Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Zebra print? Masks? The quinceañera has come a long way

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Last Sunday I attended a quinceañera expo in Garden Grove for KPCC's Madeleine Brand Show, interviewing a few of the dozens of vendors who were there catering to parents of teenage girls preparing for the ultimate Latin American coming-of-age ritual.

It was in some ways a blast from the past for me, an L.A.-bred Latina of a certain age. I spent many of my childhood and early teen years attending quinceañeras. At the same time the expo, set up by the industry hub Quinceañ, made me nostalgic for the simple days of pastel pink hoop dresses and cheap tiaras with the number "15" at the top.

Hawking their services in a hotel ballroom, the vendors forming part what's become a multi-million dollar industry ranged from dress designers and banquet facilities to DJs and makeup artists. Among other things, I learned that the hot fashion ticket this year is zebra print. And Venetian-style masks. And elaborate themes, like "Phantom of the Opera." It doesn't stop there.

You can listen to the audio here, replete with thumping dance music. At the end I'm asked "Did you, perchance, have a quinceañera?" Only one way to find out.