Paige Horan likes to listen to Taylor Swift. On Saturday, she got a chance to look a bit like the pop star.
Horan, a junior at Edina High School, was at Spalon Montage in Edina getting her hair and makeup done for prom that evening. As stylist Petra Einaugler began working the teen's thick, straight blond hair -- usually worn in a ponytail -- into a big mass of curls, Horan looked skeptical. But when the job was finished, she gazed in the mirror at her gorgeous mane with guarded approval, clutching a tube of lip gloss. "It's bubble-gum pink," she said. "I get to take it home."
Horan was one of several girls at Spalon getting free services as part of a program offering prom makeovers to teens with disabilities. The program began in 2007 when Spalon President Teresa Jackson found out that her daughter Aislinn, who has autism, wanted to go to her prom in Hudson, Wis. So did the other girls in her special-needs class, which included teens with traumatic brain injuries, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome. Jackson found several stylists at Spalon's Woodbury location willing to volunteer their services. This year, the Edina and Chaska salons got in on the act, dolling up a total of 26 girls from Hudson and River Falls, Wis., as well as Woodbury, Edina and Chaska high schools.
"For most of them, it's the first time they're getting hair and makeup done," Jackson said. "They want to look pretty just like everyone else."
Horan has Prader-Willi syndrome, which causes hyperphagia (an abnormal appetite that can lead to obesity), learning disabilities and other issues. Her classmate Anda Moettus, a senior, was left with a combination of physical and cognitive disabilities after her battle with a brain tumor at age 4.
"Can I have some pink eye shadow?" Moettus asked. "Just a little. My dress is black and white with a pink ribbon. I'm going to Rainforest Cafe for dinner before the prom, with my friend T.J."
Makeup artist Angela Lutz applied some shimmer to her cheeks and mascara to her curled lashes. Moettus wore a serene expression as she inspected the softly curled tendrils that stylist Rebecca Kirk had pinned back just above her ears.
"Where's Anda?" teased her dad, Peter Hedberg, pretending he didn't recognize her when he walked back to check on her progress.
The program is also intended as a gift to parents, Jackson said: "With a special-needs child, you tend to have a lot more expenses."
She sees the prom makeovers as one of many steps being taken to help people with all sorts of disabilities to have more experiences that make them part of society, not separate from it.
"Like most parents, my husband and I took seriously our responsibility to prepare our children for the world when they were born," she said. "When Aislinn was diagnosed with autism, we took on a different responsibility -- preparing the world for our child."
Paige Horan, through with the makeup and hair phases of her day of beauty, was picking out pink polish for a manicure. "Time to get my nails done," she said.
As her mother followed her to the manicurist's station Paige said matter-of-factly, "Mom, you're kind of bothering me."
Kathy Horan smiled knowingly. "OK, time for me to go back to the lobby."
Kristin Tillotson • 612-673-7046