First Impressions: As Crucial As They Come

When her daughter's engagement was broken, Kay Goodstadt looked no further than her own college education and work experience as a way to comfort the young, bummed-out former fiancée.

With a degree in health and sexual education from Temple University – and two decades of work as a makeup artist – Goodstadt offered her 25-year-old a professional going-over.

"We took baby steps. We wrote a profile for the Internet, and we spoke of her self-image," said the 51-year-old resident of Cherry Hill, N.J. "And she did a 180. You can be the most beautiful person in the world on the inside, but if your outside doesn't speak of that to the opposite sex, they don't get past that."

From this familial makeover was born a new business: Up-to-Date Social-Image Management, Goodstadt's crack at cracking the Internet-dating code.

Goodstadt believes that communication on the Internet is indeed an art, and has dedicated the past year since the broken engagement to working with singles – both men and women of all ages – creating snappy profiles for dating Web sites, perfecting photographs to post on the site, sifting through interested e-mail messages once they start arriving and giving advice for the first in-person meeting.

Though she has an office in Voorhees, N.J., Goodstadt's job is by no means 9-to-5. She's taken phone calls at 10 p.m., when a date may not have gone as well as planned. She's gone to the supermarket with a client to help stock her fridge with the appropriate foods and give her the encouragement to lose weight. And she's even gone through someone's cosmetic bag to explain correct products to use – and ones that need replacing.

But her most unforgettable call was from a client, at 11 p.m., who called to tell her that she had just lost her virginity. (Goodstadt was stunned by this call, but is happy to report that the couple in question is still together).

Make no mistake, Goodstadt has no intention of completely changing who a person is. Rather, she says, she understands the pitfalls of Internet dating, and advises on how to commandeer the sites and make your entire package more attractive.

"On dating sites, people make judgments about you in the first 15 seconds. They form quick opinions about date worthiness and social background. The idea is to make the best of who you really are, and still maintain integrity," she explained.

Though she thinks dating over the Internet is a blessing for single people, she stresses that she is certainly not a 100 percent proponent of the phenomenon. "I think there are a lot of people who do not have time to do it any other way. But they tend to hide behind the entire idea that they aren't really being seen."

A wife of 27 years and the mother of two – in addition to her now happily single daughter, she has a 17-year-old son – Goodstadt is also a freelance writer, specializing in (what else?) dating and relationships. She has previously worked for corporations on image-consulting, and as a freelance model scout.

Despite her blooming business, which offers a shot at finding love for her clients, Goodstadt's favorite success has been helping her first-born.

"She's blossomed – and it's changed her life and the way she feels about herself," said Goodstadt. "It was a wonderful mother/daughter journey for the two of us."

Soon, Goodstadt hopes to expand her brand to include a "go-to" team of hair-colorists, dentists, orthodontists, cosmetic surgeons and personal trainers, all available to help clients in need.

"Self-confidence is the name of the game," she stressed.

After all, added Goodstadt, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression."



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