NEW PORT RICHEY
With curling irons and excitement sizzling all around her, Diamond Wyche sat quietly in a vacant chair, fidgeting with her phone and grinning. Two dozen of her eighth-grade classmates from Chasco Middle School were getting curled and sprayed and glittered up for the school dance.
They were VIPs at an actual beauty school, where student stylists fussed over them like staff shuttling supermodels down a runway.
This deliriously girlie scene on Thursday happened because Diamond, 14, came home from school one day in March after the dance was announced and told her mom that she knew a lot of girls wouldn't be able to go, ones whose families couldn't buy them dresses at the mall or pay for a day at the salon.
Marion Trice, Diamond's mom, jumped on the problem, coordinating with the school to set up a ballot box where girls could enter for a chance to be picked to receive a free dress and free styling for the dance.
Trice, whose full-time job is styling the hair of the Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders, planned to do the hair and makeup herself for 10 girls.
But when some 60 names filled the ballot box, she looked for outside help. She worked with school officials to whittle the list to 25 truly needy recipients.
She approached four salons about doing free hair, and all turned her down, a big disappointment.
But this is a Cinderella story, so everything came together.
Boutique Indigo, a new and used dress shop inside Just Kidz Preschool on Ridge Road, opened its doors and racks for the girls. Bene's International Beauty School on U.S. 19 cleared the afternoon of the dance for them, all at no charge.
Dress shopping was Saturday. Just Kidz owner Dawn Kiziuk set everything up "just like a fancy boutique" and the girls picked from nearly 100 dresses, trying on and oohing and aahing each other.
"I sat there with a smile on my face the entire time," Kiziuk said.
The dance was Thursday evening.
The girls got out of school at noon to go be pampered. Bene's had welcome signs and a pack of eager students and instructors waiting for them.
Alexus Thomas, 14, sat in a vanity chair, back perfectly straight, head still, as her long straight hair was ironed into ringlets. A makeup artist came up and dabbed her face with a white sponge, then called out "Okay, she's ready for cream." And right away, another makeup lady moved in.
"You look so beautiful," her friend, Ronnie Stephens, cooed.
Ronnie's throne was the next chair over. She wore her black hair down with a sparkly blue clip in back.
"I feel like a princess," she said.
"You are!" makeup artist Elani Mossor told her. "Today's your day."
And so it went around the room:
Alexis McMillan's mother, grandmother and little sister watched as she was fussed over.
"It's very good for her self image," her mom, Tina McMillan, said. "She's been a lot more giddy than usual about girlie stuff."
Janis Morris, 13, wore her navy sheath dress with silver sequins to school Thursday. She was excited, but she also had run out of clean clothes.
As her elaborate up-do came together to much praise, Janis held her phone up beside her head and snapped pictures.
"I've never had anything done in a salon," she said.
Cyndie Tartaglia, a Bene's instructor, couldn't stop crying and hugging the girls.
All of it was just what Diamond and her mom hoped for.
"I wanted to do this to make girls feel pretty and confident for at least one night," Diamond said. "It could be, like, their night."
Two hours into the pampering, it was time for Diamond and her mom to go home. Diamond, still sans makeup or curls, needed to get ready.
She planned to wear a dress she borrowed from her mom. It's black, with lots of sparkles.
Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6245.