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AP PHOTOS: Fairy-tale night for girls in Rio slum

Sunday - 8/31/2014, 6:32am  ET

Teenage girls from the Santa Marta "favela" slum get dressed for their debutante ball organized by the Pacifying Police Unit from the neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. The ball, which relied on volunteers who coiffed and made up the girls and a formal wear shop that loaned the dresses, helped build goodwill between pacified favelas' residents and the officers who patrol them. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- Dressed in long evening gowns, girls from Rio de Janeiro's Santa Marta "favela" slum have celebrated a fairy-tale evening in a debutante ball sponsored by local police.

The 15-year-old girls were escorted to the ball held in a Copacabana dancehall Friday night by members of the Pacifying Police Unit from their community. The police units have re-conquered slums ruled for decades by drug-dealing gangs.

The girls were coiffed and made up by volunteers, and their dresses were loaned by a formal wear shop.

Debutante balls have been a custom among upper-middle-class and wealthy Brazilian families. They mark a girl's transition from childhood to adulthood.

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