The oldest of nine siblings, Diana Gonzales Leal knew her family couldn’t afford to buy her an expensive dress for her high school proms, so she planned to not attend.
“My mom kept telling me ‘Mija, it’s your [senior] prom, you can’t miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity,’ but I didn’t want my parents to spend that kind of money on a fancy dress for one night only,” said Diana.
Instead, she made a deal with her mom. Diana attended her senior prom, but rather than wear an expensive dress, she wore a simple dress skirt and shirt bought from a local clothing store.
However, that feeling of young girls not attending their high school proms due to the financial strains of getting a fancy dress resonated with Diana, and it fell onto her daughters, too.
“They had that same mentality. Thankfully, Willie and I were able to provide for them to attend their proms,” said Diana. “However, they felt it was unfair that some girls were unable to attend because their families couldn’t afford it. They wanted to create a program where these girls, and guys, could have the chance to ‘shop’ for a dress without worrying about that financial strain.”
A few months ago, Diana shared the idea with Poteet Events Coordinator, Shawnene Heather, who immediately ran with it.
“I started doing some research and found exactly what she was thinking. From there, we put a callout to the community for donations of used formal dresses, and the response has been overwhelming,” said Shawnene.
In a matter of days, Shawnene and Diana collected around 20 used formal dresses for their project titled Beautiful You. However, the donations didn’t stop there. Poteet City Administrator Eric Jiminez and Mayor Willie Leal, Diana’s husband, even donated some used dress suits, slacks and shoes for young men who might need them, too. Jewelry, shoes, dresses and suits in varying sizes have all been collected to accommodate those in need.
“The community has been so generous in their giving, and that’s what I want everyone to know,” said Shawnene. “This is happening because of them, and especially Diana for coming up with the idea. They are giving young girls and boys the chance to attend prom without worrying about costs.”
Beautiful You is 100 percent free for any young lady or man in Atascosa County who could use help in order to attend their prom this year. This gives every student the opportunity to feel “beautiful” for one night.
“Every girl deserves to be Cinderella for one night, and that’s the whole point behind the name, Beautiful You,” said Diana. “It’s for all girls, and guys even, to feel beautiful and handsome for one night.”
The City of Poteet has pitched in their resources and donated space for the Beautiful You “boutique.” Local residents Sherry Gaydos, Diana and Willie Leal, and Jarret and Lisa Akers helped as well by donating linen and clothing racks to make the space look and feel more like a boutique. The idea is to make these youth feel like they are walking into a boutique shopping for a dress without actually paying for it. The space includes a dressing room with a mirror.
Special thanks goes out to Coastal Bend College’s cosmetology class for helping to make prom night memorable.
“I cannot thank the community enough for helping make this happen,” said Diana. “The joy this will bring to the less fortunate is priceless and I am very blessed to live in such a giving community.”
Beautiful You will be available through May for Pleasanton, Jourdanton, Poteet and Charlotte proms. Diana and Shawnene hope to carry on the project next year with even more items and resources for these young ladies and men. For all inquiries about Beautiful You, please contact Shawnene Heather at 830- 742-8917 ext. 303.