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Say Yes to the Prom: Monte Durham helps teens find their dream dresses

"Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta" star Monte Durham hugs a teen after finding her dream dress at Say Yes to the Prom 2012. Credit: Kenneth Visser, Discovery Communications

Brides all across the country dream of having their "yes" moment with TLC's "Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta" image consultant Monte Durham. The perfect combination of opinionated and nurturing, he somehow manages to put even the most neurotic of brides at ease before jacking them up (adding the veil and finishing touches) and making their dreams come true.

Tuesday, Durham will donate his skills to a cause close to his heart at the second annual Say Yes to the Prom, an event put together by TLC and Discovery Communications to give about 40 underprivileged teens from Magruder High School in Rockville, Md., and charitable organization KidsPeace the star treatment.

"When you're a young girl looking for a prom dress, that's the most important dress you'll have until you get your wedding dress," Durham told Newsday. "It's the first time you're really stepping out dressed up as a woman."

Each girl will be paired with a personal shopper and will have Durham's personal input as they choose from a dream closet of more than 700 gowns donated by Discovery and Women in Cable Telecommunications. Unused dresses will go to other girls in need through

"I can relate to these girls trying to get dressed up all fancy when the means just aren't there for you," said Durham, who came from a less than wealthy family "in the hills of West Virginia." 

The girls will be fully accessorized and will enjoy makeovers from professional hair stylists and nail and makeup artists. At the end of the day, they will show off their prom-ready looks in a fashion show with 2,000 employees cheering them on and Durham waiting at the end of the runway with a gift.

"It's most exciting to watch the transition and the appreciation in their eyes," Durham says of seeing the girls get all glammed up for the catwalk. But how do they know when they've found the right dress?

Sometimes it takes a process of elimination, or shedding romantic fantasies and realizing that the ball gown you've been dreaming of just isn't the best for your figure, Durham says. But when the right dress is put on, he believes every girl (or woman) knows it.

"It's an interesting thing, prom or bridal," he says. "Deep down you do know. It's very obvious. . . they'll start twirling, dancing, swishing, giggling. . . most of the time it's the smile that seals the deal."

Durham expects beading, sparkle, bold colors, sweetheart necklines and softer fabrics like jersey knits, chiffon and organza to rule prom this year, taking a cue from the Oscars red carpet.

But the most important thing, he says, is fit.

"What absolutely drives me crazy is a bad fit and not properly supported undergarments," he says. "Young girls are so naturally beautiful, they don't need much makeup. But they have to make sure that dress fits."

Durham acknowledges that prom can be a lot of pressure for young girls, but he encourages them not to give up on finding the right dress. When stuck in a rut, he advises stepping away and finding an amazing pair of shoes or a great makeup color scheme to work around. 

"Maybe you'll find a coral lipstick you love and then you might not want a black dress, or you'll decide you want to wear your hair to the side and will rule out one-shouldered dresses. It will just give you a fresh perspective."

Good advice for sure, but we're guessing all of the 40 girls working with Durham will feel more than confident in their choices come prom night.

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