First published in the Oct. 28 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
In a coup for La Cañada Flintridge, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses this week crowned Nadia Chung as the 103rd Rose Queen, leaving the local resident astonished and grateful.
In fact, LCF is flush with members of the 2022 Royal Court, being represented not only by La Cañada High School senior Chung but also by LCHS classmate Jaeda Walden, who is serving as a princess. Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy senior McKenzie Street, who lives in Pasadena, has also been named to the royal court.
Chung is only the sixth queen from LCHS in the Tournament’s more than century-old tradition and the first Spartan named to the role since 2011.
Cradling her bouquet of fragrant roses and bearing the weight of the Mikimoto pearl-adorned crown, Chung beamed as she described her disbelief at being chosen from among so many deserving young women.
“It’s fully surreal because I was the last person I would have expected for this,” said Chung, joking that she forgot to step forward when her name was called as the seven candidates were instructed to do. “I was shocked when I got announced. … I know that I went blank for a moment, I didn’t really process that it was me. … I’m sure my parents will make me watch the video later.
“I feel so, so grateful and lucky to be surrounded by the most inspiring girls ever, to have all the support I have felt from my school, my friends, all of La Cañada and Pasadena. I feel so tremendously grateful for this honor — it is definitely something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.”
The coronation ceremony was held Tuesday on the iconic Tournament house’s expansive lawn with a smaller crowd than in previous years, a nod to ongoing precautions against the spread of COVID-19. The Tournament’s court announcement was canceled last year, along with the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game, due to the pandemic.
Hosted by Lynette Romero, anchor/reporter of the KTLA 5 Morning News, the announcement was made by 2022 Tournament President Bob Miller and follows a monthlong selection process, with students from 24 Pasadena-area schools participating in interviews. The Rose Queen and Royal Court were selected for their combination of qualities, including public speaking ability, academic achievement, youth leadership, and community and school involvement. As part of the ceremony, Romero held a roundtable interview before the coronation, and the group’s camaraderie shone through. The young women reflected on their time together so far, interjecting stories and sly observations about each other.
It was even revealed, to muffled laughter, that a number of them got a sneak peek at who was going to be called at the initial court-naming ceremony through a mishap in which the numbered envelopes could be seen from above.
Discussing their favorite moments during the whirlwind events leading up to the coronation, Walden incited another lighthearted moment when she recalled a group retreat to Solvang on a recent weekend.
“My favorite moment was probably during the Solvang trip, we got to know each other so much better and closer, just spending a lot of time together. … I really enjoyed going to the ostrich farm we went to and feeding the ostriches, and forcing [Princess Jeannine Briggs] to feed them even though she was terrified,” she said, the court and onlookers laughing at the inside joke. “But we did it!”
Ron and Lindsay Walden later reflected on how much the Tournament of Roses has influenced their daughter in the short time since she was named to the court.
“Everything changed, literally overnight. She got chosen and then she was picked up at 7 a.m. for their first event. From then on, it’s been full throttle, pedal to the metal,” Lindsay Walden said.
“After school she comes home for a little bit, then goes to leadership class, speech training, etiquette, media class,” she added. “It’s been really wonderful to see how she’s developed already and how seriously she has taken the process. I don’t think it mattered at all what happened on that stage tonight, they would have been genuinely happy for any one of them [to be queen]. The fact that strong friendships formed already shows they’ve all won, right from the get-go.”
Chung and Walden both elaborated on the support they’ve received from LCHS’ administration and teachers as well as their peers. Teachers have come in before school or stayed later, and friends have been eager to keep them informed about classwork the two may have missed. When the Tournament has picked them up in the telltale white van, friends will also give a shoutout, Walden added.
“We got picked up in the white van with the rose on the side and a couple of my friends saw me get in and shouted, ‘Oh my gosh! Go, princess!’ So it’s nice to have friends that support us,” she laughed.
Chung, meanwhile, was grappling with the sensation of wearing the queen’s crown, which features more than 600 pearls and six carats of diamonds, and has been said to live up to the weight and Shakespearean comment “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.”
“It’s bigger than I thought; my hairdo is also kind of compromising the position of it,” she laughed. “I don’t want to be the first queen that drops the crown, so I’m trying to stand up very straight!”
After waiting in the wings, parents Sanah Chung and Sonia Chang proudly recounted their joy for their daughter, not just for being named queen, but because of the tremendous effort she has put into the process.
“I’ve always been so proud of her in everything that she does,” said Chang. “She puts her whole heart and soul into anything that she believes in, and wants to accomplish and inspire others. She’s so active, and fully believes in using her abilities and her gift to uplift others and teach others. … Even this Rose Court experience, she really saw it as a platform where she can reach out to so many people.”
Chang recalled how Nadia approached the process for being named queen, noting that she never expected to receive the honor.
“She would say, ‘They’re all highly qualified’ and point out why each of them would make a wonderful queen. They’re such a dynamic, outstanding group of young ladies. They genuinely enjoy hanging out. Even when they’re not on royal duty, they chose to hang out together,” Chang said. “Nadia said, ‘Next year’s queen and court committee are going to have a hard time finding a group of girls who like each other as much as we do!’”
For the next few months, Chung and Walden will serve as ambassadors of the Tournament of Roses, the Pasadena community and the Greater Pasadena area. Court members experience numerous benefits: becoming part of an organization dedicated to hands-on volunteerism, discovering opportunities to connect with and give back to the local community, developing public speaking skills and growing self-confidence. The 2022 Royal Court and Queen will ride down Colorado Boulevard on the court’s float in the 133rd Rose Parade and attend the 108th Rose Bowl Game, both on Saturday, Jan. 1.