Party Animal

By Christina Ianzito
Sunday, June 25, 2006

And the winner is. . .whoever survives a 7-year-old's birthday party

When the birthday girl is, as her mom puts it, "a bit of a drama queen," and wears a shirt that reads, "NO is my favorite word!" her party had better live up to diva standards. Which explained the two big black trunks that were being lugged into Cynthia Dyson's home in Clinton as her daughter, Brianna, who was turning 7, and nine of her friends careened through the living room. "Girl," Cynthia said to herself with a sigh as she watched the chaos, "what was I thinking?"

The two trunks were followed by a rack of sparkly dresses, a strip of red carpet, a director's chair and a cardboard silhouette of the Hollywood Hills that was placed behind a red-carpet-covered "stage" in the living room. These were the props for the $250 "Movie Star Madness" package that was being provided by Glitter, a party company that promises "Girl glamour for a day."

Glitter owners Kimberly Jones and Tammy Yates, both mothers of daughters, know how to entertain girls. The key to a good event, says Yates, who lives in Prince George's County, is to "have something kind of structured, because, especially with the younger girls, sometimes it's a little hard to keep them focused."

Regardless of age group, the Glitter gals begin all their parties with a craft project. For Brianna's bash, they spread out a pink plastic sheet, and Jones showed the girls how to decorate pink foam purses (bought in bulk on the Internet) with sparkles and glue.

It was a mellowish pause before they began gearing up for the main event: the trip to the Academy Awards. Nails were painted with glittery peach, lilac or pink polish. Eyelids got a stroke of purple eye shadow, and blush was brushed across plump cheeks. Jones emphasized that the makeup was just to "enhance your beauty; you girls are all naturally beautiful, okay?"

Whatever. The girls rushed to the dress rack, grabbing shimmery gowns and cocktail dresses -- most about a woman's size 6 and culled from thrift shops -- and pulling them over their T-shirts and jeans. They wrapped pink boas and Mardi Gras beads around their necks, snatched goodies from boxes of little purple purses, plastic sunglasses, bracelets and rings.

"Are we going to Hollywood?" Brianna's friend Jada Butler, 6, asked, impatiently, clutching her purse with one hand and stroking her boa with the other. "Yes," said Jones, "let's go." She took the steering wheel of an imaginary limo with the girls behind her, arriving just in time to spot singer Alicia Keys in the crowd.

"Okay," Jones shouted to the girls. "You've got bling-bling on, so when you walk down the red carpet, make sure you do a strut, do the wave and hold your head up."

"Walk the talk," one girl said, with a knowing nod. The girls took turns sashaying (or, rather, running) toward the stage in stocking feet, each receiving a "Glitter Award" for "best supporting actress and being so wonderful" or for "having a super personality" or for "being so terrific," all to the delight of the audience, which included Brianna's grandparents, father and unenthusiastic-looking 2-year-old brother.

Brianna, who was dressed in a red sequined dress and spangly bracelets, got a certificate for "being the star of the evening."

"How do you feel getting an award?" asked Yates, playing the part of the Hollywood media with her microphone thrust forward.

"I like it."

Whom did she want to thank?

"My mommy and daddy."

It was as good as an Oscar for Cynthia Dyson, who was beaming and snapping photos, paparazzi-style. "This is awesome," she said. "This is just awesome."

>>Party Animal will chronicle all kinds of celebrations: block parties, crab feasts, poker nights, tailgates, fish fries, church picnics, scavenger hunts, progressive dinners, pool parties, quinceaneras and more. If you have an upcoming party you'd like to share, e-mail us at partyanimal@washpost.com.


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