Special to Page 3
WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- Gucci, Armani, and Badgley Mishka haute couture pieces hang on rolling clothes racks. Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo shoes are placed just so in rows atop their respective boxes. Stylish clutch purses and glimmering baubles are neatly spread across a white table. There's even a bubble-gum pink boa with matching fuzzy, oversized, pimp hat.
Forget rackets and basketballs. Today, these will be the tools of the trade for tennis champ Serena Williams and WNBA star Diana Taurasi as they "train" for the 2004 ESPY Awards, which are being held Wednesday night in West Hollywood and will air Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.
ESPN approached Serena, no stranger to the world of fashion and beauty, and asked her to do a makeover on someone. No, there was no "Scratch and win a makeover by Serena" sweepstakes. Nor was there an awkward ambush of some unsuspecting average Jane on the city streets. And, uh, no need for radical dental or plastic surgery here.
The willing participant was none other than the rookie guard from the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury.
The mission: Help Taurasi sport a new look for the show, in which she is nominated for the Best Female Athlete award and her 2003-04 UConn Huskies women's basketball squad is up for the Best Team.
The Page 3 position: Fly on wall.
"I'm so excited!" Williams says as she enters the room. Wearing micro-mini jean shorts, a white tank top and a colorful silk poncho, Serena is flanked by her publicist, William Morris agent and hair specialist.
Though she is an hour late, Williams' enthusiasm for the dress-up project almost makes you forget you've been waiting around in a luxurious yet lukewarm hotel suite. Almost.
The introductions are simple:
"Hi, I'm Diana. Nice to meet you," an ultra-laid back Taurasi says and extends her right hand. She looks like one of your home girls -- wearing jeans, a red T, sneakers, and her trademark slicked back 'do.
"Nice to meet you, too," Williams says through her wide smile. Someone from the Williams' posse chimes in, "Hey, you're not wearing shorts today."
"Yeah, I dressed up for you guys today," Taurasi responds without missing a beat. There's laughter, but Williams is really into the joke, and keeps laughing long after the others have stopped.
The meeting will air as a segment during the ESPYs, and the director suggests they get started.
After quietly looking through the racks, Taurasi heads to the back room with fashion stylist Bernard Jacobs to try on a few outfits. Williams kicks off her pearly white Nikes and starts to try on some of the shoes.
"Oh, my God! I've been looking for these! I looked all over Italy for these. I love these," Williams squeals about a pair of shoes. "This. Is. Fabulous! Isn't it?" Her posse responds almost in unison, "Oh, those are fabulous, Serena."
The cameras roll as Williams continues to gush about the shoes, clothes and accessories set up for Taurasi. To say Williams is a "kid in a candy story" is beyond understatement.
Taurasi steps out, modeling various dresses. Williams' posse has become the peanut gallery, and opinions are offered up almost too freely. Even the television crew is adding votes.
"Go with that black, low-cut one!" the lighting dude says.
"OK, next outfit," Taurasi replies, "We're having too much fun with this one!" She heads back to change for a 10th time.
With all the different outfits, the stylist pulling here and there, the hair stylist tugging at her hair, the rapid-fire comments ...
"You're legs are fabulous. You should wear short skirts all the time."
"She needs to look sexy and elegant"
"Your hair looks so hot like that & what about highlights."
"Can you walk in those heels? Maybe we should get them cut down"
"Don't forget to give a flirty wave to the crowd."
Despite all this swirling around her, Taurasi managed to keep her good spirits. She kept a genuine smile on her face, even as we moved into the third hour.
When all was said and done, the choice came down to two very sexy, super hot outfits. The room was divided. But the choice is still all Taurasi's. Even on the morning of the show, no one knows if it'll be the hot black number with the plunging neckline or the head-turning pink pantsuit with lacey bra. (Yes, that's it ... just the black lacey bra, folks.)
The final look will be unveiled when Taurasi steps on the Red Carpet at the Kodak Theater, and shows people that she's got game on the catwalk, too.Nicole Blades is an editor for Page 3.