A “Cinderella” story took place over the past week for a Chicago teen who was struggling to pay her way to three big year-end events: a class luncheon, graduation, and her senior prom.
Shaday Gooden Brown, 18, was working hard to earn the money by selling snow cones and small bags of chips at an ad hoc stand. But when one of her customers, Quinniya Hearn, learned about the teen’s situation, she immediately wanted to help.
“I know how important it is for a young lady to be able to go to prom,” Hearn tells Yahoo Style. “Look at this young entrepreneur. I cannot give any help — I’m not working myself — so I told her I’m gonna get you some help.”
So she wrote up a Facebook post and did a live video on her page, at which point Hearn caught the attention of Windy City Live contributor Erica Watson, who began to spearhead the mission to send Gooden Brown to prom. Hearn was able to get a flurry of contributions — a dress, hairstyling, and makeup, from the local Curve Couture Boutique, Khavoni Roberts, and Dominique Lovie Boyd — but made it clear that it wasn’t where the story would end.
In addition to setting up a GoFundMe page for the teen, Hearn has become an overall mentor for Gooden Brown. The Gage Park High School senior struggles with self-esteem issues following a past of bullying based on her skin color and clothes.
“I remember how it was for me when I didn’t have [prom], and somebody had pitched in and did it for me,” she explains. “My story ended at prom, but [Shaday’s] story continues with her being bullied at school.”
As Gooden Brown told ABC7, “I got bullied and talked about because how dark-skinned I am and how my clothes are not up to date. When I tried on the dress, it gave me self-confidence, because I don’t have too much of that.”
The challenge will be staying self-confident after the glamorous night ends, which is why Hearn wants to stay involved. “She told me, ‘When I take the clothes off and I’m at home, I go in my room, I close the door, and I cry.’ And it moved me again. That’s when I realized that I need to encourage this young lady to get some mentorship, so we can really hit it home to her that those things have to change,” Hearn says.
Prom takes place on Friday, a week after Hearn and Gooden Brown first met. And while Hearn won’t be at the dance to capture all of the beautiful moments, she is sure that the night will be magical.
“I’m not going to take any credit for anything that’s going on,” Hearn says. “This is a fairy tale come true for this young lady.”
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