Prom is perhaps the most iconic celebration of a teen's high school career, honoring the accomplishments they've completed to get them this far. But for some, there are social and emotional barriers in place that make attending this event more of a challenge. West Los Angeles for example, is not particularly known for its support of the LGBTQ+ community, and the teens who attend high school in these areas who do not have a strong Gay Student Alliance may feel disconnected from many of the LGBTQ+ services offered in other parts of the city. To give these students an opportunity to experience prom in a safe, supportive environment, this past May, Benefit Cosmetics partnered with Young People Creating Change and The Princess Project to host an LGBTQ+ prom in Santa Monica at the Church in Ocean Park, opening the doors to current students as well as recent graduates who did not feel they experienced prom the first time around as their true, authentic selves. The dance was supplemented by passionate volunteers hosting complimentary pre-prom hair and makeup appointments; creating handmade décor; and a professional photographer with a fun photo station where images could be printed onsite and taken home as a treasured memento.
Prior to the dance, Benefit provided complimentary makeup appointments to prom-goers, hosting 10 fully-stocked cosmetics stations staffed by the company's Education team. Benefit also collaborated with Aveda Institute in LA's Brentwood neighborhood, which provided complimentary up do's and curling services alongside the makeup stations for attendees seeking full prom glamour looks ahead of the event. The experience was further elevated by the arrival of several prominent beauty Instagram influencers, invited by Benefit, to help document the "getting ready" portion of the evening and connect with prom-goers to help get them excited for the night ahead. These influencers included Christen Dominique (@christendominique), Daniel Ruiz Smith (@danielzrotfl), Ryan B. Potter (@ryanbpotter), Ourfa Zinali (@ourfazinali) and Militza Yovanka (@militzayovanka), many of whom are engaged members and supporters of the LGBTQ+ community. Additionally, reporters from Teen Vogue and Santa Monica College's newspaper The Corsair were on-hand to interview students about their upcoming prom experience, and to help capture the evening in digital stories published after the dance.
The prom makeup stations hosted 30 attendees who wanted to get glammed up with the help of more than 10 Benefit Beauty Advisors, in addition to Benefit's Chief Beauty Officer Annie Ford Danielson and Global Brow Expert Jared Bailey. The five beauty influencers, boasting a combined reach of 4.1 million fans on YouTube and 3.7 million followers on Instagram, shared this experience across their own social channels, posting selfies with prom goers and capturing their assistance with their makeovers. Benefit featured the pre-prom experience on its Instagram channel as well, sharing the celebration with its 8 million followers, garnering 1,931,468 impressions, and 28,980 engagements.
Nicole Johnson, who attended prom, said to Teen Vogue, "Being here is amazing. I never thought I'd have a chance to do this again. I'm reclaiming a life experience that I thought I had missed out on forever. I'm here with my friends. I'm so happy with how I look, and I've never been this confident in my appearance before. I can be myself." Nicole shared that she had attended her prom a couple years before but had not yet transitioned and did not feel that she was able to fully take in the experience. This prom was her second chance, and she loved every minute of it.
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