Having watched the Rose Parade pass near her home all her life, Drew Washington always dreamed of being part of such an important event. Little did she know as a girl that, by the age of 16, she would be selected as not only the youngest member of the 2012 Royal Court, but Rose Queen.
Washington’s journey to the center of the Tournament of Roses world — a trip that required ambition, intelligence and leadership — has produced an “exciting and electric feeling,” the now 17-year-old Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy senior said during a recent interview.
Washington is currently preparing to apply to some 18 colleges after tackling an impressive array of activities at her high school. Besides being the captain of her varsity volleyball and track and field teams, she’s a member of the Multicultural Club, the Latin Club, the National Honors Society, the California Scholarship Federation, the Student Ambassador Club and Students Against Destructive Decisions, to name a few. Through her participation in these and other programs, Washington says she has learned how to work as a member of a team.
“I’ve learned that it’s OK to step up and lead, but that it’s also OK to follow,” the poised and polished youngster told the Weekly during a talk in the President’s Room of Tournament House, headquarters of the Tournament of Roses Association. “I think what makes a captain of a team or a leader of a group is someone who can show both of those aspects: someone who’s able to lead and to follow. When I came together with these seven girls, I realized that we had to work together, because being on the Royal Court for three months can’t work if you’re falling apart. That’s really been my core concept — making sure we stay together and that nothing comes between us.”
Once in college, Washington is hoping to major in communications, with an emphasis on marketing and public relations. When she gets older, she wants to make movie trailers. While her experience throughout the Royal Court process has enhanced her public speaking skills, Washington’s interest in marketing developed when she was a little girl. Her father, Craig Washington, who has been a Tournament member for 12 years, would take her to see two or three movies a week. She always wanted to get to the theater early to see the previews, which were her favorite part.
“I’ve always been interested in how someone can put together an intricate montage of different pieces of a movie combined with loud music and big dramatic scenes that entice viewers to want to see a movie without giving away the end and without giving away too much of what the movie’s about, but still telling them what the plot is generally about,” she said. “That’s really what sparked my interest. And being on the Tournament of Roses, I’ve also learned a lot about the media, working with people and presenting yourself in public, and that’s also further driven my interest into doing what I want to do.”
The queen’s family has lived in Pasadena since 1955, and some family members have lived in Los Angeles since 1883. So Washington’s sense of community was instilled in her at a very young age. She is the second African-American Rose Queen in the history of the parade, the first being Kristina Smith in 1985 — 10 years before Washington was born. The importance of this fact is not lost on the young queen.
“I think it’s a big step and it’s also a smaller step,” Washington said in response to a comment by Pasadena NAACP President Joe Brown, who called the selection of an African American as Rose Queen a strong message. “The Royal Court has always been very diverse, and they’ve always picked girls who represent each type of background and each member of the community. We’re ambassadors of the city of Pasadena, and we want to communicate that to each and every individual in the community. So I feel as though it’s not necessarily a huge step, but it is definitely a statement, and it’s what has really impacted me the most, because I’ve realized I’m not only an ambassador for the Tournament of Roses and the Pasadena community, but also the African-American community as well. I am completely honored to be picked to represent the community in that way.”