The 2018 Tournament of Roses Royal Court at Allendale Branch Library: Princesses Lauren Buehner, Alexandra Artura, Queen Isabella Marez, Princesses Julianne Lauenstein, Sydney Pickering, Savannah Bradley.
by Laura Berthold Monteros
What is it like to be on the Tournament of Roses Royal Court? Last Wednesday at Allendale Branch Library in Pasadena, people had the opportunity to find out more about how Rose Queen Isabella Marez and the Rose Princesses view their experiences since the Court was named in October, 2017. Cake and Conversation with the Royal Court has become an annual event at Allendale, and both girls and boys (and a sprinkling of men and women) were there to meet the seven young ladies who represent the TOR and City of Pasadena.
Librarian Veronica Fuentes Bernal acted as emcee, opening with a set of questions before turning it over to the audience. The responses of the young women manifested maturity, self-awareness, a deep interest in other people, and an understanding of their place in the community as ambassadors. This insight was reflected in the responses to a young girl in the front row, who asked what it is like to be on the Royal Court.
Princess Alexandra Artura replied, “It’s more of a job than you think it is, but it’s one I really enjoy.” She noted that the Royal Court represents the city, their schools, and their families.
“People don’t realize you’re not a princess yourself,” Princess Lauren Buehner said. “People want to see you for what you represent.”
Queen Isabella noted the sisterhood that the seven young women had formed, the changes they had made in the community, and making a difference in the world.
Later, Princess Julianne Lauenstein said, “The best moment was when we turned the corner from Orange Grove to Colorado and could see all the people lined up. That must indeed be an overwhelming moment; many queens and princesses throughout the years have mentioned it.
Meeting people, from the many retirement homes they visited to talking to hospitalized children, was stated several times. Princess Savannah Bradley said she was inspired by the people she met, and disappointed that she had to stand in the hall at one of the hospitals because she had a cold. (Library assistant Terry Cannon asked about that; it turns out that with their busy schedules and fall maladies, all the girls got sick at one point or another.)
They mentioned celebrities like Grand Marshal Gary Sinise and the oldest living Rose Queen, Margaret Huntley Main. Queen Isabella recalled the interesting stories recounted by the residents of Monte Vista Grove Homes, a retirement community for Presbyterian church workers. The most meaningful people, however, were their fellow Court members.
One thing that all Royal Courts say is that the members have become sisters. Whether or not this is true in all cases, it is certainly true in some. “Every Court is different,” Isabella said, mentioning one that recently had a 20-year reunion. “Every experience is unique.”
Alexandra noted that members of the Court frequently get pulled out of school and away from their friends, so developing friendships on the Court is important. “I’m glad I’ve gotten to build such friendships,” she said. Savannah added that at school, you pick friends for what you have in common. On the Court, the girls are “thrown together” and find their connections. “It’s a sisterhood that will last for years.”
The young women first met each other during the four rounds of interviews prior to the Royal Court announcement. Though Lauren and Princess Sydney Pickering both attend Arcadia High School, with a student body of 3,500, the two girls had not spoken to each other prior to tryouts. Isabella mentioned that she and Julianne were numbers 469 and 470 (the participants are only known by number through the first rounds).
“She was the first girl I met,” Isabella said, but they only exchanged their high schools. “We were pretty nervous,” Julianne said. By the end, said Sydney, she and Princess Georgia Cervenka, who was in a basketball game for La Cañada High School that afternoon, were next to each other as numbers 682 and 672. “Others between us were gone. Even if we weren’t on Court, I think we’d still be friends.”
One of the more interesting questions the audience put to the Royal Court was “Is there a vice in yourself you would like to change?” The young women thought for a beat, and Lauren responded, “I am a bad driver. I’d like to improve.” Pretty normal for a teenager! Isabella’s answer was self-reflective. “I’d like to get closer to my spiritual self,” she said. “I grew up a Catholic.”
Overall, it was surprising to hear that for several of them, self-confidence and time management were issues, given that one thing the Queen and Court judges look for is self-confidence, and one skill they need, with school, extracurriculars, college applications, and scores of appearances, is the ability to manage a busy schedule.
The outlook and future plans of the individuals are strikingly similar. They all enjoyed the many people they met along the way, especially their new “sisters” on the Court. Most are looking for careers that serve people after college. Savannah wants to work with the disadvantaged, Julianne and Alexandra are looking towards physical therapy, Isabella wants to work in other countries as a physician’s assistant, and Lauren aspires to become a human rights attorney. Sydney hopes to study international relations and Georgia wants to go into engineering.
Keeping the Court on schedule
Bob French, the Queen and Court Committee scheduler, filled us in on the logistics of ferrying seven young ladies to 120-plus events. He keeps two calendars, one online and one in Excel, for events from the first in October to the last in March or April. Copies go to the Court, the committee, and the girls’ schools. In addition, the Queen has a few solo appearances at festivals in San Antonio, Macon, and Minneapolis.
“We don’t want them out of school every day,” he said.
The Q&C has to make sure the Royal Court gets where it’s going on time and properly dressed. Their mix-and-match wardrobes, chosen by the wives of the president and committee chair and the women on the committee, are provided by Macy’s. There are about 20 different combinations, and the girls are instructed which combination to wear to which events. They get to keep all their clothes when their term is done.
Over cake, Queen Isabella and The Rose Examiner had a short conversation. She has taken to heart the advice of Margaret Huntley Main: “Enjoy the moment. Be a sponge.”
“The Queen is like a team captain,” Isabella said. She leads the court and does more interviews and public speaking, but “otherwise we are all equal.” Like the other girls, she expressed that she had to mature a lot, and learn to present herself while still being herself. “I’ve gotten polished,” she said.
Isabella tried out for the Court because she, like Princess Savannah, was a student ambassador for the Tournament of Roses. She was also drawn to the theme “Making a Difference.” She said she approached each round with an open mind, and said when her name was called to be Queen, “I didn’t have a thought. I was so present and in the moment…. My mom says, ‘be in the moment.’
“On stage, I had nothing in my mind. [The president] called my name and everything went blank. Downstairs, I saw my parents and I just bawled.
“It was a magical night.”
When we interviewed Isabella at the announcement of the Royal Court, she mentioned being used to a softball uniform, so we asked if the fitted gown was uncomfortable. It is “very spacious,” she replied, adding that she wore sweats under it at the parade. “I wear a uniform for softball…. The dress is another uniform for my life.”
Isabella hopes to keep up with softball when she goes to college. She has applied to Drexel, Manhattan College, Sarah Lawrence, and U Penn. Her ultimate goal? “I want to become president of the Tournament of Roses,” she said, “after I travel the world.”