HBO’s new ‘15: A Quinceanera Story’ follows five Latina girls celebrating being on on the cusp of womanhood
For these inspiring young Latinas, the celebration of womanhood is about more than just a party.
Just ask Zoey Luna, a 15-year-old transgender girl from Los Angeles who transitioned genders five years ago. For her, having a quinceanera was about coming into her own as a woman, and having the confidence to do it after years of being bullied for being herself.
“The moment when I felt the most proud was when I was putting on my dress,” Luna tells Moneyish of the pink poofy dress dazzled in frills and rhinestones she was elated to wear. “It felt like, ‘wow, I made it this far.’”
She’s one of five young ladies featured on HBO’s new series “15: A Quinceanera Story,” a new docu series that narrows in on the 15th birthday tradition in Latin American culture that celebrates a girl’s transition from childhood to young womanhood. Produced by music industry exec Tommy Mottola and directed by Latin Grammy-winning musician Thalia Sodi, the last of the four episodes will be released through December 22.
After her transition, Luna faced discrimination from students and even some teachers who tried to kick her out of school. But she never let it stop her from living the life she knew she was entitled to.
“I’ve come so far and grown so much as an individual. I got through by believing in a better tomorrow and knowing that life is what you make of it, and no one can tell you what to do. You are who you are,” says the bright and bubbly aspiring actress. Among her favorite moments on her special day: mastering a dance from the movie “Grease,” and having friends from the trans community serve as godmothers.
Unlike the extravagant and excessive birthday parties featured on the MTV series “My Super Sweet 16,” the subjects featured in these short films aren’t spoiled. Instead, they’re proud of their Latin roots and hardworking. In turn, “15” sheds light on some of their socio economic setbacks, coupled with the awkwardness and challenges of coming of age.
Another episode chronicles families living with the possibility of deportation. Ashley Lopez, a 15-year-old boxer from East Los Angeles, is shown raising money for her party by making food to sell with her mother. The undocumented immigrant raised Ashley alone after her husband got deported several years ago.
As such, Ashley grapples with the hardships of growing up without a father figure to rely on. Instead, she seeks guidance from her boxing coach who pushed her to follow her dreams of being a competitive fighter.
“Womanhood means independence. You have to learn how to get through the toughest moments of your life,” she says. “You have to fight and get through obstacles that get in your way,” she says.
Lopez always dreamed of having her quinceanera in a banquet hall, but was content having the party in her grandmother’s backyard — exactly where her own mother had hers.
“When I was growing up I would see everyone having their quinceanera in a banquet hall and thought that was the perfect quinceanera,” she says. I realized it didn’t matter where it would be as long as everyone was a part of it.”
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