UT grad’s at-home graduation video gets shout out from Oprah’s magazine


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A University of Tennessee, Knoxville student’s at-home graduation got hundreds of thousands of views online, and even caught the attenion of celebrities.

Fine Arts graduate student Aleah Vassell got a shout out from O, The Oprah Magazine and a social media ‘like’ from actress Kerry Washington.

Vassell’s graduation ceremony was cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic, but that did not stop her and her family from finding a way to celebrate. Her family put together a makeshift graduation; her parents and brother also dressed in their graduation robes.

“The way that it kind of came together was really cute, really spontaneous. My dad had a program printed out in his hand, and he used a clothing rack as the pulpit. He just put a little white sheet over it. It was just really personal, really special, really fun,” she said.

Vassell posted a video of the ceremony to social media. A shortened clip got the attention of some big name accounts.

“I get on my Instagram and Oprah Magazine has commented on my original post. And I was like ‘what are you kidding? Oprah Magazine.’ And then I go to their Instagram and they have my video up. And I was just freaking out, I was like ‘Oprah Magazine. Has Oprah seen this,'” Vassell said.

She never expected her video to reach that far, and what’s surprised her she says, is everywhere it’s been posted, she hasn’t seen one negative comment.

“It makes me happy that the world can celebrate something together, because that’s very rare,” Vassell said. “Just because there’s uncertainty in the future, good things can still come from that.”

Vassell now has her master’s and was planning on moving to New York to pursue theater. Of course, that’s impacted by the coronavirus, so she’s looking for other jobs in the meantime.


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