An 18-year-old student in Franklin, Tennessee, talks about his decision to wear a dress to prom after a man was caught on video harassing the teen about his outfit at a pre-prom event.
The now-viral clip, posted on TikTok and Twitter, featured the man – later identified as Sam Johnson, the then-current and now former CEO of a Nashville telemedicine company – telling Dalton Stevens he looked “like an idiot” in his red ball gown. Despite the defamation and national attention paid to the video, Stevens remains confident in his decision to wear the garment, claiming that it looked “beautiful” in it.
“A man on TikTok with a similar physique inspired me after he posted a video of him wearing a dress,” Stevens tells Yahoo Life, referring to TikTok creator Austin Peyton who posted a viral video of in March posted himself in a red dress.
Stevens quickly bought one himself, stating that he had a lot of support from his mother and friends. “Before the night I was very excited and couldn’t wait. I told a lot of my friends about it, they were so excited,” he explains. But when he, his boyfriend, and a group of friends went to the downtown Harpeth Hotel to snap some prom photos before going to the event, he encountered unwanted attention.
“We went in, took photos in front of a fireplace, in front of a staircase, just a lot of pretty backdrops, that’s why we went there. And in this hotel, there is also a restaurant with a bar attached, and that’s where the gentleman sat most of the night until he decided to approach me, “says Stevens of Johnson. “When we were about to leave, I and my group of friends just circled and talked. Then he stepped behind me and my friend and scared me because I obviously didn’t know who he was, so I turned back and said,” Sorry. “And he says, ‘Do you know what you’re wearing?’ ”
Stevens claims he started giggling thinking Johnson was kidding as it was obvious the teen was wearing a dress. “He said, ‘Oh, why did you choose to wear this?’ And I said, “I think I look good at it, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.” And he decided to keep saying things like, “Oh, you look like an idiot,” which I thought was stupid. Much more insults were thrown about how a man shouldn’t wear a dress on your chest, you shouldn’t wear a dress. ‘And then the video started. ”
Steven’s friend Jacob Geittmann was the one who captured the rest of the incident on his phone and later posted it on social media.
In the video, you can hear Stevens and Geittmann yelling at the man before Stevens leaves. “He kept following me and harassing me and just calling names,” says Stevens of Johnson, who says, “You look like an idiot,” just before trying to knock down Geittmann’s phone. According to the video and the additional explanation of Geittmann’s TikTok, adults then intervened at the venue – including the hotel staff that Geittmann said eventually kicked Johnson out and called the police.
Justin Foster, General Manager of the Harpeth Hotel, told Yahoo Life, “Our goal is to ensure that all guests and visitors to Harpeth are welcome and comfortable. We have been disappointed with what happened on the property this past weekend took place, and are grateful for it. Our staff reacted quickly and spread the word. We look forward to continuing positive experiences with real estate. ”
The interaction between Johnson and Stevens ended that night. And while Stevens tells Yahoo Life that the video was released to publicize the harassment of LGBTQ people, he admits that the “overwhelming” response has led to much more – including losing Johnson’s job at VisuWell.
“We clearly condemn Sam Johnson’s behavior in a recent video that was widely shared on social media. After investigating the matter and speaking with those involved, the VisuWell Board of Directs has decided to resign Mr. Johnson from his position with immediate effect Termination of CEO, “the company said in a statement, adding that” Mr. Johnson’s actions were contrary to the high standards we have set ourselves in promoting the health of those who use our platform. ”
The company also announced that it would take “concrete steps” in the coming weeks to support the LGBTQ community.
In a statement to Newsweek, Johnson alleged the allegations were “totally false” and alleged that he had not exposed the youths with anything personal. “We had just sat down for dinner at this restaurant we frequent and I was just coming back from the bathroom when I was presented with their loud swearing,” he told the publication. “It was their idea to do it with the dress and they cut out most of the swap.”
But after the video made headlines about Johnson’s behavior, Stevens wanted to bring the dress back into focus – reminding people that a comment from a stranger “won’t make me believe that I’m any less beautiful than I actually am.” ” He’s even received support and love from celebrities like Kathy Griffin, Cyndi Lauper, and Billy Porter who went out of their way to remind Stevens of his beauty.
“Beautiful,” commented Lauper Stevens’ TikTok video showing his prom look. Porter added, “Say yasssss to the dress !!”
Porter also posted Stevens’ video on his own Instagram feed, along with a photo of himself in a red dress on a red carpet with the hashtags #ManlyMan and #PromQueen.
“[Porter] is such an icon and he’s the one I look up to a lot just because I’m wearing what he’s wearing,” says Stevens of Porter. “Knowing that he thought I was good enough to be a man in a dress and a person that people can look up was just amazing.”
He continues, “When I know I have these celebrities who have such a big voice behind me, I just feel better. These people support me.”
Still, Stevens says he experienced more support and love than hate all night long, which put his encounter with Johnson into perspective.
“I definitely wasn’t looking for praise to wear this. I just wanted people to say, ‘Oh, this is a man in a dress and he’s handsome,'” said Stevens. “A man in a dress should be normalized, just like a woman can wear a button-down shirt. It’s a piece of cloth, it has no gender. That’s the main thing I get from it. I’m very glad mine got there a vote can be cast to show people that I am confident in a dress and that everyone should be confident in a dress. ”