The pink, rotating billboard, which read “Vote Brandy Day for Prom Queen!” went up on April 14 along the highway at an intersection near Harker Heights High School in Killeen, Texas, and immediately raised eyebrows around town, with many calling it completely over-the-top.
Despite the public backlash , Tammy Day said she doesn’t regret having gone all out for her daughter. She said she wanted to give her daughter, who was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy from the waist down at age 3, a bright, shining moment after a life of pain.
“They may consider it overboard, but I don’t look at it like that,” she said. “I look at it like it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make memories …This is her last prom. She’s never going to be in high school again and I wanted her to have the best moment possible during her last school year.”
Day’s motivation seems to have backfired. Brandy Day, who is a high school senior, wasn’t elected prom queen and has been teased by some of students because of the billboard, according to her mother, but is handling it all — the billboard fallout and the loss — with grace.
“She’s shocked. She’s speechless. I don’t think she really knows what to think,” Day said. “But I know she’s happy because she worked hard.”
Day said Brandy approached the race for prom queen like a real campaign, making hundreds of fliers at home, which she hung up at school and at local businesses in the area. (Day said Brandy’s classmates particularly liked one with a slogan, playing off the Victoria’s Secret tagline: “Guess who’s got Victoria’s Secret? If you want to find out, vote for Brandy Day!”)
Together, they canvassed the neighborhood, she said, asking local businesses to display fliers and sponsor her, and soliciting funds from friends, family and Day’s colleagues at the information technology company where she works. Brandy mentioned the billboard as a joke and her mom decided to follow through.
“I said, ‘If you’re going to do it, give it 150%,’” Day explained.
All together, Day spent approximately $1,000, to give her daughter an unforgettable prom experience.
“No one body wanted to hear the whole purpose of it. She’s never had a shining moment. Most of her life has been filled with pain and she keeps smiling,” Day said. “She needs to shine. She needs that wow factor.”
Brandy wore braces throughout her childhood, her mother said. She was teased for having braces on her legs, but after physical therapy, she was able to switch to wearing splints on her legs only at night, and then orthotics and now special sneakers with metal plates to correct her walk. Day said Brandy didn’t wear them to high school because she got sick of being teased, only wearing the shoes off-hours.
“Her friends still tease her about her walking because she walks bouncy,” Day said. “She has trouble putting her heels down.”
To Day, the campaign for prom queen was an area where she thought her daughter could win.
“I felt like it was an attainable goal for her,” Day said. “Physically, mobility-wise, against normal children, she doesn’t stand a chance. She can’t do track, she can’t swim. She plays tennis and has to stay in some kind of sport to keep physically fit because of her mild CP, but I felt like she chose this [prom queen campaign] as something that she thought that she could stand a chance on because all it would require was for her to present a picture for herself, but it appears that it’s backfiring.”
The school district had no comment about the billboard. Public information officer Leslie Gilmore said she had never seen parents take out billboards for prom queen or king before.
Day said students are “harassing” Brandy and trying to make her daughter feel embarrassed.
“It’s just such a shame because the ones that are doing it don’t know her background,” Day said. “She’s brushing it off … she’s not showing it if she is upset. She is used to absorbing pain and hiding it.”
Voting for the prom court closed earlier this week, Gilmore said. The top three finalists in each category were alerted and the winner will be crowned Saturday night at the prom.
Day said Brandy is still excited to attend. Even though she won’t be wearing a crown, she’ll get done up in the white, strapless “Roman-style” dress with a gold braided belt and matching accessories and have a special photo op for the family photo album.
“Win or lose, she’s still a star,” Day said.
Brandy is headed to Baylor University to pursue a career in pediatrics, her mother said.