Reading: What Your Profile Picture Says About You

Second Acts

What Your Profile Picture Says About You

She was a fashion stylist who needed a date. When she saw what changing her clothes and hiring a real photographer could do, she started a business

By Michelle Moskowitz

Alyssa Dineen
Founder of Style My Profile, Alyssa Dineen's before (left) and after (right) profile picture.

Alyssa Dineen appeared to be living the NYC dream — wife, mother, top fashion stylist and art director whose work had appeared in the glossy pages of Harper’s Bazaar, Travel & Leisure, and Glamour. She was also styling celebrities such as Halle Berry, Gwen Stefani, and Emmy Rossum.

But beneath the shiny veneer, Dineen was struggling with an emotionally gripping and grievous 20-year marriage that made her feel trapped and small.

Turning 40 Gave Her the Guts to Do What Had to be Done

As Dineen approached 40, she turned inward, became reflective, amped up her gumption, and got divorced.

Dineen was now free, single, and clueless about how to use a dating app to find a connection (more than 40 percent of Americans date this way).

But her friends encouraged her to get out there in the digital ether. Taking a scholarly approach, Dineen decided to approach online dating as if it were a research project. She began poring over a daunting number of dating profiles to understand what was going on out there. That’s when she realized that many daters don’t know how to present their best selves online. She wondered if she could “style” and “direct” individual profiles into more powerful, meaningful stories that could attract the right mates.

Today, stylemyprofilenyc.com works with clients (mostly women 40+) to develop a deeply individual and authentic dating profile. Dineen chooses the wardrobe, and styles each client personally. Then she photographs them and helps write their profiles. All with some rather miraculous results (see below). Dineen also helps clients determine which sites might work best for them.

Alyssa Dineen
Before, left: This is for Amira Alvarez’s professional profile photo for her website and promotional pieces. She is a life coach and has a commanding personality, which did not show through in this photo: her positioning is unflattering and doesn’t seem confident; her hair doesn’t look neat, and she’s squinting. We knew we could do better!

After, right: After we discussed what Amira was trying to convey to potential clients, we decided she should be wearing a modern version of a power suit. For these photos, she hired a professional photographer, hair and makeup and a photo studio. Needless to say, she was thrilled with the result.

TheCovey chatted with this congenial matchmaker — who for the first time shared the story of her personal strife, which led to her own reinvention.

She Restyled Her Profile Picture to Get Better Results

TheCovey:  Tell us what ignited your initial idea for Style My Profile, a modern-day personal stylist service. Do you work with both women and men?

Alyssa Dineen: At 41, I was thrust back into the dating world and just got right out there. After seeing so many profiles, I realized how many people really needed help, and when I “styled” my own profile, it improved my matches right away.

Women make up 90 percent of my business — but it’s not only divorced women — it’s a range — from 30-year-old women who want to give their profile an upgrade [to] older women (I have had quite few women in their late 60s). Online dating is a completely foreign language to those who don’t know it.

I do work with men, but the reason it’s not more [than women] is because they typically think they don’t need the help. The biggest mistake that most men make is just slapping up a few horrible selfies of themselves in the bathroom or in their car.  Many men even post photos of themselves with other women and then say “oh, that’s my cousin,” [to] which I reply, “how is anyone supposed to know that?” But when a male client signs up with me, they are so ready to up their game, update their wardrobe, their online profiles and commit to doing whatever it takes. They also don’t mind spending the money on themselves, which women often do.

Alyssa Dineen
Before, left: This photo looks like someone took it in his cubicle at work. Not the best background or atmosphere. The fit of his pants and shirt are dated as well as his glasses.

After, right: We updated his look to include well-fitting jeans and some cool new glasses. We also took the photo in his home, which feels more inviting.
Getting Out of an Abusive Relationship

TheCovey: I understand that your life got rerouted following your divorce. Can you share your path of reinvention from the moment everything changed until now?

Alyssa Dineen: It is a big part of my personal story and also how I try to help other women feel more confident in themselves, which makes getting my story out there less daunting.

To be honest, this is the first time I feel compelled to really talk about my story, and the CoveyClub feels like the perfect place to do so.

I got out of an abusive relationship [after] many years of being with someone. I thought [it] was “love” — but it was with someone who put me down continuously.

When I got out of that marriage, I was a shell of a person.

My attitude about myself and my mothering — my whole identity was tied into this view that he had of me. I had very low self-esteem.

So, dating to me became a kind of release as I realized that I was worthy of other people’s attention. Through online dating, I had the chance to have all these interesting conversations with men that made me learn so much about myself.

Giving People the Tools to Reveal Their Authentic Selves

With stylemyprofilenyc.com, I’m not a dating coach, but I give people the tools to get out there themselves and tackle it.

After two years out in the dating world, I met my current partner on Tinder. We actually worked together on the idea for stylemyprofilenyc.com after I teased him that he had only one good picture out of five.

When we realized that this relationship was “it,” I felt that I really attracted the exact person that I needed in my life.  

TheCovey: What mistake do people most often make when creating their online profile and what is the best thing people can do in order to create an honest, authentic portrait of themselves?

Alyssa Dineen: The most common mistake is only putting up one picture (or maybe two) with a really brief bio because it automatically gives people the message that you’re not completely in it.

Have at least four photos if not seven to ten. And have a strong bio. People over 40 tend to write bios that sound like a resume (but that won’t catch people’s attention).  

Don’t say that you like culture and that you’re active — be more specific, like you are part of a hiking group and enjoy salsa dancing.

People really want to get in there with you and it gives people more to approach you with in their questions and text[s]. The more detailed you can be, the better. Make it your story to tell. Also, make sure that you show different sides of yourself — an active side, a social side, etc.

There are so many profiles to go through that as much as you can tell about yourself in that brief moment, the better.

Alyssa Dineen
Before, left: This photo is mainly a selfie gone wrong. She is not focusing on what her expression is in the mirror (a common mistake!) Her outfit could also be more flattering.

After, right: Having someone else take the photo is always a safe bet if you’re not a selfie expert. She has a nice smile and looks very approachable. We updated her look a bit as well.
Biggest Mistake New Daters Make

TheCovey: Do people lie or exaggerate in their bios in order to build themselves up?

Alyssa Dineen: No. The more common mistake is people being really vague and not telling enough. People are hesitant to open up in our generation, compared to the younger generation, which has no problem opening up to strangers.

TheCovey: Tell us about the services you provide. What is the most challenging and what is the most rewarding?

Alyssa Dineen: My specialty is helping someone revamp their wardrobe, as people feel so much better afterward. They get teary-eyed because they feel like a new person in a great way!

I try to encourage people to hire a photographer. (Dineen has a great photographer who makes her clients feel at ease, but with exceptional lighting…but it is more costly to use a professional.)

Many people are now using these ‘dating’ photos for their professional profiles as well, so it justifies the cost. A couple of people that I have kept in touch with told me they were surprised at how many more matches they were getting through great photos.

Other clients hire me to do a profile overhaul, re-do their bio and complete the whole story.

TheCovey: On your website, you say you work with all personalities, sizes and budgets?

Alyssa Dineen: I think people assume a stylist will only take them to Barney’s. I can find things for people in all price ranges.

Clients send me photos of themselves. We do a video call and they show me what they have in their closets and we go from there.

TheCovey:  Have your clients found love online? What is the secret sauce?

Alyssa Dineen: I don’t follow people throughout their dating process — but what I hear back from clients is that the number of matches and dates increases after our work together. The idea is for you to have more matches to select from, that you’re not limiting yourself because you have a so-so profile out there.

Alyssa Dineen
Before, left: This photo wasn’t a great option for a dating profile as she cropped out the child whose hand she’s holding (cropping people out of a photo — another common mistake!). The photo is also grainy and not very clear. She is wearing a bit of a mish mash of pieces, which isn’t great for a profile pic.

After, right: This is such a more dynamic photo. Clear with a great background. She is smiling, wearing something fun and flattering.

*This customer’s photo has been cropped for this article to preserve privacy.
What Makes a Dating Profile Pop

TheCovey: What is the single most important thing people should consider before creating an online dating profile?  

Alyssa Dineen: Have a good attitude about it and look at online dating as something fun. It’s the ones who really want to be in a relationship that get the most frustrated.

A lot of older women have shared with me that it is a really fun way to meet people to get to know or go to the movies with, [since] the pressure to start a family is not there.

TheCovey: What is the best part of your reinvention process and what advice can you give to other women who may be in the process of changing their own personal or professional lives?

Alyssa Dineen: I am trying to convey to women who might have been in the same position that I was, that there is a whole other life out there for you. It’s what you make of it.

I got out of a marriage feeling horrible about myself but it is incredible what you can do with your life by starting over and reinventing yourself. I would run into old friends who would say, what happened to you? I looked like a different person because I was happy again.  

So many women stay in marriages that are abusive or oppressive because they are afraid of what’s on the other side. If someone told me I would feel like this, I would have never believed it.

TheCovey: If you could have a cocktail with the Alyssa from 20 years ago about life, what would you tell her?

Alyssa Dineen: To value yourself and your own needs and then other people will value you also.

Dineen’s expansion plans are to incorporate on-site stylists in other major cities as well as to grow the women’s professional profiles.  

To book your free consult with SMP, visit stylemyprofilenyc.com.

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