Meet Our 2011 Beauty Search Winners

When it comes to grace, guts and good looks, More readers are our best models. Over 1,400 of you entered this year’s Beauty Search contest on—and blew us away with your personal stories and healthy, inspiring approach to aging. The grand-prize winner, readers’ choice winner and four fantastic runners-up have taken the concept of beauty—inner and outer—and defined it on their own terms. Here are their get-gorgeous secrets.

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Grand-Prize Winner: Diana Pemberton, 48

PEMBERTON IS one of those women with a perma-grin: She loves her job as a JetBlue flight attendant; feels at peace in Florida, where she lives; adores her new boyfriend; and looks forward to the future. Yet life for this native of Vancouver wasn’t always so sunny. At 33, she gave up her job in programming at Bravo! Canada to marry and move for her husband’s career, first to Toronto, then later to New York. The moves, which required parting from her friends, family and job, left her feeling empty. “I stopped growing and lost my identity,” she says. “Looking back, I feel bad because I don’t think my husband ever knew the real me.” The couple divorced five years later. Single and staring down 40, Pemberton answered an ad to be a JetBlue flight attendant. Wanting to leave New York and its memories—and head somewhere warm (“My family is originally from the West Indies, and I’m drawn to water and warm weather”)—Pemberton moved to Atlanta, then to Fort Lauderdale. “Once I arrived in Florida, I started a period I call ‘the rebirth of a goddess.’ ”

First on the reinvention agenda: cutting her hair. “I had dreadlocks and was tired of all the maintenance,” she says. So she chopped—and discovered how much her new look played up her big eyes and glowing skin. Next, she adjusted her attitude. “I began looking at myself in the mirror and saying how wonderful I was . . . until I believed it,” she wrote in her Beauty Search entry. That positivity opened up her life to new friends, adventures—and a new boyfriend, Na’im, whom she met online. “I didn’t even have a profile on the dating site,” she says. “I was scrolling through the pages, and I saw this great smile and gorgeous teeth. I felt like he was smiling right at me.” When the couple met, the chemistry was obvious: “He treats me like a queen.”


How she looks so good

Pemberton is devoted to Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser ($8; drugstores) and moisturizes, neck to toe, with extra-virgin olive oil. “I also drink tons of water and have a good dentist who whitens my teeth regularly,” she says. Pemberton hates gyms but does work out to DVDs like Turbo Jam and Hip Hop Abs ($20, $60;, which fit easily into her carry-on and can be done in any hotel room when she’s on the road with JetBlue.

Philip Newton

Runner-Up: Janey Russell, 40

LAST DECEMBER the Russell family had much to celebrate: Besides toasting the holidays, they’d be saluting Janey’s 40th birthday on the 26th. But things didn’t go as planned. What initially appeared to be a routine virus landed Janey’s 10-year-old daughter, Meg, in the hospital on Christmas Day. With a high fever doctors couldn’t quell and an alarmingly swollen gland, Meg spent six days in the intensive care unit, Janey at her side. “When your child is hooked up to all kinds of monitors, the BS fades away. I said, ‘I’m not leaving until Meg does.’ ” And her family and friends pitched in. “My girlfriends and Meg’s friends visited every day, and my in-laws and best friend, Kelly, took care of my other daugh-ter, Annie [eight], and my husband.” The only thing Russell asked for? “I told my girlfriend Cash that I could really use a glass of Chardonnay—so she snuck it up to the ICU in her son’s Spider-Man thermos.” When Meg was finally well enough to go home (the doctors were never able to diagnose exactly what ailed her), she and Janey were overwhelmed by the reception. “When we turned onto our street, you couldn’t drive. It was packed with people holding signs and balloons. They’d all come to welcome us home.” Buoyed by the flood of support, Russell started a nonprofit called Shine On, Tucson (now on Facebook). She hopes to make Shine On a network where local volunteers can find charities and people who need help. “I am changed by the outpouring of love we received around Meg’s illness. I am stronger, more beautiful—like sex on fire,” she says with a laugh. “And I am making it my mission to help others feel that same kind of support.”


How she looks so good
A fitness fanatic, Russell works out five days a week with 40 minutes of cardio plus some strength training. Products she likes: Olay Total Effects Daily Moisturizer ($20; drugstores), Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20 ($42;, NARS Laguna Bronzer ($33; and St. Tropez Self-Tanning Lotion ($30; She steers clear of injectables and peels but says she does “exfoliate the crap out of my skin.” Her scrub of choice: St. Ives Apricot Scrub ($4; drugstores).

Philip Newton

Runner-Up: Linda Meacham, 59

WHEN THE company Meacham worked for was bought by a private-equity firm, she found herself out of a job: “The timing is not what I would have chosen, but it has worked out. And, truthfully, I was kind of relieved. The day I was laid off, my husband told me I looked five years younger.” Her new flexibility enabled her to divide her time among job hunting, helping out her sister (who is battling lupus while raising seven-year-old twins)and volunteering at a local community outreach center. “Once they discovered I could work a spreadsheet, they got me entering data that keeps track of our clients’ use of the center’s supplies and services,” she says. Feeling as though she’s giving back and doing something valuable has had a positive impact on the rest of her life. “I chirp more; I just feel happier. My volunteer job at the community center is hard but rewarding. And I’m inspired by all that goes on there. There are real needs in our community—whether for diapers or car oil or computer access. Being part of the mission to provide those things has made me feel more vibrant than I have in years.”


How she looks so good
An avid runner, Meacham hits the pavement four or five days a week, cover-ing three to four miles a day—a regimen she hopes to follow for many years to come. “My 81-year-old mother still goes jogging, so I’d be embarrassed to hang up my running shoes before she does.” Meacham also takes care of her silver mane with Wen Cleansing Conditioner ($30 for a 30-day kit; She stopped coloring her hair in her thirties: “A man I worked with at the time noticed a silver streak that I was letting grow in, and he said I should really color it. That was all the motivation I needed to stop coloring and go completely gray!” As for her enviable skin, she swears it’s genetics—and Dove soap ($4 for a two-pack; drugstores).

Philip Newton

Runner-Up: Marguerita Drew, 44

AN ART-HISTORY major in college, Drew dreamed of becoming an art-history professor or a curator. She moved to New York and made the final cut for an internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but someone else got the gig. Next, she considered modeling (she’s five foot eleven) but was told by the receptionist at Ford Models that at 22 she’d need an agency for “older” models. Eventually Drew left New York and went home to California, still undecided about her career. To pay the bills, she subbed at the local high school. “I loved it,” says Drew. So much so, she enrolled in a teaching-credential -program and started working at the school full time. Within a few years, however, she had second thoughts. “I left teaching in my late twenties. But by 32, I had to admit that I missed teaching—and the kids.” So she returned to education and hasn’t looked back. “I was a late bloomer. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do. Then it took me a while to get married—which I did at 37. At 40, I had my son,” says Drew. “But I am so content today and have never felt better about myself.”


How she looks so good
Drew’s must-haves: Ayur-Medic Enrichment Face Cream ($67;, Moroccan Hair Oil ($41; for salons) and CoverGirl Lipslicks in Hipster ($4; drugstores).

Philip Newton

Runner-Up: Christine Marino, 47

MARINO’S PATH has been harder than most. When she was 14, her father died in a plane crash, which altered the trajectory of her young life: By 21, the formerly college-bound good girl was divorced, broke and the mother of two boys. After remarrying in her thirties, she found work in the spa industry—and then her 40-year-old sister died of breast cancer. Marino’s mother also had the disease, so Marino was tested for the BRCA2 mutation, and the result was positive. She was advised to have her breasts and ovaries removed but postponed the surgeries. “I wasn’t ready,” she explains. She put her head down and focused on work (“though it was becoming less fulfilling”), then jumped at the chance to go to Uganda in 2008 on a short mission trip. In Africa, Marino says, she “fell in love” with the peo-ple. And so, a year later, when she was laid off from her job, she returned to Uganda, this time assisting a doctor who was helping HIV/AIDS patients. “On the trip, I prayed a lot about finding my deeper purpose,” says Marino, who stayed in Uganda for two months. While there, she sought out an HIV-positive Ugandan child, Joane, whom Marino had been sponsoring for several years. “When I met Joane, I knew the money I was sending was changing her life. She’d gotten medical care and was doing well in school.” It was then that Marino realized she “didn’t need to be Bono; I could help one life at a time.” After returning to the U.S., Marino created Olive Africa ( to help teen girls. “Most aid money goes to caring for younger children,” she says. “But the teens need it, too. Without funding, the girls are often forced to leave school and get married before they’re 20.” Founding the charity has given Marino vigor, despite the continuing challenges of her own life.
“I did have the oophorectomy; the mastectomy is next,” she says. “I could dwell on ‘Why me,’ but this story is what makes me me. I can handle anything.”


How she looks so good
“In the spa industry, I tried lots of skin treatments. But what really makes a difference in my looks is not what I put onto my body but what I put into it. A healthy diet is the key.”

Philip Newton

Reader's Choice Winner: Donna Renee Preston, 59

PRESTON’S ACTIVITY level could make a Wimbledon champ feel like a couch potato. “I run, I scuba dive, I Rollerblade—I can still scratch the middle of my back,” she says. Her motivation? “I think the moment you slow down, you become complacent. I plan on being able to take care of myself for a long, long time.” Even when she had a minor health setback 12 years ago—a benign colon tumor that required surgery—she didn’t decelerate. “I had the surgery in March and was running in a 5K by September.” These days Preston puts her energy into an array of activities: working full time in a managerial role at a software company; writing a children’s book; running four miles a day (she’s completed three Los Angeles marathons); devoting herself to her husband and 23-year-old son; and scuba diving (she’s even swum with sharks and stingrays in Belize). “Now that I’m in my fifties, I don’t let the wind take me where it wants—something I did in my twenties. I guide my life: where I’m going and how I’m getting there.”


How she looks so good
Besides running, Preston rises at 5:30 AM and cranks out 100 push-ups, 100 stomach crunches and the splits. The splits? “Because someone challenged me to do them when I was 55,” she explains. While she brushes her teeth, she does leg lifts and throws down a few squats—then heads out to run. She is also a devoted vegan and swears by skin care from DHC ( Her beauty motto: “When I’m 80, I may look it, but I plan on feeling and acting a lot younger.”


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Philip Newton

First Published October 14, 2011

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