tampabay.com

Beauty is more than skin deep

There are no boys allowed at a daylong conference where girls try new hairdos and talk about their dream careers .

By AMBER MOBLEY
Published March 26, 2006


UNIVERSITY AREA - Hair?

Check.

Makeup?

Check.

Safety and mental and physical health?

Check, check and check.

Nearly 150 preteens and teens were pampered like princesses at an all-girls event at the University Area Community Center.

Coinciding with spring break, Wednesday's daylong G.I.R.L.S. Only Conference was like a spa vacation for many, or a vacation in Las Vegas.

Dice, playing cards and poker chips decorated the center to emphasize the theme "Don't Gamble with Your Future" for the fourth annual event.

But unlike in Vegas, where what happens there stays there, event organizers wanted the girls to walk away with something.

Many left with new hairdos, makeup and exercise tips, but most importantly, they also left with a new attitude and outlook on life.

How to make good choices, feel good about themselves and look good by taking care of themselves were the main focus. Friends of the County Parks, a fundraising entity for Hillsborough Parks and Recreation, sponsored G.I.R.L.S., which stands for "Getting Involved Really Leads to Success."

Girls rotated from session to session in small groups, a different experience behind every door.

In "Fitness for a Princess," girls did crunches and other exercises.

Mary Kay cosmetics consultants took girls step by step through face cleansing regimens in "Beauty is Only Skin Deep."

Tresses found twisted, curled and sculpted coiffures courtesy of Tampa Bay Beauty Institute beauticians in "A New Do 4 a New U."

Ciera Mitchell, 11, tried a style she'd hardly ever heard of: an Afro puff.

"This is how they used to wear their hair in the '70s?" she asked.

In another room, professionals gave tips on avoiding Internet danger, and the girls tackled insecurities and received encouragement in "Mentoring Your Mind."

Machelle Strong, 12, knows she'll have to go to college and law school before she becomes a lawyer, her dream career.

"They asked us, if we had a lot of money what would we do with it," Machelle said. "A lot of people chose shopping but I know it's better to go to college than to have clothes and stuff."

The conference, which started with fewer than 100 girls, has grown to 141, said event organizer Lafe White.

So organizers added Internet safety and a tour of the University of South Florida campus to the agenda.

White's goal is to reinforce positive mind-sets and break down negative ones. A mother at age 15, White is now a senior recreation specialist with the county parks department for the University area.

"I know girls," White said, "and I know how important it is to get them focused at an early age."

Olivia Fox, 95.7 FM radio morning show host, reiterated, telling the girls that focus and success go hand in hand.

"Just because you're a woman doesn't mean you can't ... be successful," she said at the close of the event.

"Set your goals and use what you're blessed with," Fox said. "You just have to believe in yourself."

Amber Mobley can be reached at 813 269-5311 or amobley@sptimes.com.