Milan Bolden-Morris was already a well-known basketball star at her West Palm Beach, Fla., high school, and will be taking her talents to Boston College later this year. But the 17-year-old became an Internet celebrity recently after she went viral for wearing a lavish prom dress that honored the Black Lives Matter movement.
Morris, a senior player for the Cardinal Newman High School varsity squad, wore a black backless gown with lace sleeves and a large photo of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old who was shot to death in 2012, on the dress’s skirt. The flowing piece also featured black-and-white photos of Sandra Bland and other individuals who were killed during police interactions on the dress’s train.
Bolden-Morris shared images with her date on Instagram Friday, where it was immediately met with likes (more than 14,000 of them) and praise. “Beautiful concept and great all around message,” one commenter wrote. “This is amazing. So much emotion and power worn by a goddess,” Mariesha Desiray wrote. Another added, “Absolutely poignant, timely and … oh yes … Beautiful.”
However, while many are commending Bolden-Morris, she hardly takes any credit. “Honestly just the model for the dress. It was all my designer’s idea, Terrence Torrence, to convey this message and he asked if I wanted to help and of course I did,” she tells Yahoo Style. “The sole purpose was to convey his message, it was never about me or how I look in it, just the message.”
And although Bolden-Morris has received mostly positive feedback, she has still endured criticism for her statement. Still, she says, she doesn’t hold any ill will toward those who don’t approve of her fashion choice. “Many people have their opinions on the motives behind the dress, but all I can do is pray for them and know that our intentions were well,” she says.
She also adds that while the dress clearly depicts the images of fallen African-Americans, “all lives matter” and that the loss of life is especially tragic when it’s unnecessary.
The high school student, who accepted a full ride scholarship to play hoops for the Division 1 squad, hopes to continue being an inspiration to others. “I hope to inspire others and help others to be courageous and strong in the things that they believe in,” she says. Bolden-Morris credits her strong faith in God as the reason she’s been empowered and blessed to achieve over the years.
Torrence, who works between West Palm Beach and Atlanta, told Essence that it took him four days to design the outfit and was pleased with the outcome. “It was powerful,” he said of his work. “It was art. It was surreal. It spoke volumes.”
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