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Published: Friday December 6, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Friday December 6, 2013 MYT 8:32:46 AM

Belle of the debutante ball

Big names like the Kennedys are the focus of society ball organisers.

Big names like the Kennedys are the focus of society ball organisers.

Kennedy scion, Kyra, opens Paris Debutantes Ball where high society meets haute couture.

DRESSED in Dior, Kyra Kennedy, great-niece of the late US president, and her father Robert Kennedy Jr opened the Paris Debutantes Ball to the sound of a gypsy waltz at one of the social events of the year where high society meets haute couture.

The glittering event saw 20 hand-picked “debutantes” dance, dine and network the night away in dresses loaned by some of Paris’ most famous couture houses.

Lord George Porchester whose family owns Highclere Castle, the setting for the hit television series Downton Abbey, was also invited, along with 18-year-old Kyra Kennedy’s father Robert – the son of John F. Kennedy’s brother Robert, who was also assassinated.

Others taking part included British royal Lady Amelia Windsor, the granddaughter of one of Queen Elizabeth II’s cousins, Francesca Packer Barham, granddaughter of Australian media tycoon Kerry Packer and Romy David, daughter of Seinfeld creator Larry David.

From Asia, there was Akshita Bhanjdeo of India’s Bhanja dynasty, Filipina “It girl” Monica Urquijo Zobel, and Rebecca Eu, the Canberra-based daughter of a Chinese healthcare company chief.

Now in her 21st year organising the ball, Frenchwoman Ophelie Renouard had made no secret of her quest to track down as many big names as possible.

Kyra Kennedy, great niece of late President John F. Kennedy and daughter of Robert Kennedy Jr, gets a dress fitted at Dior in Paris on November 27, 2013, ahead of the Debutante Ball.
Kyra being fitted at Dior, Paris.

In another publicity coup this year, she secured the presence of a London taxi driver’s daughter, Lauren Marbe.

The 17-year-old made headlines recently when she notched up an IQ test score of 161, one point higher than Einstein.

“I read about her in the newspapers, so I phoned her up and she said, ‘It is not my world but if you invite me, I will come’,” Renouard said.

Her father, wearing black tie for the first time, was overwhelmed.

“This is a dream! I still cannot believe it,” he said.

The event at the Automobile Club of France is based on the debutantes balls that were once an established part of the British upper class’ social calendar.

These launched well-born young women into society and – with luck – also introduced them to a potential husband.

But the balls started to fall out of favour in the late 1950s after Queen Elizabeth abolished the practice of the debutantes also being presented at court.

In recent decades, they have been reinvented as glittering fundraisers with the emphasis on philanthropy and contact building rather than finding a husband.

Haute couture: Great-niece of late President John F Kennedy and daughter of Robert Kennedy Jr, Kyra Kennedy, making a grand entrance in her Dior gown. -AFP Photos

Among the new generation of balls, Renouard’s alone offers participants the chance to borrow an haute couture dress for the night.

“They are not interested in finding a husband, they are too young,” she said.

“What they prefer is the dress, because even if they are privileged, they have never been to an haute couture house.”

In previous years, “Le Bal” has attracted the daughters of European aristocracy as well as Hollywood A-listers such as Demi Moore and Bruce Willis, Andie MacDowell, Clint Eastwood, and Sylvester Stallone.

The ball now has a strong showing from Asia but Renouard says she still has to crack Russia.

“I’m not good on Russia. It’s all about networks,” she said. – AFP

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, Paris Debutantes Ball, France, Kennedy, Kyra Kennedy, Robert Kennedy Jr, Dior

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