At this year’s Grownass Prom, Brook Long stormed The Met like a celestial marauder. Her black dress rippled and folded like a wormhole and her red-tinted shades evoked an alien who also may be a celebrity influencer, hiding from her paparazzi on Mars. She didn’t wear a tiara that night (her platinum wig cascaded to her waist), but nevertheless the fact remains: Brook Long is RI’s ultimate prom queen.
And, year after year, she gives us all the prom of our dreams — while raising money for a good cause.
This year marked Long’s sixth year organizing the Grownass Prom, an annual party where grownass people can celebrate a rite of passage, drink legally and attend a prom fit for a teen movie choreo sequence. Drag queens perform during dance breaks, mini-macaroons fill platters and disco ball necklaces are gifted like mardi-gras beads to enthusiastic dancers.
Since its inception, the idea has been embraced. Facebook comments explode when tickets are announced and, even in its first year, nearly 500 tickets were sold, according to Long. This year, attendance reached nearly 600.
“Basically, I thought my prom wasn’t great,” Long says of the event’s impetus. “Some people go to seven or eight proms, but I was in a small town and had one prom. You had to be a senior. The music wasn’t great — prom is supposed to be great.”
Long originally considered renting high school gyms before deciding on clubs. Realizing she would need to charge admission to cover a venue, she decided to donate proceeds after cost to Girls Rock! Rhode Island.
“Brook’s efforts have truly been above and beyond,” says Hilary Jones, executive director at Girls Rock! RI. “She throws a party, invites the whole city — maybe all of Boston — and takes zero money for months of coordination. It’s wild and we are really lucky to have her in our orbit.”
For an organization with a small staff like Girls Rock!, Jones notes the fundraiser is especially meaningful. “It allows us to focus on creating and running quality programming,” Jones says. “We are also glad that the spirit of the prom — creating a space where folks feel like they can have fun and be themselves — is directly in line with our mission.”
While Girls Rock! offers some help at the event with coat check and the event’s raffle, the event is organized and coordinated by Long and her prom committee. Planning begins four or five months in advance, Long estimates. Decorations to fit the year’s theme (this past year was Intergalactic) are created in advance, but most work occurs the day of.
Fred Galpern, who nominated Long as a Motif person you should know, attended the first Grownass Prom as a guest — before realizing that Long, an old friend, was the mastermind behind the event. He volunteered to help in future events. “Working alongside Brook and her crew, I saw firsthand that she treats the event with care and seriousness,” Galpern says. “She has always been a thoughtful, caring person with a solid understanding and perspective on social causes.”
But however serious Long may approach the event behind-the-scenes, as anyone who’s attended prom can testify to, the night itself is anything but. For many, it’s a night that seems like it represents the impossible: a high school do-over.
“There’s so many people who haven’t had a prom experience,” Long says. “Or they had a negative experience. If you’re going to have a prom, it should be for everyone. It shouldn’t be angsty like when you’re 17 or 18. You can wear what you want; people from all walks of life are welcome.”
And if you attend prom next year, there’s one important thing to remember.
“Look for the wildest outfit there,” Jones says. “It’s probably Brook!”