New Look Helps Marilyn Kleinberg Bounce Back from Bankruptcy

marilyn makeoverBankruptcy.

It's an ugly word that most people won't even whisper, let alone declare. But New Jersey businesswoman Marilyn Kleinberg saw no other options. In declaring both personal and business bankruptcy, she lost her home, her inheritance, everything... except her integrity.

"My parents instilled in me a strong sense of integrity," she says. "One of the reasons I fought the idea of bankruptcy for two years was because I couldn't get past the idea that I would be reneging on my promise to pay. I took out loans and used my credit cards in good faith. It just felt contrary to everything I believed in, and against my sense of integrity. It felt wrong and I felt guilty."

A double-whammy of loss

Marilyn had suffered even greater loses before. Both her parents, with whom she'd been very close, had passed, but that made the bankruptcy all the more difficult. "I gave up my condo that I had previously paid off with the money my mom left me when she passed," Marilyn recalls. "This was the most difficult part -- the loss of something that was so attached to her. It also was the loss of my future security that she was so adamant about, especially since I am not married and have no children of my own. But I had used it as collateral for my SBA loan and home equity line of credit and there was no other way I could ever pay it off."

Was the cruise business she started another victim of this recession, during which people are reluctant or incapable of taking exotic vacations? Marilyn says that's part of it, but also takes responsibility for her own misjudgment. "Bad timing is one reason," she admits. "Fear for things I couldn't control was another (such as weather, the actual accommodations, food, shore excursions, etc.) is another. But I thought that because I like to travel, it would be a good business for me. But it wasn't. It is a very 'dot the I, cross the T' business. And I've learned that is not me. I like to say I dot my Ts and then cross my Is. Bottom line: It did not fit my core competencies, nor I its core requirements."

A fresh start

So after crippling loss, intense soul searching and extensive research, Marilyn found a position that is much better suited to her strengths. She is now the executive managing director of the Southern New Jersey Chapter of eWomenNetwork. She explains her job this way: "I connect people! My job is to bring like-minded businesswomen together to share their resources, their experiences, their contacts and their wisdom. We create business development opportunities and we also develop relationships that can lead to personal and professional growth. I host several events a month to bring women together in a give first/share always environment. I earn commission on memberships and on the monthly events. I am always looking for a good fit with the business community for sponsorship opportunities."

A new look

But if Marilyn was going to inspire other women to achieve their own success, she needed a new, fresh look for her new beginning. She came to AOL at the Diva Toolbox Conference in Boston to achieve that. She'd had to make choices and rearrange her priorities in the recent past, and her style regimen took a backseat to so many other things. For one day, she gave herself permission to put her appearance at the top of the list.

Marilyn's hair was the biggest challenge. She has tight natural curls, and some months ago used a relaxer and color on them. Not loving the result, she decided to let her hair grow out, so she had kinky roots and straight ends with varying colors. Stylist Andrea LaRosa of the Green Tangerine Spa and Salon in Burlington, Mass., gave her hair a rich, uniform color from roots to ends and added sunny highlights around her face. She then layered Marilyn's hair, giving it shape and trimming off the damaged ends while leaving in as much length as possible. Light bangs were also added.

marilyns makeoverMakeup artist Heather Simeone used a GloMinerals foundation in Honey that was heavy enough to even out Marilyn's complexion, but light enough to give her a soft, sun-kissed, healthy glow. She used concealer under Marilyn's hazel eyes, and shadow in shades of Copper and Rain Forest so they would really pop. Then she used a happy, pinkish blush called "Sweet" on the apples of her cheeks and a flirty, natural colored liquid lip gloss, rather than a heavy lipstick. The object was to give Marilyn a healthy glow, rather than a heavily made-up look.

We replaced Marilyn's sweats, tennies, tank top and work shirt with polished black pants and fitted shell, underneath a loose-fitting apple green blazer that brought out the color of her eyes. We found most of this on sale at the Talbot's Outlet store. The long column of black from neck to toe gives Marilyn a longer, leaner look. Lia Sophia Adviser Cynthia Fitzgerald accessorized the outfit with a hip Seaglass necklace that combines both silver and gold, to complement the gold and amethyst pendant that Marilyn received from her mother and never removes.

A better outlook

Marilyn was thrilled with the overall result, as was her supportive boyfriend, Milt, who had driven her from New Jersey to Boston for the makeover experience. "Even though I know this is exterior, it shows on the outside that I was able to step out of my turmoil on the inside," Marilyn said when the makeover was complete.

Now she feels better able to help others learn from her mistakes. She likes to tell people to "Make my mess yours success." "That's what I've been doing by sharing my journey though bankruptcy with my members and my online followers," Marilyn says. "If they can learn or gain strength from my mess, then there is a greater good served. I am determined to encourage, to lead, to inspire, to empower. And I vow to stay true to myself. I am on the right road in my journey now. And I vow not to use credit cards as a crutch -- ever again!"

Get Marilyn's Look

Chico's Womens Black Toria Shell Top for $49 from AOL Shopping
Fashion Bug Black Dress Pants for $20 from AOL Shopping
Palm Leaf Pocket-Tie Bouclé for $93.99 from Talbots
Galena Bracelet for $48 from Lia Sophia
Sea Glass Necklace for $58 from Lia Sophia
Contour Earrings for $22 from Lia Sophia
Xhiliration Black Tomasa Pumps for $26.99 from AOL Shopping

GloFace Primer for $20
GloProtective Liquid Foundation in Honey for $24
GloMinerals Camouflage in Golden Honey for $17
GloLoose Base in Natural Dark from $30
GloMinerals Eye Shadow Trio in Copper Sheen for $30
GloEye Shadow in Rainforest for $18
GloPrecision Eye Pencil in Brown for $16
GloVolumizing Mascara in Black for $19
GloBlush in Sweet for $21
GloBronze in Sunkiss from $38
GloLiquid Lips in Flirt from $15

Marilyn's makeover outfit was provided by the Diva Toolbox from Talbots. Marilyn's jewelry was provided by: You can purchase Lia Sophia jewelry by contacting a Lia Sophia Hostess.

Hear Marilyn talk about her experiences with Diva Toolbox's Janet Powers and AOL's Lisa Johnson Mandell on their Blog Talk Radio show Work It, Girl!

-- See All Work It! Makeovers on AOL Jobs

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