Survive and Thrive

Internationally-known modeling coach Marsha Doll muses on life and her work with aspiring models.

Model Businesswoman Marsha Doll, Tallahassee Marsha Doll Models/ by Rosanne Dunkelberger

With a spiky blonde ’do, short skirt, sky-high heels, blinged-out jewelry and energy to spare, Marsha Doll is easy to pick out in a crowd.

Her grandfather was a Lithuanian immigrant who settled in Perry in 1924 and opened The Fair Store, a local department store that was passed on to her parents and is still operated today by her husband, Dean Faulkenberry. As a high-schooler, she would attend Atlanta apparel marts with her mother, who would let Doll order clothes for the store’s junior department. On one buying trip, a model didn’t show up, the manufacturer asked Doll to fill in and … a career was born.

For 35 years, the now modeling agent and coach, has had entrée to agencies around the world — particularly in the center of the modeling universe, New York City. Doll, 52, also judges modeling competitions, hosts a television makeover segment and, several times a year, holds weeklong “boot camps” in New York for aspiring models.

Over the years, she also developed a lucrative side business in professional staffing, hiring personable young people to market everything from Bacardi rum, to credit cards to household products. At one point, she had a roster of 48,000 people and workers manning eight toll-free lines in her basement to staff events. That business dropped precipitously with the recession, but she doesn’t mind. “I love money, I love nice things, but you know what? I’m just kind of over it,” she said. “I don’t want my cell phone ringing 24/7. I don’t want that anymore.”

1. Walmart: That’s where I find most of my (makeover candidates), because everybody has to go to Walmart for some reason or another — and usually you don’t dress up.

2. Working at Home: I dress up every day; that’s one of the things I teach. I feel like getting dressed and putting on my makeup; I just feel more powerful, even when no one’s here. It’s for me.

3. Meditation: I created and sold what I called The Promise Candle. It has a tag and on the back is a little contract saying you will light this every day and be nice to yourself. Just take five minutes to think about what’s important.

4. Hidden Talents: I can twirl a baton and ride a unicycle. Once, I did both at the same time up and down the street. People thought I was absolutely bonkers.

5. The Bird: I’m in the middle of cancer, I’ve got my nightgown on, I’m looking out the kitchen window and I’m just crying hysterically. All I can think about is that I need my mom, who had died a few years earlier. I look up and a bright red cardinal is just staring at me. I named him Louie — my mother’s name was Louise. Now, three years have passed and he comes when I call. I can’t wait to get up in the morning and see Louie every day.

6. Favorite Place: I love to go to my condo on the beach in Panama City Beach. It’s a beautiful wraparound unit.

7. Splurge: I don’t blink at $500 dinners at Daniel Boulud’s in New York City. That’s my thing. We eat our money, no doubt.

8. Emotion: I’m getting like (my) grandpa. I can’t get a story out without laughing or crying.

9. Describe Yourself: People get a kick out of me because I’m so Southern, but I’ve got this New York attitude. It works.

10. The Model Ideal: If you’re not five-foot-nine or above and have 36-inch hips or smaller you can forget it in high fashion. It’s not going to happen.