There are extravagant parties and then there are quinceañeras.
In TLC’s latest docureality series Sweet 15: Quinceañera, cameras focus in on cousins Alexis Fernandez and Jarling Perez as they look to commemorate the Latin traditional rite of passage into womanhood through their Miami-based shop Bella Quinces.
With more than 45 years of experience in designing over-the-top festivities, the dress shop owners work alongside their young clients to create events that involve multiple outfit changes, choreographed music videos and campy photo shoots based on themes such as “Diamonds Are Forever” and “Winter Wonderland.”
“We’re shooting in some pretty strange locations,” Scott Feeley, senior VP of programming at High Noon Entertainment, tells realscreen. “There were, for example, underwater photo shoots; there were shoots with wild animals including crocodiles, tigers, elephants and horses; shoots in hot air balloons. It’s a different location and a different challenge every day.”
The 8 x 60-minute series comes approximately four years after TLC tapped the Colorado-headquartered shingle with a proposal for a new wedding series with distinctively vibrant flair. In response, High Noon’s development team pitched the rarely explored world of quinceañeras as part of the firm’s growing push into the English-speaking Latin American community across the U.S.
The lavish Hispanic-focused series now accompanies High Noon’s Emmy-nominated Taco Trip for Cooking Channel, a Latin culinary program starring celebrity chef Aaron Sánchez.
Viewers wouldn’t be incorrect to compare Sweet 15: Quinceañera to MTV’s hit youth show My Super Sweet 16, which documented wealthy American parents throwing opulent coming-of-age celebrations for their teenagers for eight seasons. But what sets the Spanish-tinged series apart from the MTV supernova, Feeley says, is the dual focus on sentimentality and the importance of family.
“This show is easy to compare to something like [My Super Sweet 16] because there’s an ‘OMG’ factor – these quinceañeras are over the top – but once you get past that surface, there’s a lot of heart,” he says. “Really, I think people are going to be surprised by the importance that quinceañeras have in the Hispanic community.”
While My Super Sweet 16 found a comfortable home on the youth-skewing Viacom network – which targets 12- to 34-year-olds – Quinceañera faces the slightly different challenge of tapping into TLC’s female-leaning demographic aged 35 to 54 when it airs tonight (Sept. 27) at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
“That’s the big question,” Feeley says when asked how he thinks this show will resonate with TLC’s viewing audience.
What High Noon and TLC alike are banking on is a non-Hispanic American audience foreign to the notion and importance of quinceañeras to the Latin community.
“We always talk about ‘OMG’ with heart element and I think that this show hits that perfectly,” he explains, “and I think what’s going to draw them to this show is, again, the idea that at the heart of these parties is the importance and celebration of family. That really hits home with a lot of American families, especially in the middle of the country.
“Once you peel back that ‘OMG’ factor, it’s really about family values and that’s important to TLC.”
Previously, the Discovery-owned cable net planned to premiere the show this November, but pushed the series ahead to debut during National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. The period recognizes the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans in the U.S. and celebrates the group’s heritage and culture.
- Sweet 15: Quinceañera premieres across TLC on tonight (Sept. 27) at 9 p.m. ET/PT
- Check out an exclusive clip below.