The only girl in a family with five children, Jalissa Valdez always dreamed of turning 15. At her quinceañera, she’d have her moment to shine; she could don a big, glamorous gown like the one her aunt wore at her own quince, whose photos Valdez admired as a little girl.

The party was even bigger than her dreams, though. For a year and a half, Valdez and her mother planned a blowout affair for almost 400 at the Sheraton Houston Brookhollow Hotel. The event, which took place last summer, was themed around Japanese cherry blossoms. It was a smash hit. Valdez performed five dances and, in the dazzling pink dress of her dreams, held court for the guests there to witness her transformation from girl to woman.

Now, having been 15 for nearly a full year, Valdez considers that pivotal moment in time. Did she feel changed after her quinceañera? “Not right after,” she decides. “It wasn’t until a couple months later when I started feeling more responsibility.”

What was the most rewarding part of the experience?

Definitely how the party came out. During the party it could get a little stressful, but the outcome—after all the dances and all the traditional things were over, it was like, we actually did this. The planning paid off.

Do you think your party represented your personality?

Yeah, I really think it represented who I am. I’m just very girly, and you could obviously tell that throughout the whole party. Some other girls, they don’t do traditional stuff, they just kind of do a dance and it’s over and done with. While planning the party, I wanted to make sure I kept that traditional meaning to it. Some girls nowadays have different-colored dresses, but I wanted to stay with the pink dress and incorporate the doll and the shoes and the Mass … I really think mine brought out who I am, what I like to do.

What advice would you give other girls planning their quinceañeras?

Just enjoy it while it lasts. The planning is going to get stressful, but you just have to push through it, because in the end it’s all about you and what you want—not in a selfish way, though.

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