La Cañada debs poised to find their ‘place in the world’

The 2018 Les Fleurettes debutantes will be presented Saturday night during the annual Bal Blanc de Noel.
The 2018 Les Fleurettes debutantes will be presented Saturday night during the annual Bal Blanc de Noel.
(Courtesy of Bronson Photography)

In an English custom that dates back four centuries, 14 young women sponsored by the La Cañada Thursday Club will make their formal bows to society on Saturday evening.

Wearing a white ball gown, elbow-length gloves and carrying a nosegay, each debutante will make a traditional deep curtsy to the audience after being introduced to 300 guests in the ballroom at the Westin hotel in Pasadena. Then she’ll be waltzed around the dance floor by her father.

While to some such an event may seem to be passé or even irrelevant in today’s world, organizers maintain that Thursday Club’s 16-month Les Fleurettes program, which girls usually complete as high school seniors, help participants develop useful life skills, including business etiquette. Their mothers also become deeply involved, helping to plan events that will fulfill the program’s personal development, volunteer hours and civic engagement requirements.

“Some people might think being a deb is old-fashioned, but it is so relevant today,” said Jeanie Kay, a Thursday Club past president and mother of former debs. “What I like is that it teaches young women how to move in polite society and how to properly present themselves in different situations. They learn invaluable lessons in deportment that will serve them well throughout life.”

This year’s Les Fleurettes class includes Megan Andrews, Samantha Aydin, Nareh Derhartounian, Caroline Higa, Emily Jordan, Kathleen Knudsen, April Miller, Sydney Mueller, Veronica Muller, Allegra Rendina, Gabriella Rendina, Kalyn Stewart, Gwendalynn Stilson and Madelyn Susank.

April Miller’s mother, KPCC news anchor Susanne Whatley-Miller, was a Thursday Club deb in 1975, following in the footsteps of her older sister, Dixie Whatley, who made her debut during the 1969 Bal Blanc de Noel.

“My sister and I are looking forward to this night — in essence my child is becoming a young lady and finding her place in the world,” Whatley-Miller said in an interview. “The deb program is more than learning about social manners but also learning about and giving community service. I am thrilled to be sharing this night with her.”

Nareh Derhartounian, president of this year’s Les Fleurettes class, said she never initially saw herself becoming a debutante because she was more of a “tomboy type.” She said after meeting the other girls in the program she found herself fitting right in.

“Being a part of the deb program is something I will never forget,” Derhartounian said. “Growing with these amazing young women and spending valuable time with them was a wonderful opportunity. Having our mothers by our side every step of the way was also extraordinary.”

Jane Napier Neely covers society events for the Valley Sun.