The Debutante Ball was a Victorian Era practice in which young women and girls would have the opportunity to meet the queen and potentially find a husband. They would be presented in front of the queen and, by default, potential husbands who would attend these balls in hopes of finding a spouse.
Now, the Ball — which started in Johnson City in 2005 — has been modernized, though they retain some of the older traditions. Instead of serving as a matchmaker event though, the Debutante Balls of today serve to prepare and uplift 16-17-year-old girls as they prepare for adulthood.
“It’s a seven- to eight-month program all geared to improving their self-esteem, growing their self-confidence and pride in themselves and really letting them know they can do whatever they want, they just have to want to do it, have some encouragement and some backing,” said Angelita Bradley, the Ball’s organizer.
The Ball, Bradley said, was something she wanted to bring to the community and her daughter back in 2005, but once the first Johnson City Debutante Ball was held, parents — especially mothers — requested they do it “again and again,” which Bradley did.
This year the Ball — which is held every three years — will be held at the Holiday Inn on June 15. To kick off the night, there will be a sit-down dinner where the girls invite guests, and then the girls are presented by their fathers and information about everything the girls have accomplished is handed out to attendees. Eleven girls will be participating and each will have a ballroom dance with their fathers and their escorts during the Ball.
Bradley noted this event doesn’t happen without strong support from the community, but said she’s not surprised that the community has been supportive.
“The community support and reinforcement is exactly what we need for our youth today,” Bradley said.
For Bradley though, the Debutante Ball is more than just a dance, it’s a lasting memory and an opportunity to build girls up before they head off into adulthood.
“This just gives an opportunity for them to be recognized and hopefully to continue on in their life with positive things,” she said. “With social media, bullying, drugs, alcohol, music — a lot of it can be negative toward females and we want them to feel proud of themselves.”