This year, prom season was extra special for a few teens thanks to actress, Claudia Jordan.
Best known for her work on "Celebrity Apprentice" and "Deal or No Deal," the former model has added philanthropist to her resume with her new charity, Claudia's Closet. The newly launched non-profit is targeted at delivering prom dresses -- taken straight from Jordan's red carpet wardrobe -- to girls in need around the country. We sat down with Jordan for an exclusive Q&A about giving away her gowns has grown into a movement.
ESSENCE.com: What inspired you to launch Claudia’s Closet?
CLAUDIA: About 3 weeks ago, I received a Facebook message from a woman in Syracuse who couldn't afford a prom dress for her daughter due to the economy. Her daughter is the first one in her family to graduate high school and head off to college. This woman’s message really touched me. So I went through my closets and took out all the gowns that were just hanging there so her daughter could have her pick – sort of like she was “in” my closet. I just became determined to make sure this exceptional young lady not only attended her prom, but that she also looked like a princess going in. I posted the dress pictures on Facebook, and it just kept growing from there.
ESSENCE.com: Are there any other notable celebrities who have come on board?
CLAUDIA: Yes. Another request came in from a father in Kalamazoo, MI, with a daughter in the same situation. By then, my friend Ira Dewitt (CEO of St. Louis-based Notifi Music Group) had seen my Facebook page, so she volunteered to sponsor a brand new prom dress from the young lady’s store of choice. She also paid to get her hair done. I’ve reached out to Vivica Fox who says she wants to get involved, and actress Laila Odom ("Zane’s Sex Chronicles") has offered dresses as well.
ESSENCE.com: How many dresses have been donated so far?
CLAUDIA: To date, I’ve personally made sure 14 girls have gotten prom dresses free of charge. Of the 14 dresses, eight of them have literally come from my own closet. None of them have been worn more than twice, but most were worn just once and were in perfect shape. I’ve also donated a couple of my dresses that were never worn with price tags still on them.
ESSENCE.com: What has been the most gratifying aspect of Claudia’s Closet?
CLAUDIA: One particular story two weekends ago struck a personal chord with me. I received a message that eight girls in Oakland needed gowns for prom the following Saturday. So I FedExed eight dresses to them overnight, six of which were my personal gowns, and just hoped they all fit. Well, my contact in Oakland told me afterward that the girls were all orphans whose parents passed away due to drug use. I remember pulling over in my car and just having tears in my eyes. It felt so good to be able to help them, and do what I think is making a small difference in these girls’ lives.
ESSENCE.com: What are your goals for Claudia’s Closet going forward?
CLAUDIA: I’ll keep sending dresses until the last prom of the season, and then I’ll start working on next year. My only regret has been that this idea came to me so late in the prom season, because I’m certain I could’ve accommodated 50 girls. So my goal next year is to donate 100 dresses. The designer of a dress I wore to host the Miss Universe Pageant saw what I was doing and has offered to donate brand new gowns, so I am really excited for next year!