Michelle Obama and MTV to Host Virtual Proms

Now high school seniors will get another chance to pin a corsage to their tuxedo or gown: The prom is going virtual, too.

The former first lady Michelle Obama has partnered with MTV to provide this rite of passage on May 22 for high school students who are in quarantine because of the coronavirus pandemic. The event is being held in partnership with When We All Vote, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization for which Ms. Obama is a co-chair, to increase voter participation in every election.

MTV said on Friday that the 20 high school students who won a contest would be highlighted in Friday’s “Prom-athon,” featuring short-form original content from the winners, prom-themed movies and a virtual party with surprise guests and live performances.

The winning students were surprised last week by Ms. Obama during a Zoom call on the NBC morning show “Today with Hoda & Jenna.”

“We’re coming together to throw you and students across the country a virtual prom,” Ms. Obama said, after her image popped up on a grid of students displayed across the screen during the broadcast. She said that both her team and MTV had “called a lot of our friends” and that there would be “a lot of special guests and performances and a lot of surprises.”

“It might not be what you were envisioning for this special occasion,” she said. “I promise you that it will be a night that you are going to remember.”

The voter participation initiative, called the 2020 Prom Challenge, began before social-distancing measures were in place in the United States and was promoted by Ms. Obama in February, when she shared a photograph from her own prom in 1982, wearing a pink satin dress covered with polka dots while sitting in a large wicker wingback chair. Her photograph was shared on Twitter and included a link to a form that encouraged students to take part in the prom challenge.

The contest was intended to showcase how high school students were integrating voter registration into their schools. The winners of the competition would receive up to $5,000 each to make their schools’ “prom dreams come true,” organizers said in a statement. The 20 winning high schools are in states across the country, including California, Michigan, Texas and North Carolina.

Organizers said the Prom-athon would have a “special focus on commemorating another important milestone for young people this year: registering and voting in the national election in November,” a statement said.

Credit...Theo Wargo/Getty Images

“The Prom-athon will be a fun, music-filled experience full of exciting surprises, complete with celebrity appearances and exclusive performances,” the statement said.

For many students across the country, prom was just another event marking the end of high school that was rescheduled multiple times before finally being canceled.

“You guys are missing out on a lot of major milestones,” Ms. Obama said in the Zoom call on Friday. “It doesn’t seem fair.”

Former President Barack Obama has also stepped into occasions for the Class of 2020, delivering two virtual commencement addresses on Saturday. Like other traditions marking the end of high school, the events come at a time when social-distancing norms have obliterated graduation traditions — from the ritual of walking across the stage to the tossing of the graduation cap.

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