The 2019 Rose Parade Royal Court (L-R): Helen Rossi, Rucha Kadam, Lauren Baydaline, Trina & Gerald Freeny, their daughter Erica, Queen Louise Siskel, Micaela McElrath, Sherry Ma, Ashley Hackett
by Laura Berthold Monteros
Rose Queen Louise Deser Siskel made a lot of firsts at the Coronation of the Rose Queen and Presentation of the Royal Court last Tuesday evening. She is in the first graduating class at Sequoyah High School, she is the first Sequoyah girl to be selected for the Tournament of Roses Royal Court, she is the first to become queen, and she is the 101st Rose Queen, taking the title into its second century. She will perch atop the Royal Court float in the 130th Rose Parade on Jan. 1, 2019.
The festivities were held at the historic Pasadena Playhouse for the third consecutive year. Like the Tournament of Roses, the venue is an icon of Pasadena. Its spacious patio and Spanish Colonial Style serve the event well. Come along for the fun by paging through the photo gallery below!
Local news anchor Chris Schauble of KTLA-5, Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity brother of Tournament of Roses Pres, Gerald Freeny, hosted. Schauble is known for his humorous antics as well as serious reporting on set. With two sets of twin girls, he was right at home interviewing the young ladies on the Royal Court. He came out in an LA Dodgers Number 5 jersey, probably for KTLA. (It didn’t help, the Dodgers lost to the Red Sox.) After a brief intro, he said he was going to do a Mister Rogers change, and he traded his jersey for a suit jacket.
Each Rose Princess, dressed in a lacy gown by Tadashi Shoji, was announced by her father, who read a short bio, and escorted to the center of the stage by a member of Blair High School JROTC. A montage of photos played on the screen above the stage and Schauble interviewed each princess. He then handed the microphone to Pres. Freeny for the revelation of the one girl of the seven who would serve as the 101st Rose Queen. He opened the envelope and announced, “From Sequoyah High School, Louise Deser Siskel!”
Be sure to check out the album below for photos of the festivities.
The girls left the stage to receive their tiaras, and Queen Louise to change into the white gown that was specially fitted for her. Meanwhile, there was a video of the Royal Court in the usual Royal Court activities—visiting people, going to events, and getting to know each other at a weekend retreat. Solvang, a Danish town in Central California, was the destination instead of the usual Newport Beach. “Ambiance” from Fullspectrumusic supplied entertainment.
Proud dads escorted their princesses back onto the stage. Queen Louise, escorted by her father Charlie Siskel, met Pres. Freeny for her coronation. He placed the Mikimoto pearl crown on her head, albeit a bit askew, and administered the Queen’s Oath, and it was all official.
Queen Louise, we suspect, may also be the first Rose Queen to be involved in two important research projects. As a junior in high school, she investigated the effect of microgravity on drug metabolism by the liver in a space biology study at NASA Ames in Mountain View, Calif. She said the summer program was a “crazy experience,” an opportunity for her and her partner Rujuta Sathe to do research funded by NASA.
Now a senior at Sequoyah, Queen Louise is researching breast cancer under Dr. Shehla Pervin at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. The project examines the health disparity between African-American and Caucasian women. She is currently writing a paper on that research. We asked her if she would be able to keep up with her writing, given the 100-plus events she will attend over the next dozen weeks.
“Yes!” she replied. The public Rose Court appearances will mostly be over before she goes back to work in January.
“I want to thank the [Queen & Court] committee for selecting me,” she added, “and also the six other girls.”
Larry Wilson over at the Pasadena Star-News came up with one more first–glasses!
All photos copyright Laura Berthold Monteros. Contact administrator for permissions.
Chaka Khan, 2019 Rose Parade Grand Marshal, was surprised by the colorful confetti raining down when she came through the purple curtains.
by Laura Berthold Monteros
The announcement of the Grand Marshal for the 130th Tournament of Roses Parade had the usual elements. Oct. 17 was a beautiful, warm day, the front porch of Tournament House was gorgeously draped, the band was great, the press stand packed. There was the usual excitement in the audience, waiting to find out who would ride in the Grand Marshal’s car on Jan. 1, 2019. When Chaka Khan was announced, the crowd roared and the confetti cannon went off.
Known as the “Queen of Funk,” Chaka also sings R&B, pop, rock, gospel, and country. We asked what other music she likes; she responded, “I love Indian music.” She just finished a project in the Gujarati language with Indian performer Sonu Nigam, which celebrates the life of Gandhi.
Check out the gallery below for photos, and thislink for a video on the TOR Rose Parade Facebook page.
But there was a lot that was unusual in the announcement.
There were fewer hints in the food served, music played, decorations (except for the purple drapes), yet from the murmurs in the crowd, it seemed like more people than normal had an idea of who it would be. That may have been because more details were released ahead of time—10 Grammy awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a place in the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame. In his introduction, Pres. Gerald Freeny gave more details that confirmed those hunches, and affirmed that she was indeed a performer who would sing and dance in the opening act of the parade.
Chaka and her retinue were late, reportedly due to LA traffic. The Tournament, which makes sure the Rose Parade starts at 8 a.m. on the dot and the Rose Bowl Game coin toss is never late, announced that the star player would be 15 minutes behind the 9 a.m. start time. It was a quarter after when family members took their seats in the front row, and past 9:30 when Freeny stepped up to the lectern.
Now, a heads-up: Much of this article reflects the opinions of the writer, which is also unusual. If there is one constant in the feelings of folks who love the Rose Parade, it is that they very rarely and almost never publicly criticize the choice of a theme or Grand Marshal. People tend to be pretty polite when it comes to this grand old Pasadena tradition, and the criticism The Rose Examiner heard was couched in the politest terms.
There was disappointment about Chaka’s speech, which seemed thoroughly unprepared. She opened with “Well, I just don’t know where to go with this,” but added, “I’m so honored.” She thrice referred to “the Rose Bowl Parade,” which any GM would have been coached not to do. The theme, “The Melody of Life,” was garbled into “The Rhythm of Life.” References to the parade indicated that she had just not done her homework. (To her credit, she did name the Old Pasadena business district correctly.)
Other than noting that the floats are pretty, she seemed to have no interest in the Rose Parade. She said, “I remember looking at it. But not really looking…. Y’know, it was after the big game.” The game actually comes after the parade. It did seem she was a tad self-conscious—she said, “I hope you like me” and acknowledged that she was “a little bit scared.”
She said little about the Chaka Khan Foundation or what it does. This contrasted with previous Grand Marshals, such as Gary Sinise, whose tireless work for veterans is well known and very personal to him. Jane Goodall had not known about our American tradition when approached, but took the time to find out and agreed to be GM because it is consistent with the values of her charitable work. Actor J.R. Martinez was not a star but has an amazing, compelling story and his courage is indisputable.
There was also some speculation that Stevie Wonder, whom Freeny mentioned three times, was his first choice for Grand Marshal, not Chaka. Indicators were her lack of preparation and not having any idea what she would do for the opening show. Be that as it may, it is not unusual for a president to go with a second or third choice and it doesn’t reflect on how good a GM might be.
A friend of your Rose Examiner was refused by his first choice, who was not available on New Year’s Day, and his second choice backed out at the last minute. His third choice, Gregory Peck, proved to be one of the happiest GMs ever. When he was a child, his family drove up from San Diego to watch the parade every year. One year, they took a stray dog back with them. He was the first, and perhaps only, GM to get the Tournament time on The Tonight Show, due to his friendship with Johnny Carson.
Another late choice was Chesley Sullenberger III for 2010—late, because the TOR president had passed away before choosing a Grand Marshal. Yet what better choice could there have been that year for the theme “A Cut Above the Rest” than the “Hero of the Hudson.”
The Chaka Khan Foundation
Perhaps these comments come out of a suspicion about non-profits, due to years of working for both good ones and bad ones. It is difficult to tell from the foundation website whether the organization is actually out in the community working on programs, or simply partnering with other organizations that do the work. It is fine if a foundation does not actually create or run programs, but supports successful programs financially and with star power. That should be clear in the material, though, whether spoken, written, or posted online. It would have been good to hear more about it from the Tournament media release or Chaka herself.
Chaka established the Chaka Khan Foundation in 1999. The mission statement is “The Chaka Khan Foundation educates, inspires and empowers children in our community to achieve their full potential.” The foundation website says “The Chaka Khan Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization.”
However, it does not show up by EIN search on either Charity Navigator or GuideStar, and only on GuideStar by name, with the note “This organization’s exempt status was automatically revoked by the IRS for failure to file a Form 990, 990-EZ, 990-N, or 990-PF for 3 consecutive years. Further investigation and due diligence are warranted.” The “foundation team” has photos but no names attached, and does not state there is a board of directors as required by law. The only information on the team page is a long promotional piece for the album “ClassiKhan.”
If Chaka did not do her homework on the Tournament of Roses, it appears that the Tournament of Roses did not do its homework on her foundation, either.
Speculation was rampant. Who would be the chosen one to lead the 130th Tournament of Roses Parade? With a theme of “The Melody of Life” and Pres. Gerald Freeny’s love of jazz and Motown, it was pretty obvious it would be a musician. And it is. At Tournament House this morning, as Pres. Freeny’s read her name, Chaka Khan stepped through the white and purple curtains to accept honor of Grand Marshal of the 2019 Rose Parade.
Khan is a perfect choice, not only because of her 10 Grammys, star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and place in the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame, but because, as with Freeny himself, she considers life to be melody that is universal. She told The Rose Examiner that she is currently working on a project with Indian singer Sonu Nigam. She’s learning to sing in his language, Gujarati.
The event started a bit late, due to delays on the way to Pasadena. As her family took their seats, everyone else sat on the edge of theirs. As Freeny read of Khan’s achievements before announcing her name, more and more people realized which name he was going to say. We’ve got lots of photos—return to this page for a full gallery!
The person—or persons—who will serve as Grand Marshal for the 130th Rose Parade and toss the coin for the 105th Rose Bowl Game on Jan. 1, 2019 will be announced at Tournament House on Wednesday, October 17 at 9 a.m. Pres. Gerald Freeny will do the honors Who will it be?
The theme is “The Melody of Life,” so that’s a clue. The poster and signs feature a saxophone—could that be a clue? Pres. Freeny likes jazz, but also rock and hymnody. Here’s what we wrote after we interviewed him last January:
With such an expansive theme, it’s difficult to make guesses about who the Grand Marshal might be. Freeny said they are working on several. He, his wife Trina, and adult daughter Erica are “praying to get who we really, really want.” They aren’t short on suggestions, though. One was Condoleeza Rice, who is a highly talented pianist as well as having served as both National Security Advisor and Secretary of State for George W. Bush. Even her name is melodious: It’s derived from con dolcezza, a musical term meaning “with sweetness.” LA Phil music director Gustavo Dudamel has been mentioned, but Freeny’s frat brothers in Kappa Alpha Psi are pushing for someone from Motown. He even opined that it could be more than one, as Brad Ratliff had in the 2017 parade.
Our guesses include classical music artists such as Condi Rice or local hero Gustavo Dudamel, Broadway star Audra McDonald, or an entire group from rock, Motown, or other popular music genre. Somehow, however, we just don’t have a handle on where this might go. There are too many genres of music and too many great musicians to make an educated guess.
Let us know yours in the comments! You have to sign in (this is to avoid spam comments), but we never use your information. And don’t forget to watch the announcement, streaming live on Facebook!
The announcement of the Rose Queen, who is selected from the seven young women on the Royal Court, is one of the most exciting events in the lead up to the Rose Parade on Jan. 1. The coronation of the 101st Rose Queen takes place on Oct. 23, 2018, and readers can be there to see it real time. E-Tickets are now on sale at Sharp Seating at $40 for the general public and $15 for students.
The celebration starts with a reception on the patio of the Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino, at 5:30 p.m. The program begins at 7 p.m. A video of exciting moments in the life of the three-week-old Royal Court is played, and each young lady is interviewed. The presentation of the Rose Princesses in their formal gowns follows, and Pres. Gerald Freeny opens the envelope containing the name of the Rose Queen.
For all the news on the Royal Court and lots of photos, be sure to check out the Royal Court page on The Rose Examiner website.
2019 Rose Parade Royal Court: L-R, Helen Rossi, Flintridge Prep; Rucha Kadam, La Cañada Flintridge HS; Lauren Baydaline, Westridge; Micaela McElrath, Westridge; Gerald Freeny, president Tournament of Roses; Sherry Ma, San Marino HS; Louise Siskel, Sequoyah HS; Ashley Hackett, John Muir HS.
There were a few unusual occurrences at the announcement of the Tournament of Roses Royal Court on Oct. 1. More about those in a minute, as well as bios on each Rose Princess. To folks in the Pasadena area, the annual announcement of the Royal Court is more exciting than the announcement of the Rose Queen on Oct. 23. Once the court is revealed, the Queen will be one of those elite seven girls, but almost everyone in the area is only one or two degrees removed from one or more of the finalists. It’s an edge-of-your-seat moment.
The selection of the Court begins with some 900 young women from a couple dozen area schools, who try out on a hot weekend in early September. Through a series of interviews, the number is whittled down to around 35 finalists, from which seven are chosen to attend some 100 events as ambassadors for the Tournament, and to ride in the 130th Rose Parade on Jan. 1, 2019.
Be sure to check out the photo gallery at the end of this article!
Surprise #1: This year, there were 44 finalists. Queen & Court Committee chair Craig Washington noted that the first Rose Queen, Hallie Woods, was crowned in 1905, which was also the year a certain theory was revealed. He said selecting finalists is “almost as difficult as understanding Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.” It was such formidable task this fall, he said, that the committee ended up with 44 “exceptional finalists.”
Surprise #2: Not a huge one, but the last time The Rose Examiner recalls Washington on stage was when his daughter Drew was chosen as the 2012 Rose Queen. He knows both sides of the equation.
Surprise #3: The male members on Q&C escort each of the finalists from Tournament House to the steps at the south entrance, as they are introduced by the chair. This time around, the female members of Q&C also escorted the girls. It took a while, but TOR is getting there.
Surprise #4: How long it took the TOR to get here: Tournament of Roses President Gerald Freeny is the first African-American to assume the presidency.
Surprise #5: The finalists lined up in numerical order, rather than being placed according to height as previously. This made it difficult to get a good group photo.
Surprise #6: There were eight finalists from Mayfield Senior School, the most from one school since The Rose Examiner has been covering the Tournament of Roses. We were pretty sure at least one would make the Court, but Mayfield is not represented on the Court.
Surprise #7: The seven girls on the Court represent six different schools, one of which has never had a Rose Princess before and one which has not been represented for longer than we have been writing about the Rose Parade.
Meet the 2019 Rose Princesses
Freeny gave a short talk about the theme he and his wife Trina chose, “The Melody of Life.” Then one by one, Freeny called out the school and the name of the young woman, until all seven were lined up. In addition to a summary of her involvement in the community, each provided her own take on the theme of the 2019 festivities.
Ashley Symone Hackett, a senior at John Muir High School, was the first to be called, and is the first Muir girl on the Royal Court since 2003. She told us, “I am extremely blessed to get this opportunity.” She said that John Muir is an “amazing” school, and she wants to make the administration and her friends proud. She wants to “set a good example for incoming freshmen” in their dreams and aspirations.
Ashley is a member of the Black Student Union, Pasadena Panthers Youth Cheer and Dance, John Muir Pep Squad, and is secretary of the Associated Student Body, a dance trainer with Los Angeles Country Tiny Tots, activities leader with the VA of Greater Los Angeles, and youth leader at Metropolitan Baptist Church. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, cooking with her dad, watching football and basketball, hiking, and swimming. She plans to study human biology and would like to attend University of California, Los Angeles, University of Southern California, or University of Washington. Ashley lives in Pasadena and is the daughter of Alvin and Ramona Hackett; she has two siblings, Jordan and Kennedy.
“For me, ‘The Melody of Life’ means that everyone has highs and lows in life, but just like in music both high notes and low notes add value to the piece, just as it would in life,” she said. “Low times in life are often dreaded but to me these times help add value and character to an individual. Without the low times that I have experienced, I would not be able to appreciate the high moments of life that I have been blessed with.”
Louise Deser Siskel is a senior at Sequoyah High School and lives in San Marino. She represents two firsts for Sequoyah: She is the first young woman from the school to serve on the Royal Court, and is also a member of the first graduating class of Sequoyah High School. (The lower school started in 1958.) She told us that Sequoyah is a “wonderful” school, and that she loves the school and its community.
Louise is a member of the Debate Team and Judicial Committee at Sequoyah High School, and YMCA Youth and Government. She is researching breast cancer under Dr. Shehla Pervin at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.
Louise enjoys reading, playing board games with her family, traveling, and laughing with friends. She plans to study cellular and molecular biology and would like to attend Johns Hopkins University, The University of Chicago, or Yale University. Louise is the daughter of Charlie Siskel and Abigail Deser; she has one brother, Simon.
“For me, ‘The Melody of Life’ is standing at the lab bench at 7 a.m., singing along to show tunes,” she said. “It is classical music when I’m writing and 2000s hits when I’m nervous. I belt out Cole Porter verses with my grandfather and ABBA anthems with my friends. Music has an astounding capacity to bring people together and has always been an integral part of my favorite traditions and most treasured memories. Music makes the world a more forgiving and more joyful place.”
Sherry Xiaorui Ma is a senior at San Marino High School and lives in Temple City. She is editor-in-chief of the San Marino High School Titanian yearbook, president and founder of the Make-A-Wish Club, and a varsity basketball manager. Sherry enjoys playing the flute and piano, reading, dancing, and spending time with friends. She plans to study communication and media studies and would like to attend Emerson College, Fordham University, New York University, or University of Southern California. Sherry is the daughter of Alex Luk and Kristy Ma; she has one sister, Sally Yang.
“Music is a language that is spoken through emotions. Not everyone can understand words, but everyone understands the power of love and kindness,” she said. “We are all connected, just like the music notes that are intermittently connected. Music gives you the power to reach people you know, and even the people you don’t know. The ‘Melody of Life’ is about the musical conversation all around us that expresses what cannot be said. This melody can help humans forget their differences and come together to transform negativity into hope, freedom, and color. This year’s theme has a very deep emotional connection to me because of how passionate I am about artistic expression.”
Micaela Sue McElrath is a senior at Westridge School and lives in Pasadena. She is an afterschool volunteer tutor with Stars, vice president of the 12th grade class at Westridge School, 3rd year Peer to Peer Counselor, and a teacher assistant in a 4th grade classroom. Micaela enjoys being involved in community service, all things fashion, hair, and makeup, and is avid watcher of football and baseball. She plans to study psychology, education, and English and would like to attend Bard College, Connecticut College, Fordham University, Trinity College, or University of Southern California. Micaela is the daughter of Matthew McElrath and Inez Enguidanos-McElrath; she has four siblings, Stuart, Belen, Mariah, and Evan.
“Throughout the years, I have listened to many different types of music styles and genres; ranging from country music to radio hits,” she said. “The diversity in my music choices reflect the diversity in my life. My dad introduced me to classic rock while my mom raised me on Mexican love songs. The constant throughout all of this has been my love for Selena Quintanilla. I grew up listening to her music with my family. Selena has served as a role model to me of a strong woman with an influential voice, using her gifts to help others.”
Lauren Michele Baydaline is a senior at Westridge School and lives in South Pasadena. She is secretary of the Associated Student Body, founder and head of Every Body Affinity, head of book club, 3rd year Peer to Peer, volunteer in Reading Rocks program at Hillsides, and a camp counselor at YMCA Glendale. Lauren enjoys reading, writing poetry, and spending time with friends and family. She plans to study biology, linguistics, and Latin and would like to attend Boston College, Duke University, Emory University, Tulane University, University of Richmond, or Villanova University. Lauren is the daughter of Nick and Selena Baydaline; she has one brother, Christian.
“Personally, melody of life means the pace at which life flows. Life is an unpredictable symphony,” s
he said. “Every moment, experience, and memory all flow together to create a melody. There are good parts and bad parts, where the beats may speed up and intensify, but each part of the piece is what makes it unique. Life is a melody, and we are all the composers to our own pieces.”
Rucha S. Kadam is a senior at La Cañada High School and lives in La Cañada Flintridge. She is a member of the LCHS varsity soccer team, Assistance League of Flintridge, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Space Academy, 2018 Miss La Cañada Flintridge Royal Court, Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) board, Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA), California Scholarship Federation (CSF), treasurer of LCHS Associated Student Body (ASB), Hackademia director, and LCUSD Technology and Computer Science intern. She plans to study computer science or medical science and would like to attend Amherst College, University of California, Berkeley, University of California, Los Angeles, Swarthmore College, or Wellesley College. Rucha enjoys baking, reading, listening to music, playing board games, and the piano. Rucha is the daughter of Shailesh Kadam and Vaishali Bhosale; she has one brother, Ahan.
“Music is universal—it transcends the barriers of language, religion, race, culture, or ideological beliefs and culture,” she said. “Music can bring together people by connecting them through the feelings that all humans share with each other. Music has the ability to evoke our most raw and powerful emotions. Music can draw out experiences and memories that unify us, despite our differences. Music can have an immense impact on our lives.”
Helen Susan Rossi is a senior at Flintridge Preparatory School and lives in La Cañada Flintridge. She is a member or the Cooking Club, Diversity Club, Flint Leadership Club, and a Flintridge Prep Senior Leader. Helen’s community activities include National Charity League of Glendale, Senior Girl Scout, Troop 7331, Hathaway Sycamores tutor, Arthritis Foundation intern and Arthritis Foundation 2018 Youth Honoree. Helen enjoys cooking, photography, creative writing, and drawing. She plans to study business and psychology and would like to attend New York University, University of California, Los Angeles, or University of Southern California. Helen is the daughter of Philip and Susan Rossi.
“The theme ‘The Melody of Life’ reminds me of my days as a summer counselor when I taught young campers to play the recorder,” she said. “Some caught on quickly, and others had to work harder to master the notes, but we all helped each other out. We laughed uproariously at the terrible sounds that first emerged, but eventually they all played a respectable version of ‘Yankee Doodle.’ That truly represents ‘The Melody of Life’ because with perseverance and support we created a melody together.”
John Muir High School Pep Squad hopped on a bus to Tournament House to support the three Muir girls who were among the finalists. Most schools that have finalists send a delegation to the Royal Court announcement, but in this case, it was a very special day. Fellow member Ashley Hackett was chosen for the Court. It’s no surprise that a girl from Muir has what it takes to serve on the Court, but it is a surprise that the last Muir Princess, Heather Bell, was chosen in for the 2003 Royal Court
“It feels pretty good,” Ashley said when asked about that. The Muir applicants were coached by Jeané Ward of Alpha Kappa Alpha. JMHS has been a high school under various names since 1926, the second oldest in the Pasadena Unified School District. Kennedy Hackett, Princess Ashley’s sister and fellow pep squad member, is second from left in the photo. Asked if she would keep her sister humble, Kennedy said, “I’ll let her have (her pride) for the day.”
2019 Rose Parade Royal Court: L-R, Helen Rossi, Flintridge Prep; Rucha Kadam, La Cañada Flintridge HS; Lauren Baydaline, Westridge; Micaela McElrath, Westridge; Craig Washington, chair Queen & Court; Gerald Freeny, president Tournament of Roses; Sherry Ma, San Marino HS; Louise Siskel, Sequoyah HS; Ashley Hackett, John Muir HS. Photo copyright LB Monteros.
by Laura Berthold Monteros
Tournament of Roses President Gerald Freeny announced the seven young women who will serve of the 2019 Rose Parade Royal Court this morning. It was a proud moment for Freeny and for Craig Washington, chair of the Queen & Court Committee, whose daughter Drew was the 2012 Rose Queen. From the seven Rose Princesses, a Rose Queen will be chosen and announced on Oct. 23, 2018.
Upcoming: The Rose Examiner took a lot of photos and will post a gallery with information about each princess.