We’ve dressed all types in the 10 years we’ve celebrated prom with Long Island high school girls brave enough to let our readers choose their gowns — among them, an elite athlete, a talented singer-actress, even one who became an Army cook. But not one of them has ever admitted to being what this year’s Project Prom winner, Nabila Alim, 18, of Deer Park High School, proudly calls herself. That would be “a total nerd.”
The honor student, who will attend the accelerated pharmacy program at St. John’s University next fall, loves chemistry and, on the flip side, relishes fashion and beauty. Among her style crushes? “Amal Clooney. She shows that you can be smart and super-fashionable,” said Nabila. Long term, that’s just what she has in mind. “I would love to venture out on my own and start an organic-certified, effective cosmetic/skin care line that actually is beneficial,” she said. “I want to help people not spend thousands of dollars on good products when they’re struggling with their skin and hair.”
Besides a rigorous academic schedule, Nabila volunteers for the Red Cross Club, participates in DECA (a student organization for those interested in marketing, management and entrepreneurship) and performs Bengali dancing for her school’s International Culture Club to help raise scholarship money. Entering Project Prom was a bold move for her. “I used to be so shy about my ethnicity and my culture,” says Nabila, whose parents, Nazmun Alim and Abdul Alim Miah, hail from Bangladesh.
“I realize that I can never be the perfect Bengali girl or the perfect American girl, but I can definitely be me. So what that I have a darker complexion?” she said, explaining that in her culture, a premium is placed on lighter skin. “So what if I’m not stick-thin? I want to set a good example for others. I’m happy with who I am in this moment and encourage others to be the same. “
Her happiness shines through, says Deer Park High School English teacher Scott Newman. “She leads with her smile, it’s the first thing you notice,” he said. “She has a twinkle in her eye and a wonderful sense of humor along with an appreciation for the future she’s hoping to have and an appreciation and remembrance of who she is and where she’s come from. . . . I think she’s a real good choice.”
Happy also describes her reaction when, a few weeks back, she walked into the fancy dress headquarters of Charlotte’s Closet in Port Washington for some very serious prom dress shopping. The frock-filled racks were groaning with gowns in vivid colors, many sparkling with crystals, sequins and beads. Charlotte’s Closet is actually a dress rental business, but Newsday is buying Nabila’s gown. The only problem? She looked stunning in almost everything.
After paring it down to just three showstopping looks, it was off to the Newsday studios for her close-up, where hair and makeup experts from Maximus Spa and Salon in Carle Place gave Nabila the full glam treatment.
Prom is new territory for this young woman. “My parents never had anything like prom in Bangladesh, so this is a very big day for me,” she said. And did somebody say nerd? It was more like revenge of the nerd, with Nabila looking downright fabulous. “I felt like an absolute princess,” said Nabila of the experience. “It was the best day ever.”
So now, readers, it’s up to you to choose the dress Nabila will wear to her June 23 prom at Land’s End in Sayville. Go to newsday.com/prom to vote.