“I know the basics, but airbrushing? That was all new to me,” Ashley said on the day she and 54 other deserving Miami seniors got a full-on glamour giveaway in the run up to their prom, courtesy of TLC’s Say Yes to the Prom special.
After a shopping spree where they got to choose a brand new prom gown from more than 2,000 dresses – many of them donated by prom designer Sherri Hill – the girls were whisked off to hair and make-up.
All along the way, they were counseled by a team of volunteers, and also by Monte Durham, fashion director for Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta. Sherri Hill was also there at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables in March, where a ballroom was converted into a dress, show, and jewelry shop for a day.
“It was so exciting. It was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in a long time,” Hill said. “This is something I’m sure they never thought they would do – walk the runway like that. Maybe it was a dream they had, but never thought would come true. To see it come to life for them was a really good experience.”
The special, set to air on TLC Friday, May 20, at 9:30 p.m. ET, focuses on Ashley and three of her friends – Brooklyn, Paula, and Laura – who overcame struggles at home to succeed in school and their community (their school asked that their last names not be used). The girls, along with 51 other Miami seniors, as well as high schoolers in several other cities, were chosen by their schools and community groups to participate in the prom giveaway. It’s the fifth year that Discovery Channel, TLC’s parent company, has sponsored prom giveaways around the country.
Disney star Laura Marano was so taken with the Miami event, that she helped out in L.A. as well.
“This was so emotional,” said Marano, 20. “These girls, all of them, worked so hard, they really put all of their energy into their scholastic efforts, and into their families. They’ve never really been treated. This was their chance to not only be treated like princesses, but to feel like a princess. A lot of the girls told me that this was the first time they every felt beautiful. It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life”
TLC’s Say Yes to the Prom: Paula struts down the runway
So, what was Marano’s best advice to the high school seniors when it came to choosing the perfect ensemble? Comfort.
“I was stressing comfort. I told them, make sure you always have flip-flops with you. Bring your flip-flops to every dance,” Marano said. “A lot of these girls were wearing high heels for the first time, and at the end of the runway show, they were done. I was like, I feel you totally.”
She said all of the girls she met have what it takes to be “rock star princesses every day.”
“The more comfortable and confident you are, you’re going to look beautiful,” Marano said.
Brooklyn poses in her prom dress
Among the partners working with TLC was Dinair, the airbrush makeup company. Dinair founder and president Dina Ousley and dozens of her employees traveled to Miami and the other cities to help get the girls properly pampered.
“These girls were so moved and grateful that all this was being done for them,” Ousley said. “We cried all day. It was so emotional.”
She said while most of the high schoolers were unaccustomed to the airbrush treatment and the complete attention she and her staff paid to each girl, they weren’t afraid to voice their opinions.
“Some of them had definite opinions about how they looked,” Ousley said. “They had attitudes, which was great. We like that. We’re so used to that in Hollywood.
The most popular make-up request: “The smoky eye,” Ousley said. “Monte wanted us to keep it as natural as possible, so we showed the girls how they could just take out the bad, and enhance the good, not try to totally change.”
For girls who thought they couldn’t afford to go to prom at all, the event was inspiring.
“Prom is an amazing night for any girl to have,” said Brooklyn. “You get all dressed up, you look so pretty, it’s like a miniature wedding day.”