Despite the evolution of high school culture and ever-changing trends, senior prom is an American high school tradition that largely seems to stay the same year after year. Flashy gowns, awkward photos, limo rides, and (today at least) elaborate “prom-posals” punctuate this tradition, which can be dated back to the pre-Snapchat days of the 19th century, when they were known as “promenades”.
No matter what era, prom has always been an extravagant and expensive affair. For the past five years, TLC’s ‘Say Yes to the Prom’ initiative has ensured the expenses of prom don’t let prom dreams get cut short for hundreds of deserving students across the country each year. This year marked the most impactful year to date, taking the initiative to five cities – New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, Dallas and Silver Spring, where the tour culminated in the first-ever full-blown shopping extravaganza at Discovery’s headquarters. Over two thousand dresses were donated, as well as a boutique collection of handbags, shawls, jewelry and shoes at each event, thanks to the generous sponsorships of AT&T, JCPenney, Sherri Hill and Girly Go Garter. This year also marked the first time young men were invited to join the fun in all five events, and in each city they were fitted for tuxedo rentals and picked out their prom swag – from socks to bowties and beyond – thanks to Men’s Warehouse and zTailors. In four of the five events, hair stylists from Paul Mitchell Schools and artists from Dinair Airbrush Makeup also provided makeovers. In all five cities, TLC’s very own Monte Durham made sure his personal touch was added to each ensemble.
The tour started in mid-March and ended this past Tuesday in Silver Spring for the shopping day, which I was fortunate enough to experience. Every two hours, a new flock of high school students poured through the doors, eyes wide and mouths agape at the thousands of dresses sparkling before them. Their ambition is contagious and their stories are inspirational. From an aspiring doctor to an all-star track runner to a natural born actress, the girls I met left me feeling like maybe they should be the ones running for office.
But as is the case every year, the confidence the students leave with is by far the most beautiful element to the entire initiative. I wish I could share every moment and every ounce of excitement from these five impactful days, but these photos can at least provide a bit of color. If these photos leave you wanting more, be sure to catch the one-hour ‘Say Yes to the Prom’ special, the first-ever chronicling the initiative, on TLC on Friday, May 20 at 9/8c.