On Saturday, Feb. 22, Fostering LGBTQ Advocacy, Resources and Environments (F.L.A.R.E.) and the International Student Advisory Board (ISAB) will host a "Starry Night" semiformal in Colvard Student Union Ballroom U from 7:30-9:30 p.m.
The dance offers international and LGBTQ students at Mississippi State University the opportunity to attend prom. Any MSU students, faculty and staff were welcome to join in the fun too.
Prom is an American event and, therefore, not a universal experience. International students often only encounter it in movies, but ISAB wanted them to have the experience.
Anirudh Aditya, ISAB vice president and a junior majoring in biochemistry, explained how prom is on many international students' bucket lists.
"The concept of prom doesn't exist in many other countries," Aditya said. "It's a very American thing. Prom is something many international students wish they could experience."
The "Second Chance Prom" was originally a F.L.A.R.E. event held even before the group came to be known as F.L.A.R.E. This previous version of the prom was for LGBTQ students who did not attend prom or did attend but not with whom they wanted.
Keke Wise, a sophomore undeclared major with a pre-veterinary concentration and F.L.A.R.E. event coordinator, said the event is about LGBTQ students embracing what makes them different in a way they might not have been able to in high school.
"They could be coming to college having a totally different lifestyle than they had in high school. This prom is for you to come and be gay and have fun. It's for you to be yourself and not worry about where you went to high school, your small town and being discriminated against," Wise said.
The semiformal setting welcomed all attire, including casual shirts and slacks as well as cultural clothing. Those in attendance are encouraged to suggest songs to an internationally-inspired playlist.
The vision behind the dance's starry night theme is the magical world of Disney, as the organizations are hoping to instill a childlike wonder in prom-goers with twinkling lights lining the ballroom.
In the days leading up to the event, Wise has been reflecting on the effort both groups put into organizing the prom.
"It's been a lot of work trying to put this together," Wise said. "I'm really proud of it. Even if only five people show, I think this will be a really cool event to have. It sets a precedent."
Inclusion is a top priority for both the ISAB and F.L.A.R.E. as the organizations plan the prom. Stephanie Nigrinis, ISAB secretary and senior international business major, said arriving solo is nothing to be ashamed of at the Starry Night semiformal.
"No one feels left out which is really important to us for this prom. It's not about having a date or someone to dance with. We can all enjoy the time together," Nigrinis said.
Wise had similar sentiments, speaking on the behalf of the entire F.L.A.R.E. team.
"F.L.A.R.E. is inclusive to everybody," Wise said. "While our focus is LGBTQ+ students and faculty members, we are accepting to anyone who will accept us back."
The Starry Night prom is one of many upcoming events by F.L.A.R.E. with Pride Week taking place March 16-20. The group's kickoff event for the week will be the Big Gay Field Day held March 16.
F.L.A.R.E. will be on the Drill Field from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with an array of activities reminiscent to an elementary school field day. Anyone is welcome to attend the events.
"We're focused on unity," Wise said. "We're not trying to exclude anyone—except, maybe, people who are rude."