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Q&A: Anjelah Johnson-Reyes lives out her own quinceañera on Tubi’s ‘My Crazy Quince’

Cerys Davies – Los Angeles Times (TNS)

There’s no denying that a girl’s quinceañera is a big deal.

The rite of passage — which marks the transition from childhood to womanhood — and the outlandish parties that come with them are the subject of “My Crazy Quince.” Premiering on free streamer Tubi on Thursday, the show features generations of women discussing their own quinceañeras — from what went according to plan to everything that didn’t — and dissecting footage of their special 15th birthday with host Anjelah Johnson-Reyes and panelists Leah Lamarr, Drea Okeke and Erik Rivera.

Ahead of “My Crazy Quince’s” premiere, we spoke with Johnson-Reyes about not having a quince of her own and her experiences filming the show.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Q: What initially attracted you to “My Crazy Quince”?

A: I was so excited to be able to celebrate our culture and to see us on such a cool platform highlighted beautifully. We’ve seen “My Super Sweet Sixteen” and all those kinds of shows. But we’re like, wait a minute, we do it too, and we go all out.

It’s a very special and important moment for our culture, to support each other. It’s time to show everybody how we do it proudly. When something goes wrong, we’re not afraid to laugh at ourselves, especially when its about the style choices we made 20 years ago. This is a chance for us to celebrate our culture and share it with everyone.

Q: You have a background in comedy and acting. How do you think that helped you as a host?

A: I’ve hosted little things here and there throughout my career. But this is probably my favorite and definitely the biggest hosting show that I’ve done. This show is all about having fun, laughing a lot and showing heartfelt moments as well, so it helped that everyone on this panel was hilarious. We were able to identify things in the footage that maybe your regular non-comedian wouldn’t have noticed. But that’s kind of what we’re trained to do, we see the small things that we as humans look past. Then we show you where the funny is.

Q: A major part of the show is speaking to people whose quinces were particularly memorable or extravagant. What were your takeaways from these conversations?

A: It was really special to be able to watch their footage and interview them, especially because there were some people whose quinces were in the ’80s. A lot of the time, family members have since passed on and they get to relive these memories with all of us.

Something I learned is that we’re all different, but we’re all the same. We’re all celebrating our young woman who’s growing up, and we honor her. There are these common themes throughout culture and those are honor, family and love. But at the end of the day, we’re celebrating and we’re having a good party.

Q: One of the show’s biggest themes is nostalgia. How often did you find yourself reflecting on your own quinceañera?

A: Well, I didn’t have a quinceañera. We talked about that on the show and how this show in itself was like my own quinceañera. It’s in the way the set is designed, the chair that I’m sitting in, and we’re all dressed up. I got to live vicariously through every single one of these video packages.

Q: Especially when hearing so many quinceañera stories. Did you ever feel like you were left out of this cultural moment?

A: I grew up super American. I didn’t speak Spanish. I had been to other people’s quinceaneras and was on the court of a few. But, it wasn’t something that we grew up with in my family. I didn’t get one because nobody in my family got one.

Q: What did you think of quinceañeras when you would go to them?

A: When I was young, it was just a big party. I didn’t understand the honor, the culture, nothing. It was just a big party where everybody got invited, there’s gonna be food, there’s gonna be music and dancing. You’re probably gonna see boys there you could flirt with.

Now I’m getting older, and I’m actually in the parents section of the quinceañera. Looking in, I now noticed things like the honor for the parents and how special it is for them to highlight their daughter as she transitions into womanhood.

Q: How do you think the tradition has evolved after learning about so many people’s quinces from all these different eras?

A: Everything has changed. One of the girls had a dress change, like right in the middle of her performance — that would have never happened back in the ’80s. But now things have evolved. It’s like going to an amazing concert. Here comes some crazy lighting and fog machines. Back in the day, it was very much a princess theme with a princess dress and royal decor. Now people have different types of themes. My favorite from the show was this one girl who did a Dia de los Muertos theme.

Q: Speaking of the newer trends shown on “My Crazy Quince,” what are some of the craziest stories you remember hearing — if you had to give a sneak peek?

A: There were fights that happened. There were strangers just walking in, that were not invited — I mean full on in the family photos where nobody knows who that person is. Some girl forgot her bra. Another grandma had to walk miles just to go take a photo at their water fountain that was 20 blocks away. There’s always something that goes wrong on a big special day. We highlight all of those moments of what’s gone wrong and things that make you cringe.

Q: Listening to all these sorts of crazy stories and intimate family memories, how did they affect you?

A: Just on a human level. I realized that at the end of the day, yes, it’s a big huge party. But it’s really these memories that these girls have with their dads and with their moms. At the end of the day, this is their life. These are their memories. This is their childhood. This is what’s shaping them as the women they are today. We are lucky enough to be a part of it. We’re grateful that they shared their memories and their special moments with us so that we could all have fun.

Q: After hearing plenty of good and bad quince experiences, what advice would you offer to someone planning theirs?

A: YouTube is a good source for all of these girls. Even if they don’t have the budget to hire a choreographer, they’re going and watching other girls’ performances and using some of their choreography. Use all the resources that are out there. At the end of the day, just remember that this is your special day, even if we laugh 20 years from now about “Why did I do my hair like that? Why did I pick that style of dress? Why don’t you wear makeup like that?” It’s because you liked it and that’s OK, because we’re celebrating you. Who cares if 20 years from now, this is not going to be in style? This is what you like right now and we’re celebrating you right now.

©2024 Los Angeles Times. Visit at latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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