Alas, there can be only one Rose Queen.
The Tournament of Roses last week crowned Altadena resident and La Salle High School senior Isabella Marez as the 100th Rose Queen for 2018, marking a century of city pride and tradition at the packed Pasadena Playhouse theater.
Marez and six other accomplished young women — the princesses of the 2018 Royal Court — took center stage on Oct. 18 at the Tournament of Roses coronation announcement ceremony for the decision that followed a month-long selection process involving about 1,000 interviewees.
The crowd whipped up its enthusiasm with the help of the host, radio personality Ellen K of KOST 103.5 FM.
Marez was crowned with a Mikimoto tiara featuring more than 600 cultured pearls and six carats of diamonds to the thunderous applause of the playhouse.
Glowing and teary-eyed, Marez noted it was heavier than she expected, but the 18-year-old looked far from the “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” epitaph of other royals as she beamed from ear to ear.
“I feel totally in shock still — if it weren’t for Princess Alex and Princess Lauren next to me, I would have totally fallen down, but they held me up and told me ‘just breathe,’ so they really got me through it,” Marez said shortly after the ceremony, her voice quivering. “I’m honored to be up there with so many other beautiful and inspiring women that I’m so excited to get to know each and every one.”
As part of the 100th queen coronation ceremony, 18 former queens took the stage, including the longest living queen crowned in 1940, Margaret Huntley Main.
“I vowed to be the very best queen I possibly could … every one of us took that same vow. And tonight proves it — a rose queen is forever,” Huntley Main said, giving a nod to her book of the same name, quipping: “They said I could use that,” to sound laughter from the audience.
Standing center stage amidst camera lights and fragrant rose bouquets, Marez said that being on the court for just the past few weeks has already given her a taste of the sisterhood power for which the court is known.
“Now as the 100th queen — wow — I can really actually see the whole picture,” she said. “They have your back, they encourage you and support you and most importantly, it’s really your court that makes you a good queen and I can’t wait to be a part of that.”
Confident and poised, Marez said she doesn’t take the crown lightly, and plans to use the platform to advance women’s rights.
“I really hope to bring more awareness to women’s rights, especially for young women who are discriminated for who they are, who they want to be,” she said. “For everybody on this court, our main idea is we really want to be a voice for those who don’t have one.”
Marez’s mom, dad and stepmom, beaming with pride, waited in the wings of the stage for their daughter.
“I feel incredibly proud of my daughter and in awe of her. We all had a sense of who Isabella was, and that she would make an amazing queen, but I think we were all stunned,” said her mom, Christine Marez.
She noted that her daughter’s mission of social justice and advancing women’s rights was partly born during the women’s march in Los Angeles earlier this year.
“She participated in the women’s march and she really found her voice,” Christine Marez noted. “The theme of this year’s parade — ‘Making a Difference’ — really spoke to her. It drove her forward and she felt like she could start now in making some changes in the world.”
Marez’s father, Jesse, who accompanied his daughter up on stage, was choking back emotion.
“You think about the legacy you want to leave for your kids, but she’s leaving the legacy for us and for her family,” he said.
Also nearby was a large contingent of family and friends, arms filled with flowers, of course.
“I’m ecstatic, crying, bawling … I’m not really surprised because she’s amazing — no one deserves this as much as she does,” said close friend Danielle Garcia.
Marez’s boyfriend, Tommy Samples, also heaped praise on the newly minted queen.
“We expected this from her because she’s such an amazing person,” said Samples, who graduated from La Salle High School last year. “She wasn’t that nervous really — I think she was also a little confident, knowing that it’s just such a privilege to be on the court.”
Marez and the court will attend numerous community and media functions throughout the year, serving as ambassadors of the Tournament of Roses and the Pasadena community at large. The grand finale will be their appearance on the Royal Court float in the 129th Rose Parade and attending the College Football Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game, both on Monday, Jan. 1.
The Rose Queen and Royal Court were selected based on criteria including public speaking ability, poise, academic achievement, youth leadership and community and school involvement.
Since being nominated, the Royal Court already has committed to make a difference by supporting Elizabeth House, a nonprofit that provides shelter, hope and support to homeless, pregnant women and their children.
“We all have the ability, power and responsibility to help one another. I encourage us all to practice kindness and make a difference,” Tournament of Roses President Lance Tibbet said.
Marez lives in Altadena. She is a leadership service commissioner at LSHS and a youth ministry leader. She’s a member of Support Our Troops Club, Key Club, Unbreakable Club, Hispanic National Honors Society and National Arts Society. She also serves as a Junior Ambassador for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. She plays varsity softball, varsity golf and a travel/club softball team, as well as enjoys painting, singing, golfing and hiking. She plans on studying social justice and human anatomy, and has a long list of possible colleges, many of them out of state, with Seattle University at the top of the list.