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Prom

It's a date with destiny for many an O.C. teen. But first it's an appointment with a professional hairstylist and makeup artist.

May 15, 1997|KATHRYN BOLD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It's the afternoon of the day Jennifer Gallo has long dreamed about--her senior prom--yet it has given her nightmares.

"I've dreamed that my corsage was the wrong color, my makeup wasn't right and my hair was everywhere," says Gallo, an 18-year-old senior at Edison High School in Huntington Beach. "Prom night makes me nervous. I want to look good."

To make sure her nightmare doesn't come true, Gallo has come to the Stevens & Cross Cosmetic Studio in Newport Beach for a session with a hairstylist and makeup artist before she meets her date.

Gallo and Edison High sophomore Rosemary Coffey and senior Courtney Dowell have all signed up for make-overs to prepare for Saturday's big date at the Disneyland Hotel.

The three Huntington Beach teens represent a new breed of worldly prom-goers who no longer entrust their makeup or hair to the amateur efforts of mothers, sisters and friends--nor do they attempt such beauty treatments themselves.

Their mothers--who have shown up en masse to watch their daughters' make-overs--have been relegated to recording the proceedings on camera. When they were teenagers, they never dreamed of going to a professional makeup artist. Today's prom-goers are more sophisticated. They look and dress older than their years. There's even a Web site they can consult (www.prom-night.com)

Even at a tony studio such as Stevens & Cross, where the ambience is all neoclassic elegance and where a typical up 'do costs about $35 and makeup applications go for $40, prom-goers show up for make-overs in greater numbers every year. The studio's cosmetic artists now primp and powder about 20 teens every prom season.

"We didn't do this when I was in high school," says Julia Cross, vice president of Stevens & Cross Inc., remembering prom night in the late '70s. "We never got our makeup done. And their sense of style is more elegant and mature. These girls have such a sophistication."

Though still in their teens, Gallo, Coffey and Dowell have already developed a personal style, as illustrated by their very different prom looks. They're up on all of the latest makeup and fashion trends, and they know which styles suit them best.

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All three have entered the studio looking like the teenage girls they are, in shorts and tops with their hair loose about their shoulders and wearing little or no makeup. By the time they leave, two hours later, they will have undergone a Sabrina-like transformation into glamorous young women.

"I know a lot of girls who are getting their makeup done for this dance, and a lot who are nervous about this dance," Dowell says.

Coffey, 16, has learned to leave nothing to chance. At Edison High's winter formal, she'd planned to have her hair styled into an up 'do at an inexpensive drop-in salon that promised to do the job for about $10. When she showed up on the day of the formal, she found the salon had recently stopped giving up 'dos because they took too long.

"I'm getting it all done here. Last time I did everything myself. I was running around all over," she says.

This time, a Stevens & Cross stylist who goes by Blair, will pile Coffey's waist-length brown hair into an up 'do.

"It's too long to do by myself," Coffey says, settling into the barber's chair for a few hours.

Blair uses a curling iron to crimp Coffey's long strands of hair "so they look like ribbons," then coils them into a sculpture atop her head. He sprays her hair with a special kind of glitter and tucks tiny white flowers into the curls.

"I try to do things that are on the cutting edge. We won't do the same hairdo on anyone else," Blair says. "On prom night, every girl wants to be a princess."

Next, Coffey moves to the makeup chair where Richard Stevens, studio president and cosmetic artist, awaits with a smorgasbord of brushes, pencils, sponges and vials filled with powders and creams.

He sponges over Coffey's perfect skin with a light base foundation, dusting blush onto her cheekbones. He brushes a little brown powder onto her brows to shape and darken them, applies eyeliner with a fine brush on the upper lid, and accents her brown eyes by sweeping a shimmery aloe-colored shadow across the lids.

He lines her mouth with a russet-colored lip liner and fills in her lips with a paler shade of lipstick. His efforts make Coffey's pretty complexion glow.

"I don't usually wear that much makeup, but I trust Richard," she says.

Coffey dons the pale chartreuse satin gown she found at Windsor Fashions in Westminster Mall for $125. She slips on a pair of long white gloves and strappy shoes that show off the iridescent chartreuse polish on her toenails.

With her glittering hair festooned with flowers, she's been transformed into a Venus with a '60s vibe, a glamorous flower child.

Before Courtney Dowell undergoes her dramatic metamorphosis, she looks much like any other Huntington Beach 17-year-old. She's wearing her sun-bleached blond hair straight and parted down the middle and no makeup.

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