Alexa’s Quinceañera Photo Shoot in Paris “The City of Lights”
“I guess it goes to show that you just never know where life will take you. You search for answers. You wonder what it all means. You stumble, and you soar. And, if you’re lucky, you make it to Paris for a while.”
Amy Thomas, ‘Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light’
For Alexa Santiago, a young teenage girl from Miami in Florida, it was her “quinceañera” dream. She wanted more than anything to capture her “quinceañera” – the day a girl turns 15 years of age – with a glamorous, A list-style photo shoot in Paris, France: “The City of Lights.”
For a young Latina girl, her “quinceañera” is a huge, pivotal moment and life event all-in-one, as a girl’s 15th birthday is traditionally believed by Latino cultures to be the point where she truly becomes a woman.
And, as you can see, it was a dream that really did come true.
So what made Alexa choose a Paris photo shoot over a raucous celebration and huge party back home in Miami?
Or anything else, for that matter?
What are the history and the traditions of the “quinceañera”?
And what did Alexa think of her Parisian quinceañera photography experience?
However, that’s not the whole story, as you’ll soon discover.
La Quinceañera: The Latin “Coming of Age”
The “Quinceañera” (or 15th birthday) marks a young woman’s transition from childhood to adulthood, and they are often celebrated with a fiesta (or party) with family and friends – complete with music, dance, and food.
“Quinceañera” – the “word “quince” is Spanish for the number 15 – can actually refer to both the party celebration itself and the girl whose birthday is being celebrated.
Alexa’s Modern Quinceañera: Photographing A Young Girl’s Dreams.
Everything was booked. July 31st, 2020, would be the day. It really was going to happen.
Alexa’s quinceañera photo shoot – in wonderful Paris – Alexa’s ultimate dream!
Everything was planned and booked – the international flights to Paris from Miami, the central Paris hotel accommodation, and, thankfully, Alexa and her mother had chosen myself as the Paris photographer who would capture her quinceañera, with the world famous “City of Lights” providing the perfect iconic backdrop.
In fact, Melissa, Alexa’s mother, had been in regular contact with me since June 17, 2019 – the day she first got in touch online. Finally, everything was set.
Everyone was really looking forward to the Parisian quinceañera photo shoot – and no-one more so than Alexa herself.
And then, sadly, just like the rest of the world’s plans at that point, the Paris quinceañera photo shoot that Alexa had dreamed about constantly literally froze in a moment…
All the plans were rapidly put on hold…
The entire trip became seemingly suspended in time.
Why? The coronavirus global pandemic – undoubtedly, the biggest, most widespread global event in recent history.
The viral pandemic soon led many countries to close their borders to all foreign visitors, international flights were grounded, and city hotels had no choice but to shut their doors to future guests – like young Alexa Santiago, her mother Melissa, and her grandmother Lucy.
At that point in our shared recent history, no-one knew for sure what would or could happen because of the coronavirus. A new phrase quickly became a very common one – the “new normal.”
Only, nobody knew for sure what the “new normal” actually meant… What did our future hold? We were suddenly all at the mercy of something completely unknown to every single one of us.
All Alexa could do was to sit and wait. And continue to dream.
However, even though she was upset initially, at absolutely no point whatsoever did Alexa believe her Paris trip would not happen. Like many young Latino girls, being headstrong when it’s needed is a cultural characteristic, and Alexa simply wasn’t prepared to give up on her dream – for anything.
Not even something as life-changing and as massive as a global virus.
Dreams do come true…
It is now the 21st. March, 2022. Finally, it is the day of Alexa’s professional photo shoot to celebrate her quinceañera – in reality, an event that actually took place nearly two years ago…
The three generations of women – Alexa, the daughter; Melissa, the mother; and Lucy, the grandmother – had finally made it all the way over the vast Atlantic Ocean from Miami, Florida, to Paris, France.
Fortunately, no-one forgot Alexa’s all-important beautiful, blue quinceañera dress!
Persistence. Patience. Perseverance.
Alexa has proven to be blessed with them all. A life-lesson for all of us about setting your sights on something you truly want, something wonderful, and then achieving your dream just as Alexa did – by never giving up.
Alexa: Her Thoughts on the Paris Photo Shoot Experience
After the photoshoot was over, Alexa and her family were back home in Miami, and, importantly, had received my finished photography. I was keen to ask her about the overall experience.
I believe this would be really useful to anyone – whether you are the mother of a teenage daughter approaching her quinceañera or you are actually the young lady herself – considering the option of a unique and memorable quinceañera photo shoot set in a beautiful city like Paris.
Here’s are Alexa’s valuable thoughts:
- Why did you agree to have a quinceañera trip, instead of the normal big party back in Miami?
I decided to have a trip because it has always been my dream to visit Paris and see the Eiffel Tower. I also wanted to have unique pictures – my quince pictures – and I thought Paris would be the most beautiful and perfect place.
- Why was it important for you to make it happen (even though 2 years had already passed, because of the coronavirus pandemic)?
I don’t give up on my dreams, and I was very hopeful that the pandemic would get better, and my dreams would be fulfilled by going to Paris.
- Did you enjoy your Paris trip and the photoshoot you had?
I absolutely loved and enjoyed the photo shoot I had. It was a really magical experience – one I will never, ever forget.
- How did you find working with me as your photographer?
You were amazing to work with. Professional, patient, friendly, creative with your pictures, and very talented. You were very easy and pleasant to work with, and we did not have to worry or stress about anything.
I was honestly beyond satisfied with how my pictures turned out. You did a spectacular job with the shoot, and with my pictures.
- Looking back, do you think it was worth the experience?
It was beyond worth the experience. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. The trip as a whole and more, so the photo shoot exceeded my expectations.
- What advice would you give to other teenagers approaching their quinceañera?
I would advise other quinceañeras that taking a trip to Paris is an unforgettable trip and a memory of a lifetime.
- Would you recommend a quinceañera party or a trip to Paris?
Without a doubt, I would certainly recommend a trip to Paris. And I would highly recommend you, too!
Quinceañera Celebrations: What Are They & Why Are They Important?
Traditional quinceañera celebrations normally involve music, dance and food. However, the way people celebrate this event is changing.
Once a traditional religious celebration (consisting of two parts: the mass and the party), the quinceañera has evolved to requests for a smaller party, a vacation, a cruise, a new car, or even a trip to Paris for a photo shoot.
Regardless of whether the quinceañera – the unique coming-of-age event in a young woman’s life – is celebrated formally or informally, it is a special occasion that will always be remembered and is a real and direct link to the cultural heritage of early Spanish societies.
Although quinceañera traditions can and do vary from family to family, one of the most iconic aspects of all the celebrations is the hair, the manicures, and the photos in a traditional quinceañera gown – making the gift of a professional Paris photo shoot a very apt present indeed!
The quinceañera dress is usually in the girl’s favorite color and style, and may be a traditional dress from the region of her ancestors.
If you are reading this story, and you have made it all the way to here, you are undoubtedly thinking about a memorable celebration for your daughter’s quinceañera.
I hope Alexa’s wonderful story has inspired you to celebrate your daughter’s quinceañera here in Paris. If you feel this way, give me a call and let’s make something truly memorable and extra special for her.
Let´s get in tounch, click here