By Sarah Colson
Last Saturday at East Tennessee State University’s D.P. Culp Center Ballroom, eight young women participated in the triennial Spring Debutante Cotillion Ball. While they were dressed beautifully, the event was meant to inspire much more than good fashion sense.
“One of the main reasons we try to get these young ladies involved is to really empower them and encourage them to be themselves, go out into the community and be leaders in the community,” Committee member and debutante founder Angelitti Bradley said, “to encourage them to try to reach the highest educational achievements that they can. That self-esteem takes you a long way in life. It’s mostly just to let them know that they can do anything they want to do.”
For the past nine months, these 16-18 year olds have participated in cultural education, public service and enrichment events. They learned things like finances, etiquette, community service, and the importance of a strong support system. The culmination of these events was their formal debut into society last weekend.
“We just try to teach them how to overcome obstacles that might help them become well-rounded individuals,” Bradley said.
The Debutante Cotillion Ball in Johnson City came about because of Bradley’s own experience as a debutante in 1973 when she was 17 years old.
“Me and four other girls from Johnson City went to Knoxville and were presented in a ball,” she said. “It stayed in my mind all these years. And when my daughter graduated from high school, I wanted her to have that same feeling.”
In order to make that happen, Bradley called two of her good friends, committee member Christa Reid and former committee member Lisa Black.
“So we organized it in 2005 and we were just praying that we would get people to participate,” Bradley said. “If we could just get seven girls it would be a great start. And we had 14. From then it just grew.”
Now, committee members Anna Collie, Reid, Taleah Rogers and Kristen Spencer work alongside Bradley to plan a ball every three years.
The roots of debutante balls go back to England. The word “debutante” is derived from the French work for “leading off.” The idea started when a daughter of marriageable age needed to find a husband of suitable and similar social standing.
Parties followed this, with each family giving a share of money or dowry. It was hoped that at the end of the season a girl would have found a husband.
The Spring Debutante Cotillion Ball exists so that young ladies have positive exposure and involvement to grow in confidence, pride, self-assurance, dignity and integrity.
“Really the main thing is to just feel good about themselves,” Bradley said, “and also to have the community and their family be present, to hear all the achievements they’ve done in school. It’s an empowerment event. Girls just need that in this day and time.”
To learn more about the triennial Spring Debutante Cotillion Ball, email firstname.lastname@example.org.