As a major rite of passage for teens leaving high school and entering the "real world," prom is a night to remember — even if you have a terrible time. For the countless students whose proms have been canceled due to COVID-19, American Eagle is stepping in to host a virtual evening of fun, hosted by Cheer's fan favorite star and mat talk expert, Jerry Harris.
The prom will take place on Zoom and Instagram Live tonight, May 14 at 8pm EST, and will feature a special performance by Tinashe (in addition to a TikTok dance tutorial from Addison Rae Easterling herself). The event is also an opportunity to help others — American Eagle has partnered with America’s Food Fund, a nonprofit co-founded by Leonardo DiCaprio, which helps ensure people have access to food. Prom attendees who donate to the organization will have their gifts matched, up to $100,000, by AE.
NYLON caught up with Harris ahead of the event to learn more about why prom still matters, even under quarantine, and how he's staying positive during challenging times.
How is your quarantine going?!
Jerry Harris: Well, I feel just like everybody else. Everyone's going stir crazy. But I'm trying to make the best of it. I've really been spending a lot of time with my family playing games, just bonding. I've been learning how to cook, because that's really a skill that I really want to learn and master as best as I can as I get older. I've been doing a lot of TikTok dances, because what else is there to do? I've been going live on my Instagram frequently just to interact with a lot of my fans and just talk to them. And recently I donated to a food bank, because they're not getting as many donations as they would normally get. So I recently did that, just because I was on a call a couple weeks ago, and a friend was talking about how he knows what food insecurity is, and what it means to him. So I was like, "Okay, let me get out there and try to help as many people as I can during this time."
How did you end up signing on to host and MC virtual prom?
Well first, I love the idea that American Eagle came up with, trying to give the kids out there a prom because they can't have one of their own. Just with so many things going on, it's unfortunate, but I'm happy that they asked me to hop on here and be the host for the prom. I'm very excited for it. It's going to be a few artists, a few people on there. Addison Rae in particular. She's going to be teaching everybody a TikTok dance. They're going to have a DJ, and then we're going to have a singer on there. It's going to be a lot of fun, and it's going to be very cool. It's going to be very memorable for them, and it's going to be on Zoom. It's just us trying to make a memorable prom for all the kids out there that weren't able to experience prom this year.
Making a good situation out of a bad one.
Did you go to your own prom?
I did! I actually went. It was in 2017, and my most memorable moment from it is probably after I got done eating and I realized that nobody was doing anything, I was like, "Okay, well this is prom. Nobody's dancing or anything." So I got up, grabbed one of my girlfriends, my date, and we got up and we started dancing, and we technically started the prom and everyone dancing. So I was very excited that we got up and we started the trend, so everybody else would dance.
Obviously you really inspired the world with your signature 'mat talk.' Do you have any words for, especially young people, who could use a little encouragement right now?
I would definitely say to focus on the good things you have coming up, and not focus on whatever's going on now. Everything that's going on now is only temporary, and if we focus on this, it takes away from a lot of the future things and future opportunities, whatever it may be. It's always good to focus on the future, because we're all going through the same thing right now. And it's only temporary, like I said. And I feel like when all this is over with, we're going to be very appreciative, and then we're going to be wrapped up in life. We're going to be all so busy again, so it's going to be that much more special.
Last question. What's your dream prom song to dance to?
Honestly, my dream song to dance to now is Mas(k)ot by Todrick Hall, because I'm featured in it.
Amazing. You definitely have to play that at the prom.
Yes. They better play it every prom. It has to be on the list.