Paige Gobin Dickerson, before (left) and after (right) her makeover. Photos: Courtesy of Paige Gobin Dickerson

In our new column, Makeover Diaries, women tell the stories of their real-life beauty transformations. Paige Gobin Dickerson, a newspaper reporter from Washington state, learned how to use makeup to polish her look -- and turn some heads.

I grew up in rural Brazil, where makeup was seen as a luxury or a vanity.

Years later, as a newspaper reporter in Amarillo, Texas, I knew I looked less polished than the other women, but couldn't figure out exactly why. When I moved to the Northwest, where the women were fresh-faced, natural beauties, I fit in better – or so I thought, until a woman at a young-professionals event asked me if I was OK.

"Well, yes," I said. "Why?"

"You just seem a little pale," she said.

It was as if I saw myself for the first time. Not only was I the worst-dressed in the room, but I was the only woman not wearing any makeup at all. While I had thought I was going for fresh-faced beauty, I had instead hit the "lazy, rumpled reporter" note. Turned out "natural" wasn't the same as "effortless."

I vowed to change, but didn't know where to begin. Then I rediscovered the TV show, "What Not to Wear." I watched religiously, memorizing every tip. I learned how to apply eyeshadow: dark shade on the outside of the lid, medium tone to the crease, lighter shade to the brow and just a dab in the inside corner of the eye. It looked amazing!

I learned that bar soap and rubbing alcohol wasn't the best skin-care regimen. Shuffling through a host of brands, I finally settled on Biore's Warming Anti-Blackhead Cream Cleanser, Triple Action Astringent and their Nourish Moisture Lotion with SPF 15 in it. With healthier skin beneath, I switched to a liquid foundation that better suited my pale, almost translucent skin tone and type. I noticed the rosy effect of blush on the apples of my friends' cheeks (not under the cheekbone as I always had done) and the natural look of brown eyeliner blending well with the eyeshadow (as opposed to my stark-black application).

A makeup artist friend had another tip for me -- lipstick. My habit of chewing my lips had always dissuaded me from any kind of lip balm. After trying out a shade that nearly matched my lips, but was a little more saturated (Lancome's Color Design Lipstick in Designer Bloom), I realized it actually encouraged me to leave my lips alone.

Finally, I was ready to go public: For the first week in January, I devoted myself to looking glam at the office.

"Do you have an interview at another job?" one co-worker asked.

"Wow, you look amazing," said another, "I don't mean to sound sexist but really, wow."

Everyone had a comment but few knew the secret. Almost no one guessed it was makeup.

The best response of all came from a 20-something, nice-looking stranger in Safeway. He ran into a pole when he turned to take a second look at me doing my groceries.

I think I'll stick with this glamorous new look.

Makeover Diaries showcases real-life makeover stories submitted through Visit to learn how you can contribute too. And visit our Makeover Section for more gorgeous transformations.