Having just recently wrapped its 130th year as one of America’s time-honored traditions, the 2019 Rose Parade, which took place on Jan. 1st in sunny Pasadena, California, proved to be a year of firsts. No one knows that better than the Rose Parade Queen, Sequoyah High School senior Louise Deser Siskel, who presided over the Royal Court as the parades’ first Jewish, openly-LGBTQ, glasses-wearing queen.
In an op-ed for the LA Times, Siskel says that she signed up for the Rose Parade court as a “lark,” mostly with the intent of scoring free tickets to the accompanying Royal Ball. She became increasingly surprised as she made it from one round of interviews to the next, her name finally being called from among 44 finalists to make up the 2019 court.
“I was surprised to receive an email inviting me to the next interview round. And the next, and the next,” Siskel writes. “Each successive interview was longer than the one before. We were asked a range of questions: Was there a time we had worked harder than necessary on a project? What would we change about the world?”
From being chosen to represent the best and brightest of Pasadena in October, the 7 members of the Royal Court embarked on a series of over 100 community engagement events that solidified them as ambassadors to the community, providing role models for others to look up to.
At these events, Siskel often advocated the importance of scientific literacy and spoke of her experience doing breast cancer research at the Charles. R. Drew University of Medicine while still in high school. Next fall, she has plans to study molecular biology at the University of Chicago.
All the “princesses” of the court, as they are described in somewhat antiquated language, have just as impressive resumes, all heavily involved in their communities and off to some of the nation’s top universities come next fall. What sets Siskel apart from the rest is her willingness to talk about the firsts she brings to the Royal Court.
She’s the first Jewish Rose Parade Queen, as well as the first glasses-wearing queen. She is also the first openly-LGBTQ queen, a distinction she stresses.
“While I am almost certainly not the first member of the LGBTQ community on the court, I hope that by saying so publicly, I might encourage others to be proud of who they are,” she says.
In its long history, the parade has slowly taken steps towards becoming more diverse, naming the first African-American Rose Queen in 1985, and the Tournament of Roses having its first female president in 2006. “With each passing year, the Rose Parade and Royal Court look a bit more diverse, a bit more like America,” Siskel notes.
While she acknowledges that the outfits and etiquette do feel somewhat antiquated,
“I think it can be easy to get discouraged when people don’t share the same passion for your values or for the things that you care about, but I hope that people continue to fight for the things that are important to them, regardless of the support they see from others,” she told Pasadena Star News.
Though Siskel writes that she never thought her sexual orientation to be of much interest to anyone, she felt the need to represent herself authentically on the Royal Court, “especially to those who look to the Royal Court as a representation of our community,” she said.
“I hope you see yourself in the Rose Parade too,” she writes.
Featured image via Mercury News.
Also published on Medium.