Mays Landing high school student Ishmael Muhammad wanted to do more than just tap his friend, Alex Imperatore, on the shoulder and ask her to the prom.
A senior at Oakcrest High School in Mays Landing, Muhammad, 18, got permission from his teacher to use masking tape to make an outline of a body at the back of film class. He cornered off the area with yellow and black police caution tape, created a sign that read, "I'm dying to go to the prom with you" and put himself inside the outline.
About 20 people in the class were surrounding the scene when Imperatore showed up.
"As soon as I walked in, everyone started laughing and pointing at me and cheering, so I knew something was happening. And then, somebody told me to walk over, and as I was walking over, I saw him on the ground supposedly dead with flowers in his hand and candy on his chest," said Imperatore, of Mays Landing. "I got really excited, and I just started laughing. I started blushing a lot. I got giddy. I was laughing a lot because when I get nervous, I just laugh."
Imperatore, also an Oakcrest senior, said yes. Muhammad and Imperatore will attend their prom with their classmates May 10 in Ocean City.
The widespread use of cellphones and access to the Internet has turned prom proposals into creative endeavors. A quick search of the Web can provide a host of ideas. Short videos can be made with the use of camera phones as either part of the proposal or to record it and post the reaction. Even the 2011 movie "Prom" featured one character asking girls to accompany him in elaborate ways.
Conor Droney has been best friends with Vanessa Spollen, of Northfield, for a couple of years. Droney wanted to ask Spollen to the prom for Mainland Regional High School in Linwood.
"The prom is such a big deal. Everyone is trying to ask their date in such a creative way. I wanted to do something different and individual for her," said Droney, 17, a junior, who cooked up his plan with Natalie Geary and Maddy Cusack, all of Linwood. "The video was the first idea that we had. I really liked it. I wanted to go all out for her."
Spollen's favorite band is the alternative-rock group The Killers. Droney recorded a video to the band's 2008 hit single "Human."
Droney's video shows him lip syncing to the song while he walks backward for blocks picking up red roses as the camera follows him. Droney finally reached a house and knocks on the door. The screen turns black, and in white lettering it says, "Vanessa ... answer the door."
"My friend Natalie goes, 'In media production class, Conor made this video. Do you want to see?'" recalls Spollen, 17, and a senior, who was at Geary's house. "While watching the video, I was just so, so happy. Halfway through the video, you kind of have a feeling of what's going on, roses and The Killers. It's all really, really nice, so it was just really, really sweet what he did, and I was very surprised that he would think of something so nice and clever."
Spollen went downstairs to the front door of Geary's house and accepted Droney's proposal. They will attend the prom together June 6 at the Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel.
Rissy Roo's in Linwood, which sells dresses, shoes and accessories for women of all ages, ran a national creative promposals contest through Instagram earlier this year. Marissa Sharp, 32, is the store manager. Sharp doesn't remember teenagers being asked in a creative way to attend the prom when she was a teen.
"They do some very creative things. I definitely think it's a newer trend. It may have to do with social media and getting ideas," said Sharp. "It's really the first year that it has been a topic of conversation in our office and in the store, so we definitely think it's a new trend (locally). Little by little, we have seen it increasing, but this year, it seems like it's much more popular."
Fast thinking and a little luck kept Justin Thomas' proposal from being a bust.
Thomas, 17, of Absecon, purchased a 5-foot-tall teddy bear for his girlfriend, Jamie Powers, 16, of Brigantine. Thomas' original plan was to take Powers out to dinner, open the trunk of his car, which would contain the bear, roses, balloons and an edible arrangement, but the bear and the balloons both wouldn't fit into his trunk.
"It was on Valentine's Day (his proposal). I wanted to make a good impression. She's really special to me, so I wanted to make it extra special for her," Thomas said.
A junior at the Atlantic County Institute of Technology in Mays Landing, Thomas had to convince his father to take him to school in his van. Thomas showed up at school 30 minutes before anyone else did. Thomas saw a teacher who let him put all the stuff in Powers' chair in her first-period, pastry-making culinary class. Thomas and Powers meet every school day in the gym in the morning.
Thomas walked Powers to her first-period class, like he always does.
"I just had a really big smile on my face. I turned really red, and then, I turned back to him, and he was smiling, too," said Powers, a junior, who started tearing up when it happened. "I was just so caught up in the moment. I didn't even say anything, and then, he looked at me, and he's like, 'So, are you going to go with me?'"
Powers said yes. Thomas and Powers will attend the prom together May 9 at The Carriage House in Galloway Township.
Kristen Ritchie, 17, of Buena, used the fact that she and her boyfriend, Taylor Neithardt, 16, of Absecon, are catchers on their respective baseball and softball teams as the setting to ask him to attend the junior-senior prom with her. Ritchie is a junior. Neithardt is a sophomore.
Ritchie found her idea online.
"I decided to write the words on a softball and toss it to him before practice or a game," said Ritchie, a junior who attends Atlantic County Institute of Technology with Neithardt. "He's a baseball player, and I'm a softball player, so I just thought it would be a cute idea to ask him like that, and it's unusual for a girl to ask a guy out."
Ritchie was excited for the whole week leading up to asking Neithardt, but when it came time to throw the ball, she was nervous as her teammates had their cellphones out to take pictures and record.
"I knew it was coming, but I was definitely surprised at the moment that she chose," said Neithardt, who was asked on March 12, but planned to ask Ritchie on March 14. "I had something planned since I'm an underclassmen, and she's an upperclassmen. I had something planned to try and say, 'Yeah,' something cute for her, but I definitely got hints from her and her friends."
Contact Vincent Jackson: