Absolutely Fabulous: Westside LGBTQ+ Prom
A huge pink shag rug and makeup stations draped with glittering fabric transformed the dais on the second floor of The Church in Ocean Park Church in Santa Monica, California into a makeshift beauty bar. A small army of makeup artists wearing bright pink t-shirts from Benefit Cosmetics bustled around, applying a little glam to prom-goers who had signed up for free makeup sessions before the start of the 1st Annual Westside LGBTQ+ Prom that occurred this Friday, May 18.
"Her skin is, like, perfect," said makeup artist Alicia Peters, referring to 19-year-old Sarah Zeitzew, who sat in a tall, pink director's chair as Peters whisked a makeup brush around Zeitzew's delicate features. "She's flawless."
Wearing an elegant black lace, two-piece gown, Zeitzew and three of her equally dressy friends, and one of their boyfriends, drove up from the South Bay to attend the prom. "This is my first prom," Zeitzew said. "My friends were going and I wanted to go too."
Amy Woodfine, 17, brought her boyfriend, Tony Hokenson, 19, as her date. "I heard it was an LGBTQ prom, and I'm a member of the LGBTQ community, and it seemed like a fun thing to do," she said.
In addition to local youths, the event drew big names, such as Benefit Cosmetics, who invited several Influencers that participated in the makeup sessions and posted photos and videos to their Instagram accounts.
"This is like the coolest project ever," said Annie Ford Danielson, Global Beauty Authority of Benefits Cosmetics, who flew down with eight of her staff members from San Francisco. "We rallied the troops and wanted to get involved. It's right up our alley. It's about being your best self and just having fun."
A beauty news editor from Teen Vogue flew in from New York for the event but declined to comment when asked about their interest in covering an LGBTQ+ prom in Santa Monica.
Hairstylists from the Aveda Institute of Los Angeles were also on hand to curl and style the prom-goers' hair.
"I really like my look," said Zeitzew, admiring her hair and makeup in a handheld mirror. "I wish I could re-create it."
A few of Zeitzew's friends struggled to hold back tears as they took in the whole experience. "It's so amazing and [prom] hasn't even started yet," said Nicole Johnson, 22, a trans woman wearing a long, red gown. "I'm trying hard not to cry."
Johnson's friend, Kate Babbe, was happy for her. “This is her first opportunity to attend prom as a girl since she hadn’t transitioned when she was in high school," Babbe explained. "She feels like she’s missed out on a lot of her life because of being trans, so this is sort of like a second chance for her.”
Then, the makeup artists, hairstylists, and influencers left, allowing the young prom-goers to have their own prom experience. The dais was cleared and replaced with a DJ to start a night of dancing.
She and her friends danced "a lot," said Zeitzew in an email following the prom. "We became friends with other people there and we all danced in a group... There wasn’t a huge crowd which was nice... Overall we were really grateful for the experience and were glad we could spend it with such friendly people."
About 30 youths attended this year's LGBTQ+ Prom, according to one of the prom's organizers, Wendy Zaw.