Iowa woman celebrates 50th birthday with 'ambush makeover' on NBC's 'Today' show - Omaha.com
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Rhonda Leonard of Logan, Iowa.


Iowa woman celebrates 50th birthday with 'ambush makeover' on NBC's 'Today' show
By Sue Story Truax / World-Herald staff writer


Get to Know
Rhonda Leonard
Home: rural Logan, Iowa
Career: Works with Mike Leonard, her husband of 32 years, raising corn and soybeans and watches their grandchildren
Age: 50
Family: Husband Mike; daughters Melissa Grimes of Logan and Becky Branstetter of Persia, Iowa; son Curtis Leonard, a high school senior; two grandchildren
Hobbies: Hunting, fishing, flower gardening, painting and attending car shows with her husband and their 1973 Dodge Charger

* * *

Having an “Ambush Makeover” on NBC's “Today” show capped off Rhonda Leonard's 50th birthday year. She was chosen for the makeover Jan. 2 and appeared that day on the “Kathie Lee & Hoda” portion of the show.

When Leonard of rural Logan, Iowa, turned 50 in June, she told her daughters: “We're going to New York City to celebrate and get something crossed off my bucket list.”

Daughters Melissa Grimes of Logan and Becky Branstetter of Persia, Iowa, got busy planning the Big Apple adventure. Mom's one requirement: They had to include a “Today” show visit on a Thursday when “Kathie Lee & Hoda” do the makeovers.

The women were outside in the “Today” waiting area before 6 a.m. Jan. 2. About 6:30 a.m., they were allowed into the gated area. Before 7, the people who choose the makeover candidates started working the crowd.

Leonard held up her sign:

Rhonda Leonard left the farm to go to New York city.

While she was there, she had a dream she'd transform magically.

With a snip, snip here and a highlight there, here a tuck there a push from Makeover Ambush.

Rhonda Leonard went back home looking beautifully.

Things moved quickly once she was chosen. “Three hours was just bam, bam, bam,” she said.

Since being home, “I haven't done everything they did” with hair, Leonard said. The show's stylist gave her the formula for the hair coloring, which she plans to continue using.

She got to keep her makeover dress, but the shoes and jewelry stayed in New York.

The TV makeup was too complex to reproduce at home, she said, but she's more attentive to it now.

Besides being on television, Leonard said she and her daughters also rode the ferry to Staten Island, visited the Statue of Liberty, went to the top of the Empire State Building, were moved by the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, walked through about half of Central Park and stopped at The Dakota where John Lennon lived and was shot.

The Iowans were about a half-block from Times Square on New Year's Eve and watched the ball drop.

Then it was back to life on the farm for Leonard.

She works with husband Mike growing corn and soybeans, and babysitting their two grandchildren. The couple's son, Curtis, will graduate in May from Logan High School.

Mike and Rhonda Leonard were high school sweethearts who married in 1981.

Our whole family likes to hunt for deer, pheasant and turkey, and fish for bass and bluegill, she said.

She's active in the Teacher Support Organization at Logan High and at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Logan. She also works in her half-acre of flower beds and paints with acrylics.

We enjoy going to car shows with a 1973 Dodge Charger, she said. “This one we purchased already restored, but we have one I drove in high school. We're going to restore it some day.”

Contact the writer: Sue Story Truax

sue.truax@owh.com    |   402-444-1165

Sue writes obituaries and covers community news and schools for Omaha.com's Living section, primarily Community Connection.


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