When Nakeya Green was in high school, she found a document saying that her home was about to be foreclosed on.
Green’s newly single mother had been trying to make sure her daughter had the fun senior year she deserved, especially for her big moment at prom, even if that meant she had to take on the extra financial burden.
“My mother almost lost our home to make sure my senior year was comfortable,” Green said. “That gave me a vision way back then to want to pay it forward. To never let another mom be in jeopardy just from trying to make their child sparkle on their big day.”
Since then, Green has worked with various nonprofit organizations that dress young women for prom, such as Fairly Godmothers of Virginia, and helped hundreds of high school students feel beautiful.
But after her mother died in 2016, Green decided it was time to take her passion to the next level and, after grieving for a year, she started looking into how to begin her own prom dress donation program: Queen in a Dress.
Green said she reached out on a number of local Facebook groups and was overwhelmed by the responses she got back saying people wished there was a prom dress program in York County.
In October of 2018, Green started collecting and buying dresses and as word spread, people were donating gowns from Texas, Maryland and other parts of the country.
Queen in a Dress is not an official nonprofit yet, because of a delay in paperwork from the government shutdown, Green said.
By the time the organization was ready to host its first event on April 1, Green and other volunteers had collected or bought 863 dresses. The event drew in about 75 people and were able to place around 52 girls in the dress of their dreams.
Dresses were sold to the girls for $10, shoes for $4 and purses for $3. The cost of this helped cover the rental space that houses the dresses year-round. But Green said if a young woman really couldn’t afford to pay the amount, they gave her the items for free.
The event was at the Fleet Reserve Association Branch in Yorktown where 22 volunteers helped to set up a boutique-style dressing area and acted as personal stylists for the women.
For Green, the event was more than just placing girls in pretty dresses—it was medicating.
“I was going through [gallbladder] treatments throughout all of it, but this was medicine that couldn’t come from chemo or radiation,” Green said. “Seeing the glee of the girls when they find that gown, it was more than any medication.”
While Queen in a Dress provides women with the clothes, shoes and accessories to feel beautiful, Green took it a step further to teach them how to be a woman.
She said her mother always loved words of inspiration and that’s why every young woman that walks through her door leaves with a book, whether it be on entrepreneurship or motivational biographies.
Green wants to continue to expand the event by having more than one opportunity for young women between sixth and 12th grade to find dresses and by allowing them to take home more than one dress if they want to.
Most importantly, Green said she just wants to bring in as many girls as possible to show them not only their beauty, but their worth.
“It’s so important for young women to feel beautiful at prom because these dresses have more of a feeling than just material,” she said. “Seeing yourself in the mirror with your shoulders upright and that confidence, it’s a feeling that you’ve secured your own self and purpose within the gown. The gown is simply a vessel, what you’re seeing is a girl turn into a woman.”