SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – A group of ladies from the South Brunswick High School Class of 2017 spent the early afternoon Saturday getting a dose of glamor while preparing for the Senior Prom at a Kendall Park salon.

“It’s really fun getting all made up because I don’t usually,” SBHS senior and one of the stars of both girls’ volleyball and lacrosse Dakota Apicella, 17, said as a makeup artist applied her trade, getting Dakota ready for the big night at D’Bella Salon on Henderson Road. “It’s really exciting for me and I’m looking forward to hanging out with my friends and partying all night.”

Dakota was just one of several young ladies at the salon preparing for the Senior Prom by getting a new hair style and makeup applied by a professional.

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“(The Senior Prom) is super exciting because it’s my senior prom, but as I’m getting ready, I’m starting to realize that it’s my last prom,” she said. “It’s kind of upsetting in that sense.”

Her mom, Maureen, was on hand watching her daughter get the glamor treatment.

“It’s exciting and sad,” she said of watching Dakota being attended to by the staff of the salon. “It’s an exciting time of year with graduation and all the other stuff coming up.”

Maureen said that the sad part is knowing that Dakota will soon be leaving home for college, studying to be a physical education teacher at William Paterson University in Wayne.

With her athletic ability, Dakota will be playing volleyball for that school while she attends, Maureen said.

Dakota said that sports are a big part of her life, and that she spends most of her time doing sports.

“It’s very important to me,” she said. “I spend at least six hours (practicing) per week.”

Maureen said she enjoys seeing her daughter dressed up for the occasion because Dakota is mostly dressed for her sports activities.

“It’s not often you get to see them in makeup and a dress,” Maureen said. “(Dakota) is in sports gear most of the time.”

Another young lady, Daria Valan, 18, said she is a regular at the salon and all her styles come out very nice so that she was excited to see what the day would bring.

“I’m hoping for a really fancy updo to really tie my whole outfit together,” she said. “I got my dress in February and have been thinking about (tonight) for all of high school.”

All the transformations took place under the watchful eye of salon owner Donna DePinto, herself an alumnus of SBHS and this year’s Mrs. Middlesex County.

“I’ve been doing this for 27 years,” DePinto said, clad with her Mrs. New Jersey sash. “You start seeing the generations switching around. My prom was 27 years ago.  Being the owner of a salon, I get to enjoy this all over again.”

Every year at prom time, DePinto’s salon moves into high gear as the team prepares junior and senior ladies for the big dance.

“It brings me back to the fashion world I came from,” she said. “Starting all over again. Watching them come in very young, not even 20 years old yet. It brings back a lot of memories.”

After graduating from South Brunswick, DePinto went into modeling and fashion in New York City before becoming a hair and makeup stylist and eventually owning her own salon in Kendall Park.

DePinto said that proms today, compared to when she went, have become more extravagant, and expensive.

“It’s thousands of dollars (to go to a prom today),” she said. “We looked at dresses for $50-$75 and did our own makeup.”

The fashions of today make it much more complicated, with higher priced gowns and even the makeup is more sophisticated, she said.

“It’ amazing makeup,” she said. “The modernized makeup look is a challenge, but my artists are very good at what they do.”

She said she has an incredible team that developed over the 16 years she has owned the salon and that it is the best in the county.

“I want to thank everyone that has kept my doors open,” she said.

DePinto recently competed for the Mrs. New Jersey crown at Rider University in Lawrenceville.

While she did not win the crown, she did win two awards for achievement and the Director’s Choice Award in that competition.

She said she is gearing up to compete again next year, and plans to bring the crown to her salon and to South Brunswick.

“I am doing the pageant again,” she said. “I have a year to get ready, where I only had three months (this year).”

(Editor’s Note: D’Bella Salon is a regular advertiser with TAP into South Brunswick and Cranbury.)

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