Hit & Run: A model makeover?

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The Independent Online

If you need a photo taking, where do you go? Mario Testino is busy, passport booths make everyone look like a government anti-crack campaign, and Snappy Snaps can be a bit harsh. My friend went recently, and when she suggested that the results weren’t exactly Holbeinesque, the ‘artiste’ responsible replied sullenly that “the camera never lies”. Then there’s the average makeover studio, where subjects submit to transvestite make-up and a tight perm before being photographed sitting backwards on a chair.

Enter Harrods’ new portrait studio, which aims to put a classy spin on the makeover. “This is the first of its kind,” says the salon’s CEO George Hammer. Dubbed ‘Lights, Camera, Beauty’, its new package recreates a photoshoot, as you pick a designer dress and jewellery, (I reached for the what I thought was the one avant-garde dress on the rail only to find it was the hairdressing cape) sip champagne while your hair and make-up is done and ‘reportage’ pics are taken, then sit for the portrait or “hero shot” (not to be confused with the money shot). Costing a lip-smacking £1,450 with fashion photographer Tony McGee, and £595 for an artistic director, there is a waiting list before it opens on 1 November.

Anyone who loves being the centre of attention will thoroughly enjoy it, but your uptight correspondent had trouble surrendering to glamour, Harrods-style. The photographer decided I was a bluestocking, and quipped, “when your novel wins the Booker I’ll take the author photo,” I sighed with relief. “This isn’t literature, it’s fashion and beauty!” McGee announced, and the wind machine appeared. After vetoing the “gentle breeze”, and flattening my hair, I was fairly happy with the result. And that’s as good as it gets for us fussy fashion writers.

Carola Long

Ego-readers make a name for themselves

It's hardly My Very Own Fairytale, in which your nipper's name is inserted into a book's narrative so they become the hero, whether they're slaying the dragon or helping Santa to deliver his gifts. More a sauce-filled, personalised journey into the heart of Mills and Boon. U Star Novels is just part of a growing trend in which adults can log on to a website (in this case Ustarnovels.co.uk), insert their name, that of a friend or paramour and – voilà – they become the central character in a romantic novel. Sample text: "Marmaduke's tongue found the chocolate on his cheek...he scooped two fingers into the ice cream and daubed Sheherazade's nose".

The books are proving a hit with forces sweethearts missing their loved ones. What's more, just in time for Christmas, Firebox.com has launched the opportunity to do the same with the classics, so anyone can have their own "ego-read": Dracula, Frankenstein, Romeo and Juliet, Pride and Prejudice and even Alice's Adventures in Wonderland are available to tinker with. "But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Tracy is the sun."

Rob Sharp

Definite case of oversharing

Posting status updates on Facebook can be a dangerous business. Telling the world you're pulling a sickie is a one-way ticket to sackedville, while whining about your mother-in-law in cyberspace is just as ill-advised. Some people, though, take it to a whole new level. Today's prize for over-sharing goes to Maxi Sopo, a fraudster on the run with $200,000. Instead of lying low and avoiding the attention of the US authorities, who were keen to track Sopo down, the Facebook fan posted a series of status updates telling everyone what a splendid time he was having in Cancun, Mexico, boasting that he was "just here to have fun". Unwise, perhaps, but not as idiotic as inviting a former US Justice Department official to his friends list. Said official put a swift end to Sopo's jaunt and, presumably, his access to social networking sites for the foreseeable future.

Rebecca Armstrong