By Brooke Marston, @charitygirlproblems
It’s early as I stand in the lobby of the Intercontinental hotel in Los Angeles, California. People are walking hurriedly—the kind of walk that has intention. A purpose. But these are not the typical business travelers you might expect to see. Today, the lobby is filled with colorful artists, excited volunteers, and a few recognizable faces.
To the right is a room. The room, really. The one that matters today. Each side of the room is lined with racks and racks of beautiful dresses. Bright colors, rhinestones, and eye-catching embellishments are everywhere. Hiding just beyond the rows of dresses are shoes, clutches, and accessories. All the things prom dreams are made of.
But prom isn’t just for girls. At the other end of the lobby is a place filled with the latest suit styles and those in the know when it comes to men’s fashion. Brightly colored cumerbunds, bowties, vests, and even socks await. Everything boys will need to be GQ ready.
In this moment, everything is calm but anticipation hangs heavy. Very soon, a group of one hundred high school students from Dymally High School will arrive to shop for dresses or suits, pick out the perfect pair of shoes, and be styled by renowned fashion and bridal experts Monte Durham and Betsey Johnson. Paul Mitchell Schools Future Professionals will buzz the boys, create artistic updos for the girls, and apply makeup. Dresses will be hemmed. But that’s still to come.
This sounds like a high school dream right? The type of thing you secretly wish would happen. The type of thing that only happens to celebrities or on a CW television show. Days like this never happen in real life. Never to the average Joes or Janes of the world.
And then the students arrive. Not just any students. These are the leaders. The accomplished. They have stories, but they don’t let their stories define them. They might come from an underserved community, but they’ve accepted the challenge, stepped into the arena, and won that fight – with honors. These are the kids who will shape the future.
For these students, today is a day to say yes. Yes to stepping out of their comfort zone. Yes to new experiences. Yes to being the center of attention for once. Yes to the tux. Yes to the dress. Yes to the prom.
They come trickling in, slowly. Timid and shy. They are respectful, taking in everything around them. Not quite convinced this is really happening. As they meet their Prom Specialist (their buddy for the day), they slowly begin to acclimate. They eat, make small talk, but are still shy. A baby step timidly taken out of their comfort zone.
With breakfast comes stories shared by people who have been in their shoes and overcome the obstacles. Paul Mitchell Chairman and Co-founder John Paul DeJoria shares about his journey from foster youth to founder of two extremely successful companies. Work hard, do the best you can when no one is looking, and remember to care for others and give back along the way, he says.
Monte Durham tells how he went from living in rural Virginia with no running water to helping brides Say Yes to the Dress every week on TLC. And finally, Betsey Johnson models her self-made prom dresses, classically vintage, covered in neon spray paint, and unapologetically feminine in the way only Betsey can do.
For the next few hours the students shop. Find the perfect dress or suit. Pair it with the perfect shoes. Snag the clutch or cumerbund that adds just the right amount of youthful sass. Everyone is still shy, but they’ve taken several more steps out of their comfort zone.
Smiles grow even bigger as they get their moment with Monte and Betsey in front of the mirror. A moment millions of girls dream of. But this moment belongs to them. The overachievers.
The final stop for the morning – a pairing with a Paul Mitchell Future Professional. A magical moment, as the transformation happens in front of their eyes. They leave behind their shy, uncomfortable persona and embrace this new version of themselves – a confident, future adult.
For the first time, they see a future of opportunity and success. The face staring back at them is one they recognize, but glowing with a new confidence. In this moment, they allow themselves to believe that the future everyone tells them is possible, might actually be so.
A runway show follows and everyone shows off their final look. Those timid teenagers who stepped off the bus this morning no longer exist. They strike poses. Twirl. Cheer loudly for friends.
Words of wisdom are shared with this emerging group of leaders. Scholarships are given. Emma Bowen Foundation offers internships. Paul Mitchell Schools offer scholarships to potential Future Professionals. New doors are opened.
See the transformations unfold and learn the stories of a few of these deserving students on TLC Saturday, April 1, 2017, followed by an encore on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network on Monday, April 3. (Check stations for local listings.)
Photo Credits: Ken Visser, Discovery Communications
Paul Mitchell Schools Provide Hair, Makeup, and Scholarships for TLC's Say Yes to the Prom: http://bit.ly/2nreF75
Say Yes to the Prom: www.tlc.com/tv-shows/say-yes-to-the-prom
Additional photos: http://bit.ly/2nClMwJ