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Star Jones Reynolds: New Look, New Job

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Even Star Jones Reynolds was surprised by her bold new look. When hairstylist Oscar James made a house call for his perpetually long-locked client March 5, “she said she had a new project and she wanted a new look—something to showcase her great new body,” says James. And then she said the gutsiest words ever uttered by a woman in a stylist’s chair: “Do it. I won’t even peek!” Two hours later, after a dramatic cut and color job, James spun Reynolds around for her first glance in the mirror. “She took a deep breath and went, ‘Oh.'” says James. “I thought I was in trouble! But then she started smiling.”

There were more smiles on March 7, when Reynolds—who last year was fired from the ABC chatfest The View—announced that she will anchor her own talk show on Court TV later this year. “It’s a new chapter,” Reynolds says of her gig on the cable channel, where she started her broadcast career as a legal commentator during the William Kennedy Smith trial in 1991. “It’s come full circle. It’s like manna,” she gushes. “It’s so good.”

To go with the new do and job, Reynolds is also flaunting a more-toned-than-ever physique. “It’s really a transformation,” says a pal. “And not just physically. This is a different Star.”

It was just eight months ago—in the wake of her View departure—that Reynolds told PEOPLE, “I cry constantly.” But now, friends say, that break from the spotlight actually did her good. “She used the downtime wisely,” says her pal, corporate and political strategist Morris L. Reid. “Talk about landing on your feet. She’s landed on her feet and is off and running.”

To read more on Star’s new look, go to WWW.PEOPLE.COM/STARJONES