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More than a makeover: Michelle Gibbs

By Andrea Yeager //

“I love the color and the haircut,” said the three-time cancer survivor, tossing her new shorter hairdo. “It was worth all the work these stylists did.”

Michelle Gibbs of Hattiesburg was shocked to be told that she was this year’s final recipient of a makeup and hair makeover.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said the 48-year-old wife and mother of three. “I called Tamara Yotov to make sure it wasn’t a hoax.”

Yotov, manager at Back on the Rack resale shop in Gulfport, nominated Gibbs for the makeover at Tanya Tancredi Salon, also in Gulfport.

“After all she’s been through, I don’t know of anyone else more deserving,” said Yotov.

In the past five years, Gibbs has survived three non-related cancers, a double mastectomy, two thyroid surgeries and two lung surgeries. Doctors had to perform two surgeries on her thyroid and lung because neither of the first surgeries looked like cancer, but days later, the tests said cancer. Back to the operating rooms she went.

Because she had no family history of cancer, doctors at M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston told her that it was rarer to have three unrelated cancers than it was to win the lottery.

“I now buy lottery tickets,” she said jokingly. “These cancers give you a different perspective on life. I have slowed down some and don’t take anything for granted.”

During her chemotherapy treatment, her youngest son, Presley, said, “Mom, I know the chemo was bad, but you smile a lot more and you yell a lot less.”

“I love that he said that. It puts life into perspective,” Gibbs said.

Husband David said, “She has been so strong. Now, she helps friends and patients get through cancer treatment. She even gives them her cell phone so they can always get in touch with her.”

Before her breast surgery, Gibbs threw a party themed, “Ta-Ta to the tatas.” She had T-shirts made for the guests and also sold them with all proceeds going to the Pink Heart Fund. She raised more than $1,000.

She once told her mother before her cancer surgeries that she did not feel like she was doing what she needed to do.

“My mother said, but you are, you are a nurse,” Gibbs said. “I know now that helping others deal with cancer diagnoses is what I am supposed to do.”

Now, Gibbs gives each cancer victim she helps a Saint Peregrine medal — the patron saint of cancer.

“While most are not Catholic, I tell them to keep it and rub it and know that people are praying for them.”

A full-time nurse and part-time psychiatric nurse, Gibbs needed a hairstyle that fits her active lifestyle. “I usually pull my hair back in a ponytail while I am at work.”

She now sports a deeper shade of blonde with lowlights and a layered, feathered haircut that frames her face. Her makeup, done by hairstylist and makeup artist Thom Gnau, looks so soft and natural.

“I wanted her to have a feminine look, one that can transition from day to evening,” said Gnau, who has been a stylist, makeup artist and instructor for more than 30 years. “She needs it to be wearable every day.”

Gnau also is the hands behind the new haircut, which is done in an oval shape, leaving quite a bit of length but layering to give an almost wispy look.

“The way the layers hit gives her a softer, less elongated shape,” he said. “This gives an oval structure to her whole face.”

The rich blond hair color with lowlights adds depth and light at the same time. Hairstylist Melinda Hryocheuk, who has been a stylist for some 22 years on the Coast and in Tennessee, first put a filler on Gibbs’ hair so the color would last longer. Then came the color and lowlights, all for a softer, more natural look.

Looking at herself in the mirror, Gibbs fairly glowed. The cut, the color and the makeup all worked their magic to make her feel pampered and special.

Her husband planned to make her feel special, too, by taking her out for dinner.

Makeover team

Melinda Hryhorcheuk of Tanya Tancredi Salon: A hairstylist for more than 22 years in Mississippi and Tennessee. She specializes in haircuts and color.

Thom Gnau of Tanya Tancredi Salon: A hairstylist and makeup artist for more than 30 years. He recently returned to the Coast from San Antonio, where he taught specialized classes at beauty schools.

Back on the Rack: Provided fashions for Gibbs.