With her divorce to Jon finally behind her, Kate Gosselin started off 2010 by spending some serious quality time with a new guy — and their date lasted until the wee hours of the morning. Celebrity hairstylist Ted Gibson, who has tended to the tresses of Angelina Jolie and Anne Hathaway, spent nearly 20 hours last week meticulously adding hundreds of extensions to Kate’s hair. Luckily, they both agree that their time together was a smashing success. “Kate was an absolute sweetheart, I loved her,” says Gibson, who also appears on the TLC show What Not To Wear. While he knew that transforming the look that launched a thousand Halloween wigs would be a challenge, Gibson reveals it was the super-short, spiky hair in the back of Kate’s notorious former hairstyle that proved most daunting. “Bonding extensions to those little hairs really took time. But in all those hours, she didn’t complain once. She was so open to whatever I suggested, and willing to try just about anything.” Well, with one notable exception: At first, Gibson reports, Kate was reluctant to let go of the thick, jaw-length shock of hair in the front of her face in favor of bangs. “She wasn’t sure about bangs,” says Gibson, “But I find many women have that one thing they’re afraid to let go of, that one ‘security blanket’ part of their look, whether it’s a fear of going shorter or darker or something. But once they finally let go and embrace the change, they always love it.” Indeed, Kate gave in on the bangs and was thrilled with the sleek, layered look Gibson achieved. “It’s good to have hair again,” she says. “I know this will be more upkeep than my old look, but I’m ready for it. I’m just grateful I don’t have to go through the awkward growing-out process of short hair. I get criticized for everything I do enough as it is!” To see more of Kate’s brand-new look — and to hear more about how her kids are doing, what she thinks of the latest Jon drama, and whether she’s ready for romance — pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.