It’s officially prom season, and no one is doing it better than Mississippi high schoolers, who are going viral on TikTok for their theatrical outfits — showing off their long sequined evening gowns that match their nails and sports cars.
Camille Viviana, 28, created the viral #MississippiProm series to review looks from her home state. Prom has always been a big part of the area she grew up in, Viviana told BuzzFeed News, and the idea to do it came from her younger sister, who is 19 and has lots of friends still in high school.
“We were sitting around, and she was showing us tones and tones of prom dresses,” Viviana said. “Her whole Facebook feed her was prom, prom, prom.” They nicknamed it the “Facebook Met Gala,” and Viviana decided to record her thoughts for TikTok, giving particular attention to the specific prom fashions and trends of Black high school girls in Mississippi.
There are several key components to a striking Facebook Met Gala picture. The dress, of course, must be dramatic. Prints, colors, feathers, and sparkles are key. If you have a date, he should come with a color-coordinated suit, and many photos include props to add to the feeling of luxury, whether it’s a matching car, jewelry, decorative fans, or straight-up cash.
Now a nine-part series amassing over 13 million views, Viviana ensures that each review she makes is positive, commending the girls on their work. “I want them to be uplifting and happy, and receive the recognition they deserve for all of these outfits,” she said.
And people love it. “They look better than celebrities at award shows,” one commenter wrote. “Every single one of these was better than anything I saw on the red carpet all season,” said another user.
Shamiya Guyton, 18, is a senior at Shannon High School in Mississippi. Her look was featured in Viviana’s first video of her: a royal blue mermaid dress featuring sequins, cutouts, and a dramatic train, complete with a matching blue-accented BMW and long nails. Guyton told BuzzFeed News that she started putting her ideas together about two months before.
“I live on Pinterest,” she said. “I saw all these custom dresses that were so pretty, and I knew I wanted one.”
But local prom designers were all booked up, and instead she borrowed her dress from someone, ordered press-on nails online, and got her glam done locally.
Her matching car was also borrowed from within the neighborhood. “I seen all these girls on Pinterest, and they had Bentleys and Benzes and stuff,” she said. “In Mississippi, you can’t rent from a car dealership, so I was looking all over the internet. I was about to go to Texas just to get a car for my pictures. It was that deep!”
But luckily, one of her friends spotted the car online, belonging to a local hairdresser. He let her borrow it for photos and even let her mom drive it to prom. “It had butterfly doors, and I felt like an It girl,” Guyton said. “The car really makes the photos. It adds like a hundred more points, for that celebrity type of vibe.”
Taylor Young, 17, is a junior whose date wore a red shirt to make her black feathered sparkly gown stand out, and they took photos in a silver sports car, posing with bands to add to the effect of glamour. Young told BuzzFeed News that she began planning a little over a month ahead of time.
“It was stressful,” she said. “Getting everything together. Just finding the dress and making sure everything goes together. My date just said that he wanted to wear black. But it was magical.”
A lot of the aspects of Guyton’s prom look translated well to photography, but she shared plenty of tips and tricks to logistically make it through the night. “The nails were really really long,” she said. “I had to pop them off right after I got done taking the pictures. I could not operate with them on.” Guyton told BuzzFeed News that the day of the prom was pouring rain, so she also skipped the heels in favor of slip-on flats to make sure she could spend the night dancing.
Young said she spent about $1,000, and Guyton’s total budget came to around $1,200. “A lot of these dresses are more affordable than people think,” Viviana said.
“My mama was the bank on this whole project,” Guyton said. “I know she told me I can’t get nothing until Christmas.”
Particularly in Southern states and among Black communities, promise is a big event and an opportunity to let young people’s creativity shine.
“There’s always been a culture of wanting to do it big, especially in the Black community,” said Viviana, comparing it to Sunday church. “Worship is our runway, and a lot of girls you see in the videos have grandmothers and mothers go all out with the matching suit and matching hat — I know my grandma definitely did.”
Young said the atmosphere leading up to the prom is similar to that of anticipating a final look on the runway. “It’s a big reveal on the day,” she said. “You’ll be in shock, because you don’t know if someone will have the same dress as you or what color someone’s wearing.”
And living in a rural place makes that even more thrilling. “There’s not 1,000 things to do at any given time or 20,000 reasons to dress up,” Viviana said. “So when there is a time when you can really do the most, and put your all into creating this signature look, people want to go all out for it.”
Guyton said one of the biggest 2022 prom dress trends was incorporating feathers with a surprise element, in an “ostrich kind of way.”
Many of the dresses were made by local custom prom dressmakers. Young’s was designed by a mother in the neighborhood. One pink evening gownwhich was such a fan favorite that Viviana posted about it twice, was made by a 14-year-old girl.
“Everybody in Mississippi knows somebody who’s artsy and craftsy,” Viviana said. “So people can really put amazing things together with the resources they have.”
Guyton will be attending Mississippi State University to study bioscience and nursing in the fall. Young is looking forward to her senior year, continuing her tenure on the cheer team, and hopes to study real estate or nursing after graduation.
Viviana has begun sharing videos from states outside Mississippi, including Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. “It’s been cool to see Mississippi in a different light and have a positive experience with the state,” she said. “This is just a larger scale of what we’ve always been doing. I think it’s something that’s important and maintains pride in who we are.”