In this special interview for OUTVoices Nashville, Brian Sullivan talked with Dalton Stevens, the teen boy harassed by now former CEO Sam Johnson for wearing a dress to his Franklin prom (according to the Tennessean, Franklin Police said Johnson, who could not be reached, denied the event, video of which has been shared thousands of times, ever occurred). During the interview, he gets a surprise from one of the Nashville LGBT community’s favorite celebrity recording artists and allies, Meghan Linsey.
Brian Sullivan 0:02
Good morning, I'm Brian Sullivan reporting for out voices Nashville. A Tick Tock video that went viral over the weekend shows a man following teenager Dalton Stevens outside of the harpeth Hotel in downtown Franklin. teasing him for wearing a dress to his Franklin High school prom. We do want to warn you this video does have graphic language. Take a look. Okay. Thank you looks gross.
Unknown Speaker 0:43
CLIP FROM VIRAL VIDEO.
Brian Sullivan 1:23
We've since learned that VisuWell has fired Johnson issuing a statement on Twitter saying VisuWell's culture emphasizes respect, kindness and compassion, especially for those from traditionally marginalized marginalized communities. And we maintain a zero tolerance policy for intolerance of any kind. Mr. Johnson's actions contradicted the high standards we set for ourselves in promoting the health of those who use our platform. Joining us now the teen depicted in the video Dalton Stevens. Dalton! Thank you so much for joining usJ
Dalton Stevens 1:58
Thank you so much for having me. It was amazing. Thank you.
Brian Sullivan 2:01
I'm sure it's been a crazy couple of days. Upon First of all, so heroic, so brave. When you said, I'm sorry, and gorgeous. All of us people who are our age looking back were like, Man, I wish I would have had that type of courage when I was his age. So today Oh, see you.
Dalton Stevens 2:26
Thank you so much. Thank you.
Brian Sullivan 2:29
So how did this come about? First of all, you were with your your boyfriend, Jacob Gaiman. Who was your date? Tell us first of all, walk us back. Was was wearing a dress something that you have done before? Or you decided to do it for this occasion? Are you do you normally do that?
Dalton Stevens 2:52
I'm wearing a dress definitely isn't in my regular wardrobe. So that's another reason of why I wanted to do something for prom that was different because I would always remember it and be like, yeah, I wore a dress to prom and I killed it. And I rock that dress. I wanted to be able to say that and say that to my grandkids and stuff like that. So that's a major reason of why I wore it just because I it was definitely out of my comfort zone. But enough in my comfort zone where I knew that I was still gorgeous. Yeah.
Brian Sullivan 3:24
Walk us through that night. You know, start Did you all did you and your friends ride together or tell us
Dalton Stevens 3:32
So starting off Saturday, I it was on Saturday, I woke up and I went over to my friend's Lily Warren's house she I'm also a makeup artist and hairstylist that I do for like musicals and stuff like that with high school. So I did her prom hair and makeup. Um, we were just having a good time. Then my boyfriend and her boyfriend came over we took pictures at our house did the corsage and the boot near thing the pictures all that I'm for on down and then we had a group of I would say about 15 around 15 that we're all wanting to get together to take pictures of the harpeth on we originally planned on going to harlands del but it was of course writing on that day. So it was very muddy and didn't want that with heels and all that. So we decided on harpeth Um, we go it go into the harpeth around, I want to say like 615 630 something like that we get in there. Um, everybody was everybody that I saw gave great reactions. Just It was amazing. Like everybody loved the dress and it was exactly what I wanted to that people to show people that it was okay. And like I had people from the because it was also a restaurant attached the hotel as well. And nine people that got up and said like, Oh, I'm from New York City and I really didn't think somebody from Tennessee would like do this and like it's so courageous of you and just like you're, you're amazing and this and that and it was really great. So after that we took pictures on the inside and then we went out to the courtyard where there's a giant staircase in the We started doing a couple of pictures and the individual pictures and took a few group shots. Um, we finished up all that we took all our pictures, had fun, laughed and had an amazing time taking pictures. And then as we were getting ready to leave, and then just waiting for our dinner reservations, we were huddled up in a circle just talking and having a great time just enjoying prom. Um, and then the gentlemen, Sam, he decides to approach me without me knowing I didn't see him at all. He was two inches, like away from me and Jacob shoulder, like behind us whenever I was talking to my friends this way. And then I like see him over my shoulder. I stumble back. I'm like, just not knowing who he was. It was a creepy man just staring over my shoulder. And so I'm like, Can I help you? And he says, Yeah, um, do you know what you're wearing? And like befuddles me a little bit. I'm like, Yeah, do you? I mean, I chose to wear this. I mean, it's pretty obvious. Yeah. I mean, it's the dress. Now. I mean, he said, Oh, why do you choose to wear that? And I said, because I look good in it. And I feel confident and I'll explain the whole thing about one number break the stigmatism of that men can wear dresses, and then it's okay. And he decided to that that wasn't for him and that he had opinions to throw at me and had very mean names to throw at me and just stuff like that. And that's where things got escalated. Because, um, he said a few things. And then that's whenever me and Jacob were just like, Okay, nice talk, like, you can leave like, I thank you for giving your opinion. It was it's, thank you for saying it. Like, you can leave. And we told him that multiple times, just like you can go, you can go he continued to just stand there and say, like, Oh, I'm not going anywhere, like you can move on, you can go somewhere else. And I was like, No, like, you're the one that came up here, just please leave us alone. We're just trying to enjoy prom, thank you for giving your opinion, whatever, go away. Um, and that's whenever the video starts, because I'm walking away and stuff like that he is still harassing me doing names that made them slanders. And, um, right. before the video starts, he actually had already smacked the phone on a Jacob's hand previously, um, or we would have gotten more of the inner encounter. But yeah, after that happened, he was blocking the doorway, I we all just decided to leave. And that was just the best action just to get out of this situation, because the gentleman obviously was not moving. So we were just like, get, just need to leave on. So we left and was standing outside, I had all the hotel staff come up to me. And it's just like, I'm so sorry. Like, you're welcome. Anytime, like, you look great in this and like, I know that you look great, you know, you look great, please don't let this ruin your prom night, I got the manager management's card. And like they were just very, very supportive about the whole situation. And the last thing that they let me know was that the gentleman was being talked to by the police, and that it was going to get handled by them. And so that was the last thing that I heard from them about what was going to happen with him. Um, but yeah, that's basically the whole rundown of everything.
Brian Sullivan 7:47
And what was going through your head at that moment? I know you obviously weren't expecting.
Dalton Stevens 7:53
Yeah, for that to happen. For sure. I in the moment, it like, at the very beginning, I like chuckled and like looked at Jacob and like, was like, is this really happening? Like, he really has the audacity to just come up here and say this, like, we were just we thought that it was a dad playing a prank on us or something. Like we really genuinely thought that it was not happening because like, we always see videos and stuff like that. But what's happening in real life, it's a lot different. Um, so we definitely were just befuddled to the fact that it would happen and um, and after we realized that this man was being serious, and that he wasn't just trying to play a little prank. That's whenever things I got very heated and was like, You really don't know what you're doing. You really can't do this. This is not okay. Under any circumstances. Whether you're like no matter who or what you believe, then it just isn't acceptable. Just let people live their life that they want the way they want to. Um, so yeah.
Brian Sullivan 8:49
And I understand that a chaperone was there as well. It appears to be one of the mothers who was trying to get him to stop
Dalton Stevens 8:58
Yeah, there. There definitely was support from the mothers they didn't intervene as much as like I guess some people are were hoping or stuff like that. But again, I am an 18 year old so they were like Oh, he he said he looks like he's standing up for himself. There was a mother that was just like Hey, dude, like, is this really what you want to want this kid to remember on their Prom Night is a man harassing them for what they chose to wear and just like the just the most genuine things came out of from the parents just saying like, is this really what you want like him to remember that like that? So there was definitely a lot of support and they took all my like they helped the situation. Definitely.
Brian Sullivan 9:38
What was your parents reaction
Dalton Stevens 9:40
to what happened? My parents actually weren't there whenever the encounter happens. So I told them about it the following day after prom because I didn't want them to worry about anything. I wanted them to know that I was having a great time and I didn't want it to affect anything. So I told them the next morning and my mom was very angry, definitely upset her a lot. She, of course was like you shouldn't abuse that language but also ultimately understood like, Yeah, he sort of had it coming for him. And the fact that he tried to lay hands on me is what really set her up the edge of that this man really should be held accountable for his consequent or for his actions and that there should be consequences.
Unknown Speaker 10:26
Brian Sullivan 10:28
Have you heard anything? Now I understand that before the video started taking place, there was one report that said that when Johnson was trying to knock the hand knock the phone out of Jacobs hand, he missed and hit you.
Dalton Stevens 10:45
Brian Sullivan 10:46
Um, have you sustained any injuries from that urn? And are there any plans for you to press assault charges?
Dalton Stevens 10:53
Um, I don't want to confirm or deny that there's, um, we haven't really looked into everything that can be done about this. And we're still looking into those options. So yeah, we're just looking into it and seeing where we can go from this and how far I want to take this.
Brian Sullivan 11:14
William says Williamson County Schools reached out to you at all.
Dalton Stevens 11:19
Some of the parents step a lot of the parents have reached out from the kids, some of the kids that go to Franklin and one of the kids moms has reached out and offered that she's part of a group that, um, I'm not sure what the organization was called, but she was offering me a free hair, makeup and photoshoot just to support and show love. And I've gotten a lot of just amazing offers just to show love and support and admiration for me. And it's just amazing that people are willing to do so much. Um, and all the teachers and stuff like that they obviously have seen it and with it being on the news and everything, and I've gotten no negative feedback from any teachers. It's been nothing but like, You look gorgeous. You looked great. You killed it that night, you you couldn't have done anything better. Just stuff like that. It's been nothing but great.
Brian Sullivan 12:07
And you and you and Jacob both attend Franklin High.
Dalton Stevens 12:11
Now he's actually a freshman at mtsu. And I'm a senior at Franklin High School. Okay, and
Brian Sullivan 12:17
Do you have plans to go on to college next year?
Dalton Stevens 12:21
Have you been? I'm planning on going to Aveda Institute of cosmetology Oh, nice. Um,
Brian Sullivan 12:29
so has Johnson reached out to you at all? Can you discuss that? Or?
Dalton Stevens 12:35
I don't really want to discuss that because I'm not sure.
Brian Sullivan 12:39
Okay, well, we'll stay in touch with you and get a follow up on that. And I understand Kathy Griffin, and a number of celebrities have have spoken out in support of you. Has anybody reached out directly to you or
Dalton Stevens 12:54
I haven't had anybody reach out that I'm directly like speaking with me like just as to buy just thing, the support that I've gotten from just those two people and like the that they wanted to take the time out of their day to help with my voice and to help put my voice out there even more and to help with the calls that I'm trying to change or the like, message that I'm trying to send and the fact that they took the time out of their day to do that. And the fact that they like, I guess trust me, in a sense that like they are like this is a guy that needs to be shown and should not be taken lightly.
Brian Sullivan 13:33
Well, speaking of voices we do we were speaking with someone earlier in the studio, who was on the voice recording artists, Meg Lindsey, and she has a special message for you. Really quick. I'll show that for you.
Dalton Stevens 13:47
a while. Yeah.
Unknown Speaker 13:49
Hey, Dalton, it's Megan Lindsey. I just wanted to make a quick video and send you so much love. First of all, you looked amazing. And that prom dress, you were rocking it and not gonna lie, I kind of want to borrow it. It's pretty fab. Just keep being a light and know that we got you back. We love you.
Dalton Stevens 14:12
Really amazing. Thank you so much. I really appreciate appreciate that. That truly means a lot I yeah, that. Oh my god.
Brian Sullivan 14:23
Um, do you have a ton of support in the Nashville LGBTQ community? And, you know, I know that there's probably a lot of younger people watching this, who are, you know, kind of exploring what they want to wear and all of that. What do you say to those kids who maybe are struggling who are stuck at home right now.
Dalton Stevens 14:47
Um, I would like to say that there's only a certain amount of time that you get here and isn't very old thing to say. But you shouldn't live your life. to please others and to please other standards and please societal standards and just to please anybody other than yourself, it should only be about yourself and it should only be about what you truly want to do and what you truly feel confident in and what makes you feel the best version of yourself.
Brian Sullivan 15:22
How did it feel when you learned that visual had let him go had let Sam Johnson go over this What What went through your head over that? Do you feel like they did the right thing?
Dalton Stevens 15:39
I definitely feel like it it. Um, is helping him learn a lesson, I'm hoping that it's helping him learn a lesson. Of course, it's not a good thing that a guy with family and stuff loses his job like I I'm not praising over that it's not a good thing under any circumstance that like, he doesn't have an income now possibly, and stuff like that. I'm hoping that this is a teaching moment for him. And for others that, um, your actions will have consequences and that those consequences might just be bigger than you truly expect and more, more out of hand more out of your hands, then you truly realize.
Brian Sullivan 16:19
Is there anything that you want to say to him, I know that you're under legal advice, so
Dalton Stevens 16:27
I don't think there's anything that I would like to say to him.
Brian Sullivan 16:31
Anything you want to say the Williamson County schools or the harpeth Hotel, on
Dalton Stevens 16:37
what is the county school is probably just don't let anybody tear you down. And just always be yourself. And was the other one out of the harpeth. I just want to say big thank you. Like, biggest Thank you ever I actually had a interview over there with Niels Bohr. And again, they came out of the restaurant and shook all of them shook my hand all the bartenders shook my hand and was like, we have your back. Like, there's you can come in here and your dress and sit down and eat with us for all we care. Like you, we have your back and they just wanted to show the love and admiration that they had for me and just want to say a huge, thank you.
Brian Sullivan 17:17
How has, how has Jacob been through all of this? Um, he's
Dalton Stevens 17:21
definitely this. Probably the same. I mean, I've talked to him, obviously, but it's just overwhelming. And, um, just a lot has happened since it. It's crazy how much stuff can happen in three days, two days. Um, so it's definitely overwhelming, um, in that aspect, but he, of course is very happy for me that this guy that did this getting or is getting what he deserves and is hopefully learning a lesson and stuff like that.
Brian Sullivan 17:53
Um, tell us who the designer of the dress was because everybody has commented on how beautiful it is
Dalton Stevens 18:01
actually from Amazon, and I'm not sure what the designer is I can search it real quick. designer, it was like 60/70 bucks off Amazon.
Brian Sullivan 18:15
Who's your favorite designer?
Dalton Stevens 18:22
I really like... I'm not sure that's really hard.
Brian Sullivan 18:31
Well, Dalton, I know you've had a long day and I really, really appreciate you sitting down with us and your courage means so much to everybody watching. Everybody hear out voices. We're so proud of you. Keep being you keep being alive, keeping beautiful. We We love you.
Dalton Stevens 18:55
I love you so much. It truly means so much.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
(NOTE: this transcript was created by the AI transcription engine Otter.ai. OUTvoices Nashville does not guarantee the accuracy of the transcription).