A Missouri teen broke with tradition by becoming his high school’s first male homecoming queen.
Zachary Willmore, a senior at Rock Bridge High School in Columbia, said he decided to run for homecoming queen instead of king after polling his social media followers.
“They thought queen could look prettier on the sash,” he told local NBC affiliate KOMU-TV. “So I chose queen.”
Willmore’s crowning moment was caught on camera, and after he shared the video late last month with his massive TikTok following, it quickly went viral. The clip, which shows Willmore donning a sparkling gold gown and a white sash, now has 3.6 million views and more than 765,000 likes.
When asked about his reaction to being crowned homecoming queen, he told KOMU-TV it was “literally a dream.”
“It showed that people actually did care about me,” Willmore, 18, said. “It was the final stepping stone for me to be like, ‘People like me.’ I feel happy.”
While Willmore did get many words of encouragement after he posted his video on social media, not everyone was supportive.
“Online, I did get some hate. After I won, my TikTok account was reported and banned for a couple days,” he said.
TikTok did not immediately send a response to NBC News’ request for comment regarding why Willmore’s account was temporarily suspended.
Willmore, who now has 1.1 million TikTok followers, garnered popularity on the social media platform by sharing videos centered on his unique style. His most popular video, which has over 18 million views, shows him dancing in a bright yellow checkered blazer and shorts — reminiscent of Cher Horowitz’s most notable outfit from 1995 cult film “Clueless” — and noting that the ensemble got him a dress code violation at school.
With his new platform and historical crowning, Willmore and a group of students are now pushing to change their school’s dress code. Willmore said teachers decide what is appropriate and that he has felt targeted due to his unique style.
“They are still at the beginning stages, but Rock Bridge hopes to have a revised dress code by the end of the school year and before Zachary graduates.” Michelle Baumstark, a spokesperson for Columbia Public Schools, told KOMU-TV.
In an interview with NBC News Wednesday evening, Willmore, who identifies as gay, shared a message for LGBTQ students and other young people who may be hesitant to show their true colors.
“I really want to show that rebellion can spark change in a lot of ways,” he said. “I really want to inspire people to dress the way that they want to; it’s the most genuine way to express individuality.”
Willmore is part of a growing number of LGBTQ high school students who are making headlines for breaking down barriers and defying traditional gender boundaries. In April, an Ohio high school elected a lesbian couple as prom king and queen, and in September, a transgender teen was crowned her Florida high school’s first trans homecoming queen.
CORRECTION (Nov. 4, 2021, 2:20 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated Rock Bridge High School’s location. It’s in Columbia, Missouri, not Rock Bridge, Missouri.