by Steena Hymes
You’ve heard of trading places and trading spaces, but what about trading faces? For identical twins Debbie Casey and Lynn Hohensee, 48, that’s exactly what they did when they appeared on the Tyra Banks lifestyle television show FABlife.
Thirteen years ago when Casey lost her husband to suicide, she said she checked out and stopped caring about anything, include her outward appearances.
“I spent 13 years just living in a hole, depressed,” she said.
It’s only been in the last year that Casey said she has started to live again. After dabbling in work being extras for TV shows and movies, Casey said she wanted to get her life back.
“I lost 50 pounds and, when I lost that weight and I started feeling more confident, that was the turning point, that’s when I started finally coming out,” she said.
Casey, who said she has been a tomboy her whole life, has never been good at hair, make-up, or style. When she received an email for a casting call that said, “If you need a make-over, tell us why” Casey replied.
Casey said when they heard her story and learned she had an identical twin, FABlife wanted to do an episode where the two “traded faces.” Unlike Casey, Hohensee was meticulous about her outward appearance, never leaving the house without looking runway-ready.
The twins flew out to Los Angeles where Casey received a make-over and Hohensee received a make-under. Casey said both were completely shocked to see their new looks.
“At first it was really uncomfortable, but I kind of got into it,” Casey said. “Lynn on the other hand was not a happy camper.”
“I didn’t like it at all,” Hohensee said. “I wanted my make-up and clothes back.”
The episode, which aired September 25, sent the sisters to the streets of L.A. to see what it was like to walk in each other’s shoes.
“Normally, I don’t want people looking at me or talking to me and I noticed being dressed up I got a lot more attention,” Casey said.
As the day went on, Casey said she felt more and more confident and even started to enjoy the positive attention she received.
While Casey was rediscovering her confidence, Hohensee was experiencing what she called the most uncomfortable moment of her life.
Taking a break from walking the streets, Hohensee said she sat down on a park bench feeling depressed from her make-under. It was then a young woman mistook her for homeless and handed her money.
“I don’t even know how to explain how I felt because it was a feeling that I never felt before,” she said.
Both Casey and Hohensee said they realized that how you look dictates how people treat you.
“I didn’t feel like people respected me like they did whenever I was dressed up,” Hohensee said. “There’s power in the way you look, unfortunately, but you really do get treated differently.”
One lesson both women took away from the experience was that how you feel inside correlates with outward appearance.
“I feel like the way you look reflects how you feel about yourself,” Hohensee said.
Once the social experiment was over, Hohensee said she was happy to get her looks back and Casey said the show gave her the push she needed to finally reclaim her life after the tragedy of losing her husband.
“This experience gave me confidence that I lost,” she said. “I was living in the past because that’s where Mike was and you’ve got to live for today – that was the key.”
Hohensee said while the show opened her eyes to her excessive attention over her looks, she mainly did the show for her sister and is thankful for how it healed Casey.
“It probably helped her more than it helped me,” Hohensee said. “Debbie got the best benefit out of it and so it was worth it.”