For many high school seniors, prom season is the time to dress to impress -- and when everyone wants to be the belle of the ball, competition can get fierce.
But the struggle to find the perfect outfit while under pressure from family and friends to uphold a particular standard can sometimes leave teens questioning what it truly means to be beautiful.
i-D magazine, a Vice publication dedicated to fashion and culture, takes a magnifying glass to the culture of Long Island prom season in the second episode of their YouTube short series "Real American Beauty." The video features Bellmore's John F. Kennedy High School graduates Ariel Lofaro and Ashley Dicks, who both graduated in the Class of 2015 and attended prom earlier this year.
"I think I got to share truth and speak from my heart so it was a pretty amazing experience for me," Lofaro said in a Facebook message to Newsday on Wednesday.
Lofaro spent her early childhood years in Baldwin, but moved to Merrick in 2010, at the start of seventh grade. Sitting on her bed clad in an AC/DC sleeveless tank, ripped jeans and sneakers, Lofaro shared some of her insights on prom season with the i-D team.
"This is a pretty superficial town, so everybody is doing what they're supposed to," Lofaro said in the video. "You know, one trend happens here, and it's like, a chain reaction."
For Dicks, the pressure for perfection didn't just come from peers -- parents put the heat on, too.
"The moms in this town are competitive, so they put these ideas in these children's heads that they need everything, like perfect," Dicks said in the video. "So when prom comes around, sometimes the moms are like, more in competition than the actual kids themselves."
But for one unnamed Long Island mom, getting ready for prom is a family bonding experience.
"You know it's something you want to experience together, get ready together, to go pre-prom together, but then she's off on her own for the rest of the night," she said to the camera. "Up to that point, it's nice to be together doing it."
The video also features scenes from Beautiful People Salon in Merrick, Aqua Salon in Hewlett and Runway Couture in Bellmore.
For Lofaro, the most important thing is to be true to who you are, even if you're still trying to figure out what that means.
"Sometimes it's just unrealistic to change who you are based on the appearance of someone else," Lofaro said in the video. "Girls lose themselves in high school like that."
"Real American Beauty" was filmed and directed by Liza Mandelup. Check out the full video here: http://bit.ly/1gXEsR7.