Monte Durham, Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta's fashion director, wins over teens, hands out prom gowns and free advice
Credit: Ken Visser

As much as she loved the pre-prom pampering, the gifts of gorgeous gowns, and all of the other treats from TLC’s Say Yes To The Prom donation extravaganza, Miami high school senior Ashley loved something else even more.

“Oh my God, I love Monte!” she said, after getting several one-on-one consultations with Monte Durham.

Durham, the fashion director of TLC’s Say Yes To The Dress: Atlanta, was on hand at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida, to help 55 underprivileged high school girls get ready for the prom of their dreams.

“He took so much time with me, and he gave me great advice, not just about fashion, but about life, too,” Ashley said (their schools ask that the girls’ last names not be used). “He made me feel really good about myself.”

Durham shared his confidante/new best friend style with the girls at the day-long event in Miami in March, which culminated in a runway-style show for the 55 girls emceed by Durham and Disney actress Laura Marano.

It was all filmed for TLC’s Say Yes To the Prom special, which airs on May 20 at 9:30 p.m. ET. Discovery Communications, the parent company of TLC, sponsored similar prom dress giveaways at other cities around the country, but focused on filming the Miami girls for this year’s prom special.

Durham, dressed for most of the day in a fawn grey suit over a lavender and white gingham print shirt and lavender tie, took 10 minutes to change at the end of the day for his runway hosting duties.

“These girls look so glamorous, I think I should look a little glamorous too,” Durham said.

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He soon emerged in a spiffy white tuxedo, ready to usher girls onto the brightly lit runway set up for the day in a conference room in the historic hotel. He was besieged with selfie requests throughout the day, and he patiently posed dozens of times, often taking the cellphone himself to snap the pics.

Then came the runway show, and Durham had to coax several of the girls onto the stage.

“Some of them are so shy; they’ve never had this kind of attention before,” he said. “We’re all about teaching them confidence.”

Even girls who had never seen Durham on TV – several admitted to never having watched Say Yes to the Dress, but vowed to start now – became instant fans once Durham counseled them on their dress choices. Standing alongside each girl in front of a full-length mirror set up in Biltmore ballroom, Durham quietly advised each girl on which look flattered her the most. And he tried to get them comfortable with glamour.

“These are girls who are used to buying off racks, and in discount stores and secondhand racks,” Durham said. “They’re used to wearing things that are two or three years old, not the latest style. And you know, as a young lady, you want to wear the latest trends. It’s important to them.”