Ava Phillippe, 18, set to come out as a debutante at Paris ball


They still have debutante balls in the US. I know Rory went to one on Gilmore Girls. They’re held annually in LA, New York and Wilmington among many other cities, so why go to Paris for your debutante ball? I mean, I get the ‘because it’s Paris’ part but is there another reason? Because that is exactly what newly minted adult Ava Phillippe is doing. I guess she’s submitted her time off request from her hostess position so she can pop over to Paris and properly come out. I’m assuming her mother Reese Witherspoon and father, Ryan Philippe, will accompany her. I believe the parents are the ones who present her, right?

Eighteen-year-old Ava Phillippe is now on the debutante scene. The daughter of Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe is making her debut at le Bal des Débutantes at the Peninsula Paris hotel on November 25, the organization confirmed in an e-mail to Vanity Fair.

The teen, a famous look-alike of her Oscar-winning mother, turned 18 in September. She will be one of six American debutantes—out of a total of 20—at the ball next month and will be wearing Giambattista Valli Haute Couture. Her cavalier, or escort for the evening, will be Maharaja Padmanabh Singh of Jaipur, who first gained the title in 2011 at the young age of 13.

This will be Phillippe’s first debutante ball and is also a rare appearance for her on the public scene.

Created by Ophélie Renouard in 1992, le Bal is a major social event for the who’s who from around the globe; previous debutantes there include Kyra Kennedy, daughter of Robert Kennedy Jr., and Romy David, daughter of comedian Larry David, as well as Italian model (and princess!) Mathilde Melusine Ruspoli. In 2016, 17 women from 11 countries were presented at le Bal; this year’s event will benefit the Seleni Institute, a New York-based center for women’s mental health.

“Le Bal is rather the unforgettable moment of [the debutantes’] couture and media premieres,” Le Bal Renouard told V.F. last year.

[From Vanity Fair]

Ava is not the only Hollywood offspring who came out in Paris, both Scout and Tallulah Willis did as well. I get that debutante balls, especially le Bal des Débutantes is a status thing, but what is in this for Ava? Surely, she doesn’t know any of the other Americans going. And if you come out in Paris, to whose society are you being introduced? Is Reese hoping to snag a nice Parisian for Ava? I’m sure it’s fun but I’d assume more fun with your friends. Ava has plenty of occasions to wear fancy gowns. Does ‘Debutante’ look good on a college app? Although, that last bit about ‘media premieres’ read a little louder than the rest of it. I’ll bet it’s the tiara, we just don’t create enough situations to wear a tiara acceptably.

For anyone unfamiliar with the term, to ‘come out’ in this sense means debuting/introducing a young lady to formal society, which meant she was eligible for a proper marriage. It’s steeped in tradition and much more of an East Cost/Southern thing than a West Coast thing. I know San Francisco has (had?) a big cotillion ball each year. We had cotillion in Marin but it was nothing more than fancy dance lessons, none of us came out to anything more than our moms hollering at us for getting our gloves dirty. So, feel free to educate me on the benefits of a debutante ball. I’ll tell you what I’d like to see – a Going Back In Ball. When we hit menopause, we show up at a country club wearing our prom dresses (whether they fit or not) and throw our hands up in the air like we just don’t care – gloves optional, tiaras recommended.

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83 Responses to “Ava Phillippe, 18, set to come out as a debutante at Paris ball”

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  1. MostlyMegan says:

    This sounds to me like something more for the mother than the daughter.

    • paranormalgirl says:

      Oh, it is. Girlspawn has a few friends that did the Deb thing at 16 and 17 and none of them really enjoyed it. Usually it’s a big elaborate ridiculousness where the dress has to be approved, the gloves have to be a certain length, and some of the girls consider it a competition. Siobhan, thankfully, was not interested in the experience in the least

    • Megan says:

      It’s a huge fashion event that connects young women to major couture houses (and probably amazing freebies). it is a father and daughter event that also allows rich and famous parents to network.

    • lisa says:

      “In 2016, 17 women from 11 countries were ‘PRESENTED’ at le Bal”.

      We can’t treat a young girl like a piece of meat on display at a “debutante ball” one day, and then the next day say that society should respect who she is on the inside, encourage her for STEM, advocate for income parity, etc…. These b*llsh*t paternalistic events like debutante balls and “purity” events help create the Harvey Weinsteins of the world, so Reese should be dragged the same as Affleck / Damon.

      • OG Cleo says:

        I have several friends who did the whole debutante thing, and yeah, I didn’t because my own personal opinions about it led me to not want to, but to sit and judge them for something relatively harmless? STAHP.

        It was a fun, girly way of hanging out with friends, dressing up and getting attention for a night, and meeting guys. It is NOT the same as purity balls, at all. The goals and atmosphere around the events are totally different, and you would be hard pressed to find men over the age of 21 at debut balls.

      • Megan says:

        Fancy dress parties for young women are not what created Weinstein. A societal structure that protects and promotes white male privilege, systemic discrimination against women, a culture of toxic masculinity, and a worship of wealth and celebrity is what allowed Weinstein to abuse women.

    • AnnaKist says:

      Hahaha! So many memories… I remember some of the girls at my high school did it, many years ago. I thought it strange then; we were all from working class families in a very ordinary, working class area. There was no “society” to be presented to, unless you counted the snobby mother who worked for a top gynaecologist and her equally-deluded wannabe friends. Let’s see. After they “came out”, one married the following week, two got jobs in the local bank, one went to college in the city to become a stenographer, another (my best friend, Kerrie) became a comptometrist and went to work in New Guinea, and oh yeah, two removed their tight girdles and had babies five months later. I find it all very quaint, but rather silly in 2017, when they’ve probably already chronicled almost all their experiences, achievements, hopes and dreams on their social media. Still, I guess if a girl gets to legitimately wear a tiara…

  2. Jules343 says:

    Meh, it’s the kind of extremely fancy and formal party even movie stars children only get to go to once in a blue moon. As an experience it could be quite fun.

  3. LuckyZeGrand says:

    As soon as I think one celebrity offspring might become normal they go and do some lavish,ostentatious thing that reminds me that no,stars will never be like us.
    Or it might be my jealousy rearing its ugly head b/c this sounds like a scene from Princess Diaries’ and I really really wanted to be Mia Thermopolis.

  4. runcmc says:

    Uh yeah, I want a go back in ball!! I’m 32 but I quit, lemme go home.

  5. Mildred Pierce says:

    She looks more like her dad than her mom.

    • Julie says:

      I see that too! Especially in the first picture. She has his exact face.

    • Maisie says:

      I totally think so too! It’s the long blonde hair, height & body type which make folks think she looks like her mom, but her face looks exactly like her dad’s when he was a gorgeous young man (see Cruel Intentions and Playing By Heart for corroboration). Uncanny.

  6. corporatestepsister says:

    This isn’t a real society ball; I don’t think Ava will become invited to major private events.

  7. Birdix says:

    San Francisco has midweeklies to Marin’s cotillion. But they aren’t connected to the Debutante Ball, which I think is mostly a fundraiser for CPMC(?). In any case, dressing young women up in white gowns to be “presented” seems archaic.
    That said, I’m all in for the menopause ball.

  8. Whoopsy Daisy says:

    I automatically assume anyone who wants to do this kind of thing is an out of touch snob.

  9. Mia4s says:

    Looks like it’s for charity. So I’ll give this dumb idea a pass. I take it she’s aiming for a public life though. Maybe go to college first? Yeah…we will see.

  10. birdy says:

    With Reese pushing the Draper James line, wouldn’t a debutante ball in the South be more ‘on brand’? Wiki has a number of these things that that occur in the USA. Why go international unless that is the only way Ava will do it?
    Considering she was raised in California, I can’t imagine it was some great goal that she was wanting to so. Then again, she would probably finds premières and award shows old hat and this is something different. And she can tack on a bit of a European holiday afterwards.

    • Nikki says:

      Yes, Birdy, I also thought the South is known for lavish debutante balls, and Reese is known for being so Southern. Maybe they want a more cosmolpolitsn experience for their daughter, or maybe it’s an excuse to introduce her to Paris?

      • It'sJustBlanche says:

        I don’t get how she’s known for being southern when basically she grew up in California. Also, that Draper James stuff is crap.

      • Jerusha says:

        Ah, yes, I remember those lavish debutante balls of the Southern gals Jackie Kennedy and Gloria Vanderbilt. Also the deb balls of the New South girls, Bruce Willis’ daughters and Sylvester Stallone’s daughters.
        All joking aside, deb balls are not a Southern thing-they’re a rich family thing. I’ve lived in Alabama since 1965 and I’m unaware of any debutante balls taking place here. They probably do, but not any more than they do in California or New York or any other place in the USA.

      • Elizabeth says:

        Yeah, I’m from Little Rock and knew one girl who debuted in New York. Never knew of anything local.

      • shlockOftheNEw says:

        I have more of an artsy bohemian aesthetic, so this whole thing just feels white and elitist…now I’m breaking out in hives.

      • Ladidah says:

        @Jerusha there were deb balls when I lived in Alabama more than 10 years ago – a lot of doctor’s daughters, as far as I could tell, and of course not for marriage presentation, just seemed like it was for families that wanted to show off their names and titles and charity prowess in a mid size city.

    • MostlyMegan says:

      I think with the current situation in racial tensions in the US, a big southern belle ball might not read well with the public – and Reece needs to keep her PR pristine. But a big-ass ball in Paris? No echoes of the antebellum south.

  11. Astrid says:

    I’m feeling snarky this morning. If Little Ava has been living a secluded life and hasn’t dated anybody yet, then yes, maybe she needs to be “introduced” but really, in this day and age. Seems ridiculous.

  12. Veronica says:

    Man, if Hollywood ever needs a stand on for a young Reese Witherspoon flashback, her daughter is ready to go.

  13. Louise177 says:

    I really don’t understand the concept of debutante balls. I don’t see the point.

    • D says:

      According to wikipedia ” Debutante -Originally, the term meant the woman was old enough to be married, and part of the purpose of her coming out was to display her to eligible bachelors and their families with a view to marriage within a select circle.”

    • tracking says:

      Agree, ugh. So pretentious and backward at the same time.

  14. Enough Already says:

    This sounds so much better than turning 18 and debuting your sex tape at a vodka sponsored Las Vegas bash.

  15. Missy says:

    A going back in ball, omg I’m DYING!!

  16. Jennifer says:

    Oh, hey, I tutored a girl who went to this Paris ball! She had a lovely time in a pretty dress, as far as I recall. It was VERY MUCH a status thing for her parents, but I believe she enjoyed it.

    (Postscript: the girl then went to university and became a radical leftist who got up early in the mornings to convince the janitors to unionise. Good times.)

    • Adrien says:

      I worked with someone who attended one (Vienna not Paris). Her parents are very rich business people from a third world Asian country. They paid for her inclusion in the debutante ball and donated a huge amount to some charity. She is very down to earth.

  17. KLO says:

    They probably just thought going to a real “ball” could be fun. Why not if you can do it?

  18. Ninks says:

    I think she’s the image of her father. I see very little Reese in her apart from height and hair colour and I always wonder what I’m missing when people call her a mini-Reese.

    Sounds like something I hate in theory but could be a lot of fun to do just once.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Agreed. She looks so much more like him to me. But entertainment writers always say the daughters look just like the moms even when they are carbon copies of the dad. Look at Anna Nicole’s daughter, Kelsey Grammar’s daughter with Camille, and Ice-T and Coco’s daughter. All are spitting images of their dads but have been called their moms’ “mini me”.

  19. Serene Wolf says:

    How uncooth and archaic. What or to WHOM is she being presented to – the male gaze? Isn’t it all about the approval from men, who dominate our society?

  20. Aang says:


  21. Tig says:

    As someone who loves formal wear(not saying I look good in same-LOL!), going to Paris and wear a gorgeous dress (hopefully!) and be 18? Sounds like a good time to me. Given how elaborate and fraught US proms have become, this event may be calmer!
    She is a very pretty young girl.

  22. Whatever Gurl says:

    St. Louis, Mo has 2 society balls and it’s a big deal for the families who hope it will label them as upmarket lead the way to a wealthy man.

    It’s stupid but the families believe they have truly arrived and that they are on par with the prominent families on the East Coast.

    • swak says:

      I know about the Veiled Prophet and it used to be a really big deal. Doesn’t seem so much anymore. What is the other one? I’m from St. Louis but really don’t pay attention to that sort of thing.

  23. awholenewworld says:

    That sounds like a lot of fun for an 18 year old, actually. Very exciting. I love going to galas with my husband and I’m 36. I don’t see anything wrong with this at all. I’m sure she will look beautiful and have a great time.

  24. EOA says:

    I don’t think it is an East Coast thing now, at least north of Philadelphia.

  25. Pansy says:

    Reminds me of showing cattle. I live in the IS south and have never seen one of these, nor has ANYONE I know had one. Ever. This is not real life in 2017.
    We do have a local organization advertising cotillion classes for teens. Um. How about some classes in life skills instead? Someone to tell you about student loans and balancing a checkbook and changing tires instead of how to waltz and what fork to use.

    • Enough Already says:

      They don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Etiquette teaches us how to think of the well-being and comfort of others in social settings. It stresses kindness and regard as well as respect. It’s not about which fork to use, as Emily Post once famously said.

    • perplexed says:

      Actually, those life skills classes ideas sound awesome. I would have signed up for those right away.

  26. DiamondGirl says:

    I live in the Midwest and even our city has one. I don’t see the harm in it and Ava seems like a decent girl.

    I give Reese credit for not raising another Kylie Jenner or whatever that Richie girl’s name is.

    • Carol says:

      When I was in high school is the 80’s, some of my friends’ parents decided we were losing the art of dressing up, sitting for a nice meal, and dancing. They formed a group and hosted two cotillions. In theory it was ridiculous – the invitation list was “exclusive” and prom was just around the corner. The hosts were probably into the status part, but we kids had a blast. I didn’t feel like I needed to turn in my feminism card because I enjoyed my new dress and make up. Sometimes it is just fun to wear a beautiful outfit and meet people, regardless of whether it is called a charity gala, cotillion, or debutante ball. I doubt Reese and Ryan are auctioning her off at the end of the night to an eligible suitor.

  27. NJ says:

    Hecate!! I’ll come to your Going Back ball! Imagine the buffet!

  28. Bitsy says:

    She’s not coming out to Parisian society, she’s coming out to the international elite. This particular debutante ball is THE status symbol of status symbols. Daughters of royalty, prime ministers, czars, and billionaires will be there; this is what you do to ensure that while your kid keeps “it real” with a bs job or normal friends, they still have the right connections so they never truly have to work or marry down.
    Debs are still a really big thing and very elitist. They aren’t as publicized, because we live in a society that propagates egalitarianism. But the reality is that class and status are still highly coveted. I live in Texas and they are huge here; parents spend $30-$50k on these balls. There are all sorts of luncheons, teas, photo sessions, and “finishing school”class that get very pricey.

    • Triple Cardinal says:

      Bitsy is right on the money. It puts Ava on the map on a number of levels and helps to cement Reese’s celebrity.

      The operative word is “international.”

    • Mel says:

      Maybe among the nouveaux riches and/or royalists who are still stuck in turn-of-the-(20th)-century mentality. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t rather be seen dead than at an event like this.

      • Bitsy says:

        @Mel surely you’re kidding? Notorious royals don’t go to these but minor ones do as do the daughters of politicians and moguls. In fact, my sister attended Phillips Exeter, then Stanford. Her roommate at boarding school debbed as did a friend from college. Like I stated above, the rich have learned to become relatable, but not much has changed behind closed doors. People of all classes looooove the idea of high society and noblesse.

    • kibbles says:

      You’re right. Sometimes I wonder where can a normal girl go to meet wealthy eligible bachelors? Many of us would have a decent chance if we had an invite to these exclusive balls and parties. Unfortunately, the 99% do not and never will. These events are for the elite to mingle, make friendships, and start relationships. That is why the rich marry rich. It is rare for them to marry down unless their spouse is an actress or model, or a very successful entrepreneur or celebrity writer/journalist/academic type who manages to get an invite to exclusive events.

  29. KC says:

    Ava looks a lot like her mum but she is SO much more striking to me because of the resemblance she also bears to her father. The blend of Reese and Ryan makes for a very attractive offspring. Hope her looks round out developing a lovely personality and intelligence to make for a thoughtful and intelligent world citizen.

  30. Simone says:

    This is actually the tackiest thing. No one from truly noble or old rich families participate in this anymore. These balls were usually conducted among the aristocratic circles to show off their daughters who had come of age i.e. ready for courtship and marriage. They no longer have to do that so it’s just the nouveaux riche and socially try-hard who persist in attending this thing.

    • Mel says:

      Of course not. I can’t believe this is being taken seriously. Surely it must be tongue-in-cheek?

    • Redgrl says:

      Agreed – I think Vanity Fair did a report on this a few years back – there’s a fairly hefty fee to go and it was minor semi titled Europeans and daughters of wealthy, grasping American & Russian business men. It all seemed pretty crass. And on a totally shallow note, there certainly weren’t any “society beauties” being “launched” – just a bunch of rather underachieving plain rich kids partying on daddy’s dime and being told they were special… I think those that used to actually go to the real Débutantes balls bailed on this one a long time ago – which is a whole other comment I suppose. Time for coffee!

  31. Cc says:

    I found out last month that a girl I knew vaguely from high school went to this a couple of years ago. Her family is one of the richest in my country – if not billionaire’s then certainly multi-millionaire’s.

    It’s not really used as a way to hawk daughters off for marriage; for those curious, I believe she’s in university now. My impression is that it sort of functions as a networking thing, to introduce young ladies from the upper echelons of societies to a wider network of the global upper crust. Completely a snobbish status thing. My friend who told me about it is around as rich as the other girl, but she was kind of rolling her eyes at it.

  32. JA says:

    Hispanic female here…. We didn’t have debutante balls but we did have Quinceaneras which was more a culture thing than a status coming out. However how BIG you went to celebrate was a huge indicator if your family had money and clout. Mine had neither so I never actually had one… didn’t miss it but I do miss the opportunity of wearing a ball gown and tiara, you know, just cause! Sounds like a damn good time especially when it involves Paris and fashion! If you don’t believe it, move along, some girls do enjoy the process and whilst still believing in feminism! Get over it

  33. Mel says:

    At first I thought it was only called a “Parisian” ball but was being held somewhere else, possibly in the South of the USA, because I couldn’t believe there were any debutante balls left anywhere (except in Vienna, which is a joke), let alone in Paris. None of my Parisian friends knew about this either. They are still laughing.
    Me, I am just stunned.
    How very retro, and not in a good way.

  34. perplexed says:

    A debutante ball sounds like a high school dance to me, but with more posh (and possibly better-looking) people? I’m just assuming the people are better-looking based on watching Gossip Girl….

    A debutante ball doesn’t sound as strange as a “purity ball.”

    I wonder if Reese Witherspoon’s daughter would really have a chance at marrying a Prime Minister’s son. I know her mother is a celebrity, but I feel that doesn’t count for much in political circles (well, not if your mom was caught on tape screaming at a police officer while drunk anyway).

  35. CynicalAnn says:

    I’m from Marin too-but the only girls I knew in high school who were debs went to Katherine Branson. I did go to college with a former deb-and she was actually from Sacramento.

  36. casey says:

    I live in Tennessee and we have a local debutante ball every year. It’s in conjunction with a volunteer organization and there is a required number of service hours you must have accomplished in order to participate. It usually requires a few years through high school of actively serving the community through specific events that count towards your goal.

    Other than that, the actual ball is just a fancy party. Like prom but more exclusive, and it was a really positive experience for the girls I know that did it. But hey, I’m a member of my local Junior League so what do I know…I’m also incredibly liberal and have multiple piercings and tattoos. We aren’t all the same. If I had been offered the opportunity to debut at Le Bal when I was a teenager I would have risked life and limb to go, sounds like a great time.

  37. meh says:

    This is so gross. What rotten, backwards thinking to treat your daughter like someone to “present” like a piece of meat.

  38. Electric Tuba says:

    Balls haha

  39. Polyphonic Pickles says:

    Huh. Where I am in the south, cotillion (much younger kids and it is dance lessons!) is totally separate from debutante balls.

    In New Orleans, we had a fantasy football esque version of local debutantes a few years ago. Also, it ties in with the Mardi Gras krewes’ balls and royalty. In my small local town, you weren’t nearly as rich to be a deb, but still a status thing and it normally happened after you had been away at college for a year.

    I tried to post this earlier today, but I haven’t been able to post comments in forever. Meh.

  40. CatherinetheGoodEnough says:

    I believe this particular “ball” is covered annually by Vanity Fair magazine, hence the quote about young women beginning their media careers. And I say whatever — seems antiquated and obviously snobbish, but if I’d been given the opportunity to go as a deb I’d have been all over it.

  41. Strwbrryslushie says:

    There’s no such thing as a debutant these days, and it’s an awfully anachronistic concept, so they should rename these things.

  42. aenflex says:

    Outdated, outmoded, semi-misogynistic, ludicrous practice.

  43. Ange says:

    Deb Balls were still very much a thing in country Australia when I was finishing school 20 years ago. They were kind of treated like a formal prom but lots and lots of young girls wanted to do them. Now I don’t think they’re as prominent but they still happen occasionally. I never went anywhere near one because I thought they were ridiculous – who were we presenting to, the local farmers?

  44. Char says:

    Will they ask the debutantes more?

  45. Rubber Ducky says:

    Well at least now I know what Ryan would look like in drag.

  46. manta says:

    Big deal. Every other year the spawn of some US star is invited, for broader coverage I think.

    The Stallone daughters did it and no one went on deep analyse about it. Neither they nor their parents reached a vastly different status after that. They got where their name would have leaded them anyway.