It’s not everyday your daughter goes viral on Twitter. But it does happen.
And last week, that was the reality for Melissa Dawes, whose 18-year-old daughter, Keziah Daum, was accused of cultural appropriation for wearing a traditional Chinese dress, a qipao, to her senior prom at a Utah high school.
“PROM,” wrote Daum in a tweet April 22, with four photos of her and friends. She was wearing a red, traditional Chinese dress called a qipao.
Another Twitter user called her out, saying “my culture is not your godda*n prom dress,” and then explained the history of the qipao in a thread of messages.
Eventually, by the end of the month, the story of the Twitter exchanges made national headlines and morning news shows, such as Washington Post, USA TODAY, Good Morning America, Fox and Friends and more.
So All the Moms reached out to Dawes to find out how her daughter was doing and how she was helping her manage going viral.
Here’s what she said:
The hate was overwhelming at first.
When Keziah first noticed her Tweet “getting attention,” she told her mom and kept an eye on the responses.
When it blew up and went viral, Dawes said “it was quite overwhelming.”
Daum changed her account to private for a brief time but changed her mind and made it public again.
“Friday night (Keziah) got really down, and I said, ‘You know honey, I’m here to support you. We’ve got your back. … but I will still take your social media away if you can’t handle this,” she said with a laugh.
The mom’s involvement with daughter’s social media
Dawes didn’t seem overly involved with her daughter’s online life, but said she followed all her accounts and monitored them regularly.
She said her daughter wasn’t allowed to get social-media accounts until each platform legally allowed it, and her accounts remained private until she was about 16 or 17.
“Keziah is an incredible artist,” her mom said, and at that age, she wanted to make her accounts public to share her work. Dawes supported it.
“It was a hard decision. I think for parents it’s an individual, case-by-case basis,” Dawes said. “But because of what she was doing in the art field, I supported it.
“But you have to monitor it, you have to be aware of it … We’ve learned there’s predators out there.”
To delete or to not delete?
Daum asked her mom if she should delete the photos early on.
“I said, ‘Well it depends. You’ve put your whole life out there (on social media) and this is one of the consequences, but if you did nothing wrong, then it’s OK to stand by that decision.’
Dawes said she never wanted to force her daughter one way or the other because she’s 18 and can make her own decisions. She was proud, however, when her daughter stood her ground.
Responding to hate and the responsibility of ‘internet fame’
Dawes said she helped guide the discussion on how Daum should respond to the criticisms.
As of May 2, Daum has amassed more than 25,000 Twitter followers.
“So now she’s asking herself, ‘What do I do with that? Do I have a responsibility to be a role model, to be positive?’ “Dawes said.
Daum said she wanted to be a role model, so “she’s trying to sort that out,” her mom said.
Having the discussion: Was my post inappropriate?
Dawes said Daum took some time to question whether there was truth in her critics’ accusations. At the end of the day, Daum said she understood why the discussion was taking place and where people were coming from, but she maintained that she wasn’t acting with ill intent or harboring discriminatory views.
Dawes said while her biological family descended from primarily white-majority countries, she has many in-laws from other countries and that Daum grew up within a very multicultural family.
Dawes also said she intentionally moved her daughter from a majority-white elementary school when she was younger to one that was more multicultural, to reflect her own upbringing on the border of Texas and Mexico.
“I thought, ‘She’s not getting the upbringing I had wth the diversity.’ … I thought, ‘She’s got to see other people who don’t look like her, and have some empathy and understand that while we all may look different, we’re all still people and have something to offer.’ So we started that education with her very young.”
Biggest goal: Keeping her grounded
A little over a week after the original tweet was posted, Dawes said her daughter received much more love and support than hate, even going so far as to say the ratio is 1 to 100.
And with each piece of support Daum receives, Dawes said her daughter feels more courageous.
“As a mother, it’s my responsibility to support my child, as long as she’s doing the right thing. …
Internet fame is not always a good thing, so I’m just trying to be a counsel to her and to keep my child grounded …She’s my baby! So I’ll protect her.”