At first, it didn’t sink in that Tournament of Roses President Gerald Freeny had just announced her name as the 101st Rose Queen during the yearly coronation held at the Pasadena Playhouse in late October.
“I thought they announced someone else’s name,” Louise Deser Siskel explained on KTLA Channel 5 the morning after the ceremony.
Given what she’s already accomplished in her young life, it would be understandable if Siskel had things on her mind other than who among candidates for Rose Queen would be chosen to wear the dazzling Mikimota crown of pearls and diamonds in leading the 130th Rose Parade on New Year’s Day.
With plans to study cellular and molecular biology in college, Siskel is already doing breast cancer research under the supervision of Dr. Shehla Pervin of the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. She is also participating in a project with NASA on the effects of over-the-counter medication on astronauts.
“I was clapping for one of my friends out there and didn’t realize that it was actually me,” the San Marino teen told the TV interviewers. “You can see my shock when I finally did realize that it was me.”
Filling out this year’s Royal Court are six other young women, each with their own ambitions and plans for the future. What they all seem have in common is a desire to mentor others and represent their communities.
“I was so excited when I heard my number, and heard my name, and I heard my school, because I knew as I was walking up those steps that I was going to get to represent my community, my school, and my family — and all the people who truly made me who I am today,” said Princess Micaela Sue McElrath, a senior at the Westridge School.
“I was not all expecting to be called, so when I was — I was just so happy. It’s such an honor to be on the court. I’m really, really super excited,” said Princess Rucha S. Kadam, a senior at La Cañada High School.
Other Royal Court members are Ashley Symone Hackett, a senior at John Muir High School in Pasadena; Sherry Xiaorui Ma, also a senior at San Marino High School; Lauren Michele Baydaline, also a senior at Westridge School; and Helen Susan Rossi, a senior at Flintridge Preparatory School.
The crowning of a Rose Queen is a tradition that dates back to 1905, when Hallie Woods was crowned the first Rose Queen. There were a number of years in which a Rose Queen was not chosen. They were 1912, 1915-1922, 1924, 1927 and 1929.
In the modern era, a pool of about 1,000 applicants is made up of students from 24 schools in and around the Pasadena area. Young women between 17 and 21 years of age with a minimum 2.0 grade point average are eligible, according to Tournament rules. Tournament guidelines state that Royal Court applicants are chosen based on many factors, including youth leadership, community and school involvement, public speaking ability, academic achievement, and overall poise and presence. The rigorous schedule of every Rose Queen and her Court includes over 100 media and community obligations, so self-assurance and grace are vital components to proper comportment. They learn composure and key principles to effective communication with a variety of people, under a variety of circumstances. These are important skills needed for the challenges of careers and adult life.
“I’m looking forward to all the opportunities to mentor young children in the Pasadena area and to show them that they can pursue their passions, regardless of obstacles,” Siskel said.
This year’s Tournament theme is “The Melody of Life” and Siskel feels that’s a phrase and a feeling that aptly reflect her personal views.
“Music makes the world a more forgiving and more joyful place. Music is such a universal thread. It’s something that really touches everybody’s life and has such an impact on people,” she said.
“It’s amazing to take part in the tradition of highly accomplished, really incredibly smart and poised young women that have come before me. I feel honored to be chosen as the 101st Rose Queen.”