Teen Wears African Print to Prom, Hopes to Empower Girls of Color

There's "nothing like Black girl Magic," she wrote on Instagram.

May 24, 2016, 2:59 PM
PHOTO: Makalaya Zanders, 18, is pictured here with her date to the prom for Garfield Heights High School in Garfield Heights, Ohio, on May 13, 2016.
Makalaya Zanders, 18, is pictured here with her date to the prom for Garfield Heights High School in Garfield Heights, Ohio, on May 13, 2016.
Makalaya Zanders/@_blazemoney/Instagram

— -- Earlier this year, 18-year-old Makalaya Zanders said someone she knew commented that an African print dress, "wasn't really something you wear to prom."

Afterwards, Zanders became determined to disprove the idea and show off her style. The Ohio teen went to her high school's prom on May 13 in a royal blue, fishtail gown made from Ankara fabric featuring colorful African tribal patterns.

"My dress was to make a point," Zanders wrote on Instagram. "That African style is beautiful. That I am comfortable with my Melanin and roots. And finally, that there's nothing like Black girl Magic."

Photos of the dress posted to Zanders' Instagram have since gone viral on social media, garnering thousands of likes, shares and positive comments.

Zanders told ABC News that the person who told her an African dress "wasn't really something you wear to prom" has since apologized and that she has no hard feelings towards them.

Zanders added that she wanted to "empower young girls of color by showing them they're beautiful, too."

"I was told when I was younger that I was too dark, too this, too that," Zanders said. "I didn't grow up with black Barbies besides Brandy. As a young girl, I thought I didn't fit that standard, traditional definition of beautiful."

But Zanders said she gained confidence after numerous mentors -- including DeAndre Crenshaw, the fashion designer who made her dress -- showed her how to embrace her culture and beauty.

"I absolutely am hopeful for the beauty and fashion industry, and I like how it's been getting more diverse," Zanders said. "Some people think it's just a trend, but I think if it gets more people excited and researching more about our culture, that's good enough for me."

After graduation, Zanders said she plans to go into fashion and modeling.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events