In one of Pasadena’s favorite time-honored traditions, the Tournament of Roses on Tuesday announced its 101st Rose Queen for 2019, San Marino resident Louise Siskel, to the delight of a packed Pasadena Playhouse.
Siskel, a senior at Sequoyah High School, stood momentarily dazed when 2019 Tournament of Roses President Gerald Freeny called out her school and named her queen, only reacting when the six other rose princesses turned to her, applauding.
“When they announced my school’s name I decided it was another school, I couldn’t believe it would be me,” said Siskel, basking afterwards on stage in her white rose-queen dress. “It was a whirlwind — I started clapping for one of these other wonderful young women, I was so excited for them and that they would represent us this year, but I didn’t realize until they got to my last name that it was actually me.”
But Siskel slowly recovered from the surprise, elegantly taking center stage to where Freeny presented her with a Mikimoto crown featuring more than 600 cultured pearls and six carats of diamonds.
The evening was a lively program, with co-anchor of KTLA 5 Morning News Chris Schauble hosting the event and interviewing each princess on stage, interjecting with humor and an update on the Dodger game. Three solo musical performances drew rapturous applause, giving a nod to the Tournament of Rose’s parade theme of “The Melody of Life.”
Waiting in the wings of the stage, Siskel’s parents, Charlie Siskel and Abigail Deser, said they were proud of their daughter, albeit a little surprised.
“I completely did not expect it, but Louise is very tenacious when she finds something she’s interested in — she goes further and deeper than anybody I know,” Deser said.
Her father nodded, noting that his daughter’s experience in public speaking and on the debate team helped her do well during the interview process.
“Louise loves a challenge and loves to talk about things she cares about, so she loved doing the series of interviews. When they asked her ‘What do you care about?’ She loved answering that. It’s wonderful that the people involved in the Tournament of Roses saw in Louise someone that could speak to young girls … we’re so proud of her.”
Siskel also noted the 2019 Rose Court gives her the platform she has hoped for. Her science-minded focus has included university-level breast cancer research and an internship with NASA on her resume, and she’d also like to show other girls there is a path for them to seek a career in science, technology, engineering or math.
At Sequoyah, Siskel is a member of the debate team and the school’s judicial committee. Outside of school, she is involved with the YMCA Youth and Government program and does her cancer research under the tutelage of Shehla Pervin at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles. Siskel plans to study cellular and molecular biology and aims to do so at Johns Hopkins University, the University of Chicago or Yale University. In her spare time, she said, she likes to read, play board games with her family, travel and spend time with her friends.
“I’m really excited; I’m really honored to have this opportunity. I look forward to the upcoming few months representing the Tournament, the City of Pasadena and of course, these wonderful other young ladies on this court. I could not be more honored than to serve with them this year,” Siskel said.
Siskel and the six Rose Court princesses will attend about 100 community functions that highlight the traits that got them on the court in the first place — public speaking, academics, leadership and community involvement. The grand finale for the 2019 Royal Court will be riding on a float in the 130th Rose Parade and attending the 105th Rose Bowl Game, both on Tuesday, Jan. 1.