City Beat: Palmdale couple goes to prom in soda can tab splendor

City Beat: Palmdale couple goes to prom in soda can tab splendor
Brie Fainblit, in her soda tab dress, and James Lawrence, who wore a matching vest, belt and bow tie, pose for photos before they depart for their senior prom Friday night. (Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

Brie Fainblit wasn't voted prom queen at the Highland High prom. But the Palmdale senior who made her own dress out of soda can tabs felt like the belle of the ball Friday night.

Fainblit lives with her mother, who is disabled, and her aunt, who works two part-time jobs to support them. She began her soda tab project in September, knowing that money was way too tight for a prom dress.


After my story about Brie appeared in last Sunday's paper, offers of help poured in. Many readers wanted to do what they could to make prom special for Brie and her boyfriend, James Lawrence, who tutored a student to earn money for prom tickets.

One reader in particular went all out. Gloria Baran sent a seamstress to help Brie with finishing touches on the dress. She had a driver take Brie to Los Angeles to go shopping for the perfect prom shoes. With a friend, she gave Brie jewelry and James cufflinks. She hired a PR person to step in and handle a barrage of media calls. And on Friday night, she sent someone to do Brie's makeup and hair. Meanwhile, another reader, who asked to remain anonymous, arranged for a limousine to take Brie and James to and from the school, where buses took the senior class to the prom.

"It was really cool. I was really happy. We had so much fun," Brie said the Saturday morning after the big event, which was held at The Vineyards in Simi Valley.

Most of the other young women in her class wore long dresses, Brie said. A lot of them were light blue or tan, she said. Brie's dress, in which the tabs were crocheted together with black yarn, was silver and black and short in front.

"I looked so out of place standing there with all of them," she said of the other prom queen candidates.

She said she never expected to be prom queen, partly because she had no money to campaign. Other girls handed out bottles of lotion and hand sanitizer in school, and plastered the school walls with posters. Brie made one poster, she said, which got torn down.

But many of her classmates complimented her on her dress at the prom, she said. A lot of them wanted to touch it and to pose for pictures with her.

Dancing wasn't so easy in the dress, she admitted. It doesn't bend a lot. But at one point, she and James -- who wore a soda tab vest, belt and bow tie -- slow danced in the spotlight, with classmates forming a circle around them.

That's how Brie and James have felt this past week -- encircled by people wishing them well.

On Saturday morning, James asked to send thanks to all those who have reached out.

"Please let them know how incredibly grateful we are," he said. "We are not prideful people, but they have made us feel so good."

Stay tuned in the coming days to photographer Katie Falkenberg's video of Brie and James. And keep reading to see the photo story about them that I sent out on Twitter.

[For the record, 6:52 p.m. April 11: An earlier version of this post said Gloria Baran arranged for the limo to the prom. Another reader paid for the limo.] 


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