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Outrage As White Teacher Tells Black Student Her African Themed Prom Dress Is Too Tacky!

An excited 17-year-old girl who was about to attend her first prom has revealed she was left ‘humiliated’ by her high school teacher for choosing to wear an African-themed gown.

Makalaya Zanders, who attends Garfield Heights High School in Cleveland, Ohio, chose to wear the Ankara print gown after seeing a picture of supermodel Jessica Chibueze who wore a similar design to an event last year. 

After excitedly discussing her choice of attire with her white teacher, Makalaya wrote in an Instagram post that she was told it was too ‘tacky for prom.’

Outrage As White Teacher Tells Black Student Her African Themed Prom Dress Is Too Tacky!

Makalaya wrote on Instagram: ‘Hellbent on proving them wrong and being someone who loves our culture and African glamorous style, me and @indelible_dc decided to take the Ankara dress and put a twist on it,’

The pretty 17-year-old enlisted the help of local designer DeAndre’ Crenshaw who brought Makalaya’s vision to life.

Makalya shared the prom dress on her Instagram page and ended up garnering thousands of likes on social media.

The royal blue java Ankara print grown Makalaya wore to prom on May 13 featured a front slit and fish style finish.

The full look was completed with a hand-made structural waist belt.

Outrage As White Teacher Tells Black Student Her African Themed Prom Dress Is Too Tacky!

‘Little did I know it came out more beautiful, then I could’ve ever imagine!! My dress was to make a point,’ Makalaya wrote accompanied by the finish look.

‘That African style is beautiful. That I am comfortable with my Melanin and roots. And finally that there’s nothing like Black girl Magic.’

Outrage As White Teacher Tells Black Student Her African Themed Prom Dress Is Too Tacky!

Instagram users were quick to commend Makalaya for her efforts with one writing: “I love the dress and so proud of you for sticking to your convictions. You absolutely rock.’

Another admirer of the dress wrote in the comments. ‘Your dress is beautiful! Don’t let anyone tell you anything different.’

Makalaya kindly thanked everyone for their kind words and later revealed that the teacher who suggested her dress was ‘tacky’ apologized.

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Written by Christine Haveford

Christine loves all things cinema, and she's been that way ever since she was a little girl. In fact, she is so passionate about cinema that she decided to pursue cinematography as a full-time career, and is now pursuing film studies at the New York Film School. Originally from Florida, she is still exploring the new city, people, places, and the culture, loves the new weather, going ice skating during winters, and spending time with her fellow classmates and friends from college.

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  1. I just don;t know how the teacher could call this dress tacky This dress is Exquisite and this young lady looks Extremely Beautiful. It makes me so Mad that she was made to feel like her dress wasn’t good enough for her to wear to her prom Shame on that teacher People like you give white people a bad wrap saying things like this. Well I am white and I think ALL women are gorgeous different shapes and sizes all different shades of skin tones are Beautiful Please young women don’t let one
    teacher make you think for one second that you are less than or what you are wearing isn’t pretty enough. I am in love with this dress it is so stunning, and She is Gorgeous wearing it

  2. White people continue to try to legislate the lives of black people by presuming toimpose their standards on us. This teacher’s pronouncement is another example: she is either prejudiced, envious, or mired in the myopia of the past, or all of the above. This young lady’s dress is beautiful, elegant, the very embodiment of good taste and high fashion. she herself looks poised, self-possessed and, I hope, destined to go places. That she chose to wear something that reflected her race’s irrepressible instincts for rhythm, colour, style, and joie de vivre is a proud testimony to our uniqueness as a people.

  3. I’am not surprised, by the comment the teacher made about the Java Ankara print
    dress Makayla chose to wear, it’s clear to see this teacher doesn’t show respect for
    our African Heritage. I’am proud of you
    for you sticking to your decision to wear
    this beautiful gown you are a beautiful
    Queen always stick to your dreams and
    thoughts when it comes to your heritage
    It’s a right not a privilege, nobody wants
    African Americans to embrace our heritage or teach blacks about our African Cultural, we will never forget. where our
    humble beginnings originated from.
    Keep living your dreams young lady
    I’am so proud of you and your parents
    They have raised a smart beautiful Queen
    Congratulations, keep breaking down barriers it’s contagious you will always win
    God have favor for you my blessings always come your way.

    • And I’m sure u show respect for the teachers heritage, why can’t the teacher have her opinion about the dress without worrying about being labeled a racist by people like u, so what if she like the dress,there are more important things to worry about in life

  4. LAWSUITS FOR THAT TEACHER FOR DEFORMATION OF CHARACTER…THAT TEACHER IS JEALOUS OF YOUR BEAUTY IN WHATEVER YOU WEAR AND THEY SHOULD GROW UP AND RESPECT THE STUDENTS THAT THEY TEACH OR FIND ANOTHER CAREER…LIKE TRASH HAULING…YOUNG SISTAH YOU ARE PHENOMENAL IN YOUR PROM DRESS AND DO NOT LET ANYBODY CHANGE YOUR STYLE OF BEING WHO YOU ARE…THANK YOU FOR REPRESENTING A LOST RACE HERE IN AMERIKKKA.

    • It is called defamation, and when you ask for another opinion and you don’t agree with it, then either suck it up our don’t ask for others opinion

    • First of all dear, the word is DEFAMATION, not ‘deformation.’ Second of all, students don’t get respect simply because they DEMAND it. Respect is earned. Perhaps you need to spend more time in school and less time on social media, because you clearly haven’t placed a priority on education.

  5. There is nothing “African themed” about this dress. The design is not. The fabric is not. The teacher is correct. The dress is tacky and too tight. I’m disgusted by young, Black people who don’t have a clue as to what is “African” and what is not. Not a clue that Africa is a CONTINENT made up of many different countries. Which country does this dress represent? The “idea” of African-themed has been co-opted by too many Black Americans who “think” that anything with bright colors and fabric with geometric patterns somehow is “African.” This girl might have done better to design a dress inspired by some of the “designs” worn by American slaves working in the fields or the house. Now that would be a challenge and a real tribute.

    • To the ignorant Quippian person. The comment you made shows the lack of respect that your ancestors have put on or survived. Just because you or your family was not one of the people that was captured into slavery that don’t give you any right to feel that African American people are any less African than any than any of you. The disrespect you characterizes in the tone of your remark shows that you feel superior to the African American women of today. You are no better than none else especially if you look downward on anyone else. Regardless of color or origin. Slaves were all captured in Africa. So how do you feel it’s your right to strip them of their origin. That’s stupidity at it’s best. I’m a proud African American woman. My family didn’t ask to be captured. We can’t change what happened but our story is not one to be pittied. Our story is one of strength and struggle and of perseverance. We came a long way and is still struggling to get ahead. But look around honey. We are beautiful blessed and a force to be reckoned with. Still unappreciated but never will we bow down to anyone other than good. We are fighters, we are corageous and we know who we are and we don’t hide behind our downfalls we embellish them because it’s those downfalls that gives us the courage and strength to strive and conquer our fears and overcome them. So if her dress offends you and other non captured African women, we really don’t give a dam. We know where we are from but we had to adapt to our surroundings and we have struggled to overcome more than you could ever imagine. If this is what she feels is her African dress. Guess what. It is just that, HER African dress.

      • Sorry Ma’am but if you’re born in America then you’re American. No amount of fetishistic dreaming is going to change that. Even when you travel (if you have) to Africa, you’re still going to be seen as American and not African(regardless if you travel to Egypt, Uganda, Kenya, or even Liberia.)

        Honestly, the dress is tacky, but that is just my opinion (just as it was the teachers). The angst here is the implied intent of racism where none was actually stated. It just as racist to assume a White person is being automatically racist because of an unfavorable comment, and frankly this article is very leading and underhanded in that it implies that the comment was racially motivated since it was a White teacher talking to a Black girl.

        I’m also appalled at the level of Cultural Appropriation, not in just what the girl claimed she wore, but the insistence of others including yourself, that your Skin tone some how automatically makes you a native of Africa, and that you are also entitled to co-opt any culture, for your personal exploitation, on that contient without knowing it’s region, it’s languages, or it’s history. How can you strip a people of their identity and uniqueness, while you sit and criticize others for doing the same thing to you. That just makes you a hypocrite.

        Oh, by the way Black people are Native to Australia too. Those indigenous Cultures are called the Aborigine’s- are you going to co-opt their culture too simply because you share the same skin tone? The biggest part of Racism isn’t just that you feel one “race” is superior or inferior to another..it’s also assuming that anyone with the same skin tone walks, talks, and acts just like you. Further, not all of Africa is Black, and hasn’t been for thousands of years.

        Quit being racist.

        • YOU SOUND LIKE A EUROPEAN AMERICAN TRUMP SUPPORTER. WE ARE AFRICAN AMERICANS, REGARDLESS OF WHAT YOU OR ANY AFRICAN THINKS.
          MAYBE YOU SHOULD READ AND LEARN INSTEAD OF TALKIN LOUD AND SAYIN NUTHIN!

        • How is the dress tacky? Because it doesn’t look like the average prom dress. Personally prom dresses don’t appeal to me. But had I seen one like this back in da day when I was in high school, I might had had one prom dress I like. Don’t know if you are a white man but I find lots of white folk bland and boring. They tend to not like bright colors (!not all of dem) .We need to have more things with lots of color, house for example. No boring white, beige, and all look da same. Bright colors have a good vibration. Vibrancy. Aliveness.

      • Pauline, you call her ignorant when English is her 2nd language or so you assume, and she speaks it quite eloquently, while you struggle to form a proper sentence.
        You claim all slaves were from Africa, I guess you forgot about the island ppl, Dominicans,Haitians, and many others including some aborigines. Let’s not forget the cheap Irish slaves.
        She is correct in all that she is saying, yes the girls dress was absolutely stunning, and yes the girl was probably the most beautiful girl at the prom. I have seen duct tape proms, and the creativity was amazing and the dresses were beautiful, but that didn’t make any of them a Vera Wang. I am not familiar with all the patterns of each African nation, but I do know that they are as distinct and meaningful as the tartans are to a Scotsmans kilt.
        There is a reason the Africans look down upon black Americans and do not consider them African, the ignorance and disdain that you put forth to try to belittle someone who actually has lived in what you claim as the motherland all the while acting as if you know what it is like to be African and that your struggles here in America or as you call it amerikkka, could even remotely compare to appartied, just is dumbfounding.
        Until you can correctly use the one language that you have you may want to avoid calling anyone else ignorant, just my humble opinion

    • Quippian… sounds like PURE jealousy to me.

      Anyhow, if it were not for the hard work and sacrifice that african americans put into helping to build the this country through slavery, through the civil rights movements, through the tuskegee experiments, black genocides, our services to this country, our world shaking inventions, all of our accomplishments, achievements, style, taste and etc….

      (speaking of american slaves working in the fields) if it were not for our hard work, the africans in this country that are here now, would not be here. if you all did manage to come, you’d go straight to work in someone’s cotton field or rice field.

      1. there are wrinkles to the front as she is poised, so it isnt too tight.
      2. you DONT have any personal knowledge of where she got the fabric from.
      3. the designs in her dress ARE similar to Moroccan designs which Morocco IS IN AFRICA.

      * i am an interior designer and a seamstress since 6 years old so (30 years and counting)… that is how i know.

    • Why don’t you try and educate instead of hating. Many blacks in the diaspora long for some connection to a continent and ultimately country that many don’t know much about. It should be celebrated and encouraged. I’d love to know what country(ies) my lineage comes from but I don’t have that luxury outside of ancestry DNA (that’s another story).

      Just because you may have the luxury of knowing what country you hail from and what fabrics, prints, etc. are “true” to that country doesn’t mean those of us in the diaspora do. At least she was trying to represent what she feels is some connection to the motherland.

  6. Not only do you look like a Queen, but that is one of the most gorgeous dresses I have ever seen. Not EVERYONE can have taste, but some uninformed, ignorant people just need to keep their mouths shut. I might even go so far to say that your dress is too exquisite for prom! But you do YOU! If you have the means and the desire, never mind the haters. Stunning!!

  7. This dress is inappropriate and a disrespect African heritage. The display of her breast should have barred her from entering. Why did her parents allow her to leave the house like that. Promiscuous to say the least. Why our black children are so disrespectful and promiscuous today. And people condoning this. Smdh

    • promiscuous is an action, not a look. African women are proud of their bodies and living in a female dominated society, matriarchs don’t allow clueless idiots to dictate their attire.

  8. Who care what one or one million white people think; that’s just one white person opinion… Y’all give them fools to much attention…

  9. There are women from African tribes that bare their breasts; are they promiscuous as well?…History plays a part in connecting with our culture. We as a people of color must continue to learn our culture without putting down each other. I have never been to the “Mother Land”, but I am fascinated with the diversity; there is so much that we must learn.

  10. Before I read the comment from the “teacher”, I was drawn to the beauty of the dress and the young women and young man in the picture. Some people should learn to keep their mouths shut! You rock!

  11. Makalaya your dress is breathtakingly beautiful. Your chose to choose this dress is exactly that, YOUR chose! I applaud your chose and your right to wear any dress you decide. I must say the teacher was so far out of line it is rediculous, she was dead wrong and disrespectful (and jealous) on several levels that I won’t even go into it. You have impeccable taste and fashion sense and you nailed our culture and style with flair. Not to mention, YOU are absolutely gorgeous. You can design my wedding dress (one day). Fashion designer on the horizon, watch out for Makalaya!

    Blessings and Love,

  12. This beautiful young woman was probably as excited as we all were with our Proms! Her hair, her makeup, her nails and everything was just perfect. Her dress? Stunning!! This beautiful young woman doesn’t deserve what she was told, but, unfortunately, pretty women are THE threat to a lot of different types of women. The only ones she should surround herself with are women who have it together, as she obviously does. She looked beautiful, stunning, she handled herself with poise and dignity, and she, in the long run, walked away with her head held high. They tried to knock her down, but she held fast, and good for her!!

  13. Wow . Congratulations, to the young people ok, this is it ok, the hair is a little to much out of your league ok and why, here in la most older woman who are Street walkers where that type of style . So don’t let your style put a lable on you at a early age. Enjoy life go to college and be the best and then think about family ok from your best new friend And a fan. Hey I can’t wait when you turn 30 you will be a knock out , good luck , love Bishop Cranford.

  14. I love the fabric, it is beautiful. I m not a fan of dresses with trains, however, if one wants to deal with them, fine. She looks fabulous and I think the dress is perfect on her!

  15. How beautiful the young black woman looked, The dress absolutely gorgeous. You were absolutely striking sweetie. And your date truly handsome and well put together. People who come on here to attack this beautiful young woman just out of high school. Nothing but hateful ass individuals, With no life and certainly no maturity.

  16. How beautiful the young black woman looked, The dress absolutely gorgeous. You were absolutely striking sweetie. And your date truly handsome and well put together. People who come on here to attack this beautiful young woman just out of high school. Nothing but hateful ass individuals, With no life and certainly

    no maturity.

  17. I think the dress is gorgeous. I do wonder about the bottom – the train or whatever you would call it. How do you dance in that or keep from having it stepped on around other people?

  18. Absolutely stunningly gorgeous,!! The beautiful dress is only surpassed by the incredibly gorgeous young lady. What a stupid thing for that teacher to say.

  19. Cultural Misappropriation is not being African, being Black American does not make you African, it doesn’t make you less Black but it doesn’t make you African . 90% of you do not know, do not identify and have never felt the African Struggle. I totally respect and admire your efforts to identify with your heritage and your roots, but I HATE it when you make “us” about “you” ……….. I am not Black American or African American I am simply African and to be precise from a specific country in “Africa” so I think its time Black Americans or African Americans started educating themselves a little bit before we all jump on the bandwagon and start a fight over what was obviously a fantastic, beautiful and extremely gorgeous dress.

    The teacher hadn’t seen the dress before she made that unfortunate comment by the way so am not defending her at all but am just saying maybe the vision that was presented and the final result do not really match up. and we all know people will invent any story nowadays to garner votes, likes and followers on social media. Did she record exactly what the teacher said ? have we given that teacher a fair and equal chance to defend herself or are we just creating yet another internet celebrity who has been wronged by society and now requires our salvation and of course our raising her to super stardom ???

    I am not going to comment about the rest of what’s wrong with this story

    • Malcolm, thank you for your very candid and accurate comment!

      I would however just like to add the following:

      1. The dress is beautiful and kudos to the young lady for trying something different and wanting to pay homage to her African ancestors. Although I am not sure where the print/fabric originated from, I have been told that its Morroccan which is therefore African. In any event, it is relevant to note that this is the ankara fabric and style of dress (less the Spartan-style belt lol) that many young ladies living in West Africa wear today (myself included). Hence, I do feel some of my fellow African commentators here should perhaps lighten up regarding whether her dress reflects Africa. You may not like the dress itself but it does reflect Africa, or modern West Africa at the very least.

      2. The teacher had not seen the dress before making her comment so it is very likely that speaking of the bold colours and geometric designs together with the low neckline and ‘Spartan-like’ belt made the dress seem like it would be ‘too much/tacky’ to the teacher who may very well not be familiar with the latest ankara designs being worn by the contemporary fashion conscientious West African woman. This does not make her a racist.

      3. Yes, it is irritating that Americans refer to Africa as though it is 1 country. However, rather than criticise, it is for those of us who perhaps know better to enlighten them; its really not that serious. Also, I find that Americans very rarely travel outside America/learn about other countries (perhaps because America is so large) and the issue of Americans referring to a continent as though it is a country is not specific to ‘Africa’. Funny but relevant story; when my sister went to America on holiday for the first time, she was asked by a number of Americans if she spoke French because she had told them that she lived in ENGLAND at the time (ermmm no, people in England speak English…lol). Was it a big deal? No, simply informed the people that England is only 1 country in Europe and that there are many countries in Europe with distinct languages, cultures etc, including France where they speak French.

      Furthermore, lest we forget, we Nigerians (as I can’t speak for other Africans on this 1) regularly refer to the ‘West’ when making generalised statements about Americans and Europeans. For example, we refer to Western values, Western education, Western fashion etc when values, educational systems, and fashion trends in reality differ from the UK, to Germany, to America and so forth.

      My point is that we should all just stop being so sensitive! Black American commentators, not everyone is going to agree with your fashion sense or views on cultural identification. That is ok, provided such persons do not forcefully prevent you from exercising your right to same because you are black or for any other reason. In the same vein, you must also respect that the ‘African’ cultures, fashions, struggles which you want to identify with have known heirs who are weary of ‘Westerners’ usurping, diluting, or completely disintegrating these cultures as has been done for many years. Unfortunately, while you are family and the past is not your fault, you have to understand that you are more connected to American cultures now and are therefore seen as Westerners. Remember, respect is a 2 way street, as they say in the West 🙂

      Fellow African commentators (nope, not going to list all the African nations), perhaps we can try to be a little less judgmental of African Americans who care enough to want to know more about the lands of their ancestors. While they have not experienced the struggles of being African, we have not experienced the struggles of not being able to pin-point a village of origin, mother-tongue, etc.

      White commentators, we know you are not all racist. It would help however if you tried to be a little more careful in your selection of words or in voicing your opinion generally on any matter concerning the black community/culture/heritage, albeit remotely. For example, Clark, in your defence of Quippian, you referred on multiple occasions to his/her fantastic ability to write in English and even suggested that it was his/her 2nd language (although you tried to attribute the latter to Pauline despite there being no mention in Pauline’s post about language). Yes, all Africans have a native language but as a result of colonialisation, most Africans are also fluent in at least 1 other European language so your surprise or praise of Quippian’s use of English is presumptive, a little rude, and very inappropriate although I am sure it was not your intention to offend.

      With that being said, peace out beautiful people! 🙂

  20. Makalaya: your African print dress is absolutely stunning, and thank you for proudly representing our heritage with such elegance. Much to be proud of. Your white teacher really should have kept quiet since she had nothing positive to say, and in reality demonstrated her ignorance of African culture. What if one of her students had worn a prom dress representing her heritage, whatever it is? Would the response have been the same? She needs a few lessons in the appropriate time & place for comments, and shame on her for attempting to diminish our heritage from any perspective, given that our ancestors were shipped to the United States to provide free labor as slaves. POWER TO OUR BLACK AMERICAN>AFRICAN AMERICAN HERITAGE!

  21. I wish I had had that kind of taste when I was a high school kid choosing a prom dress! This doesn’t look like a prom dress. It looks like haute couture! You could walk down the red carpet in it or accept a major award. There are always people with bad fashion sense who want everyone to look and dress the same. Good for you for ignoring them and being magnificent! Hold onto that courage and belief in yourself and your heritage and you will be fine. 🙂 Best of luck, and I hope you go into fashion as a career!

  22. Would be nice if black women felt the same way about their natural hair. The bucket loads of straightener they use to emulate white hair makes true appreciates of black culture doubt their seriousness about their claimed embracement of black culture. This young lady does look wonderful in her African themed dress, and I’m glad she was intelligent and determined to abide by her own rules.

  23. Actually to me it doesn’t look like an African themed dress..at least from all of da African dresses, outfits, fabric I’ve seen , though I don’t know what an Ankara themed print is. I’ve had several boubas, ( not sure if that’s spelled correctly, ) have made outfits from kente cloth, know the indigo cloth and mud cloth. It kinda looks like mandalas to me. It reminds me of the tapestries you get from India. I see nothing wrong with the dress. The print is real nice , though not thrilled with the style of bottom half of dress. But nice and especially if it’s different from the average gown. Who wants to be all da same.!

  24. It was rude & ignorant, IMO, for the teacher to say it was tacky or inappropriate for prom. Have you SEEN some of the dresses girls wear these days?!?! They look like hookers! This young lady’s dress was beautiful. I love the colours & patterns on it. Idk if it’s “African themed” or not, but it’s still beautiful (again…IMO). I’m glad she stood her ground & didn’t allow that teacher to ruin her prom experience. I’m also glad that the teacher apologized.

  25. The girl does look nice the way she styled herself but the dress isn’t all that, I’ve seen African dresses and they are wayyy better but Americans like to dilute everything but that’s another topic. Overall she looks cute! Tacky wow that’s just rude. I hate the way black Africans in the US call themselves African – American HUH? Wtf is that ? Your African/ Caribbean etc ew black Americans are so white and up the white peoples ass they still marching for equality today! Y’all look so dumb caring what the likes of trump and those idiots think, you give them so much power your only hope is that one of them whites takes pitty on your struggle and gives you a break! Because who are you marching to ? The white man! Educate your youths, raise money for the community for your kids to be in those higher paid jobs that make a difference kmt!!!

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