A prom dress is more than just a piece of clothing – the right color or cut can make for a magical night that represents the transition from high school to adulthood. For many, however, these gorgeous gowns can be unduly out of reach. Prom dresses are often a huge expense, costing hundreds of dollars, on top of shoes, accessories, makeup, hair and all the other preparations that fuel the anticipation for this special milestone night. Discovery, Inc. and TLC’s Say Yes to the Prom initiative, coming off its eighth consecutive year, has aimed to break down this barrier for underserved students. In 2019, the program traveled to five cities across the country to provide over 1,000 high-achieving and deserving students with a shopping experience replete with beautiful dresses, tuxedos, shoes, and more that allowed them to live out the prom of their dreams.
Say Yes to the Prom originally began in 2011 as a prom dress donation drive, before evolving into a nationwide program. In 2019, Say Yes to the Prom traveled from coast-to-coast serving high schools in five cities: Silver Spring, MD; Knoxville, TN; Los Angeles, CA; Denver, CO; New York, NY. The program worked closely with local high schools in these areas to identify and select students who were active role models in their communities, totaling 1,190 students in all. In order to support such a large endeavor, Discovery partnered with Macy’s and Men’s Wearhouse to supply an array of dresses, tuxedos, and shoes for the student’s makeovers. The company also established a partnership with Kendra Scott to give the students a selection of earrings, necklaces, and bracelets to choose from, and Paul Mitchell Schools for hair and makeup consultations.
The program’s key features include an all-day shopping and styling event hosted by Monte Durham of TLC’s SAY YES TO THE DRESS: ATLANTA. At each stop on the tour, the select students are treated to a day of shopping with Durham to help them find the perfect head-to-toe prom ensemble. Another key feature is the exclusive Say Yes to the Prom dress and accessory line available at Macy’s stores nationwide. As part of the Macy’s partnerships, on March 30, 2019, Macy’s stores nationwide participated in a buy-one-give-one event that partnered with Becca’s Closet to donate up to 5,300 dresses to girls in need. This partnership with Becca’s Closet continued within Discovery with each office hosting a dress drive to collect prom attire from employees.
In addition to prom preparations, the program also provided students with educational and occupational opportunities in the form of scholarships, internships and mentorships as part of educational and youth workforce partnerships with The Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation’s Careers in Entertainment initiative and The Emma Bowen Foundation. During the shopping days, students were paired with professionals in the fashion and media industries to give them the tools necessary to succeed after their prom and beyond graduation.
The Say Yes to the Prom 2019 tour helped a total of 1,190 students from 20 different schools and five different cities, on top of the dresses donated to Becca’s Closet through Macy’s and Discovery-run dress drives. All the participating students were able to walk away from the shopping day prepped for a monumental prom experience and inspired for their futures after high school. This year’s tour received extensive press coverage, both local and national, generating more than 221 million impressions in total.
Say Yes to the Prom has become a confluence of personal and professional fulfillment for students who have inspired peers and teachers in their community with their achievements and determination. The initiative has been met with overwhelming enthusiasm from the students whose lives it has touched. One of these students, Marifer Santos, Inwood Academy graduate, said in Say Yes to the Prom’s “Where Are They Now?” segment, “I sent the show to my mom and she was like, ‘Oh my God, you’re having this opportunity for a prom that I never had.’” Santos is currently attending Hunter College as an intended education major and serves as the social media coordinator for Inwood Academy, giving back to the community that shaped her.