When Keren Charles works with teenage girls in Atlanta as part of her job at Operation Prom, she relies on her upbeat, positive nature and styling expertise to get her through an occasional tough appointment.
"I admit there are some who are very specific and will not try anything other than what they want," Charles says, "Those I really have to work harder with and I'll try and find something to please them."
But Charles says many of the girls that come to her are so excited to just get a prom dress that they put away any preconceived notions.
"The majority of my young ladies that come in are open. They trust me, they trust my opinion and they're able to find something that they really like."
As was the case with 19-year-old high school student Zyna Williams, who came to Charles to find a dress a week before her prom.
Zyna is getting her dress for free because of the work of Operation Prom, a nonprofit organization that helps teens in financial need, or who are sick or disabled, get formal wear for no cost.
After selecting a few bright colors from her collection in her equally brightly colored private studio, Charles gently encourages Zyna to try on strapless dresses, a style she wouldn't normally choose.
"Again I always advise the young ladies that come in just to try on a dress because some things don't have great hanger appeal," Charles tells Zyna, "but once you put it on you will probably fall in love with it, so let's just try."
Zyna ended up choosing a short, white, strapless dress that day to attend the Alpharetta High School prom, with Charles throwing in accessories and a free hair and makeup session.
For Zyna's family, it couldn't have come at a better time. Zyna's adoptive mother, Yasaland King, says an expensive prom dress was just out of reach for her. She's a single mom with two other children and adopted Zyna, who has cerebral palsy, 2½ years ago.
They came to the Atlanta Chapter of Operation Prom last year, and this year are again amazed by the outreach of the organization. King says Charles and Operation Prom are doing a phenomenal job of helping parents who are not fortunate enough to spend thousands of dollars on the whole prom experience for their children.
Not having thousands of dollars for prom is something that Charles can certainly relate to. There was a time when Charles herself had to face starting over with very little.
In August 2005, Charles thought what many in New Orleans did at the time. That Katrina was just another storm so she's take a break for a while and visit friends and family in Atlanta.
It turned out to be anything but just another storm.
Because they left everything back home in Louisiana, Charles and her family had to make a new life in a new city.
"Coming (to Atlanta) and having to start over, it was a tedious experience for my family, but I've grown up with some very strong women so there's nothing that we can't tackle."
After Katrina hit and Charles finally got back on her feet, the economy dealt her a second blow.
Charles lost her job working as a corporate trainer, and says after those experiences she decided that she never wanted to feel like she was backed up against a wall with nothing to fall back on.
"I think with Katrina and moving here to Atlanta I always said to myself, I don't want to ever not have a second option."
Now styling girls like Zyna is just one part of Charles' busy schedule. She has a full-time job as the owner of Fashion Envy, a formal dress boutique in Atlanta. She is also a personal stylist and shopper.
The styling goes hand in hand with her job as the Atlanta chapter director for Operation Prom. Charles does "wardrobe audits" with her clients and encourages them to donate dresses that are sitting in their closets. She also rents dresses to clients for formal occasions and donates those, as well.
Charles says she got involved with Operation Prom so she could reach out to young women in the community and use her talent in the fashion industry to help people.
As a business owner and a "promologist," Charles is one of many chapter directors making a difference for Operation Prom.
Formed in New York in 2005, Operation Prom was born when founder Noel D'Allacco saw a need in her own community in Yonkers.
"I was an event planner and I was meeting with brides and bridesmaids who had these gorgeous bridesmaid dresses that they spent a lot of money on that they were never going to wear again," D'Allacco says.