injured debris.

The device resembles a hand-held price scanner. “Ready?” asks Talavera.

When she’s hit with a light that’s as bright as the surface of the sun, Rodgers jumps like a cat. “I saw fire!” she says. “It didn’t hurt. It was just red and then orange and then—wow.”

She collects herself and asks Talavera, “When you’re finished with this, do you think we have time to wax my eyebrows?”

Rodgers wasn’t always this perfect. Born in Rotterdam to a Dutch mother and an American father who was an Air Force physician, she moved with her family to Shelby, North Carolina, where she lived what she calls a Green Acres lifestyle: “My mother had the only espresso machine in the Charlotte area.”

When she was seven, Rodgers was in a car accident that put her in the hospital for six weeks and left her face severely injured. She underwent reconstructive surgery on her nose and lips. She grew up feeling like an ugly duckling.

“I know the value of what plastic surgeons can do for people who have been disfigured,” she says. Turning to look in a mirror, she brightens: “I always thought, ‘I’m going to be pretty one day.’ And then it came true.”

She recounts this bit of autobiography while sitting in the pink-and-brown Ted Gibson salon. It’s the final leg on her weeklong tour of beauty, which has all led up to today’s event: the Blondes vs. Brunettes football game, a charity drive that Rodgers helped found in 2005 to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association.

Today Rodgers is sporting a bubblegum-pink T-shirt, the team color of the Blondes. Her dog, Scarlett—a fluffy white Maltese sitting patiently in her lap—is dressed in a matching pink polo shirt and tiny pink-pearl necklace. A few days before, Rodgers and Scarlett walked the runway at the Torpedo Factory Art Center as part of the Animal Instincts Doggie Fashion Show. “Scarlett had two wardrobe changes,” she says. “She wore a couture-type dress and a Christmas outfit.”

With kickoff just hours away, Rodgers has come to the Gibson salon in Chevy Chase for a four-hour session that includes, in this order, single-process color to re-blond her roots, a L’Oréal deep-conditioning treatment for her hair, a blowout, and a professional makeup application by Jessica Dunaway, who just days before powdered and lipsticked the face of actress Claire Danes.

Like Hela and Back to Health, Ted Gibson—which shares space with the Chevy Chase outpost of Hela—is one of Rodgers’s clients. She often trades her fee for salon and medi-spa services. “Honey,” she drawls, her Carolina accent kicking in, “even if I was forced to pay, I’d lie, cheat, and steal to get my Botox and Juvéderm.”

Rodgers, who is single, thinks about what she has just said for a moment. “I’d get myself a sugar daddy!” she adds excitedly. “Hell, I’d even take public transportation if I had to—and I don’t even know how to ride the bus.”

She stops to contemplate a story that someone told her earlier that morning about a woman who had been thrown back into the singles scene after her husband left her for a much younger woman. “I haven’t dated in 15 years, and now I’m trying to date again,” the divorcée said before surrendering to Botox.

“Lord knows men in their forties are going after the twentysomethings,” Rodgers says, “so it’s important for us single or divorced women to be at our best.”

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