Francesca Christensen, the recently crowned 2019 Miss La Cañada Flintridge, relishes the chance to be a role model to local youth.
“All my life I’ve really liked to give advice to others and be of service,” said Christensen in a recent interview at her home. “I wouldn’t say it’s pressure, but it definitely is responsibility. I do campus ministry at my school where we lead retreats for the underclassmen at our school so I’ve always really liked reaching out to younger generations and getting to act as a role model.”
Christensen, who was crowned on Jan. 17 at the La Cañada Flintridge Country Club, currently attends Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy. Her fellow Royal Court members are Kat Hightower (Campbell Hall School in Studio City), Audrey Raulli (La Cañada High School), Sarah Peck (FSHA) and Sophie Lin (Flintridge Prep).
Katherine Markgraf, the Royal Court adviser, described Christensen as having a quiet confidence that people can mistake for being shy.
“She’s outgoing,” Markgraf said. “She’s part of the choir at her school and has been involved in lots and lots of activities but she has this quiet way about her that evokes a sense of maturity that is beyond her years.”
Selecting Miss LCF this year was a hard task, Markgraf said, because of the competition.
“In addition to Francesca, we met many wonderful ladies. We have five we’re very confident about. It was not an easy decision by any means. [Christensen’s] demeanor was consistent, she seems to be very interested in what goes on in the city, she’s well-spoken but again so are the other girls, so we had a difficult discussion.”
Twenty six girls tried out for the honor and the list was whittled down to 13 finalists before five were selected for the Royal Court, Markgraf explained.
“This is a little more than last year which is a little more than the year before,” Markgraf said. “The numbers are trending up, which I like. I think people should try out for sports, try out for drama, and this is one more thing to try out for.”
Markgraf, who is in her third year as the court adviser, said it is rare that four different high schools were represented on the Royal Court. She said the last time that happened might have been decades ago.
“This is exciting,” Markgraf said. “To me, this is something I feel very passionate about. It doesn’t matter the high school you go to. We’re highlighting these young women that have so much going on around them. I hope this trend continues.”
Christensen said growing up in LCF she would see the princess and the Royal Court at events and became interested. She learned her junior year that applications were open and FSHA’s Julia Powers, who was on the Royal Court last year, was advocating for people to apply.
“I remember when I was little I went to a princess party that someone threw and the La Cañada Court was there so I just always remember looking up to the girls who got to be on the court,” Christensen said.
“I knew the whole time that was something I wanted to do so I got an application,” Christensen added, “but overall, I just wanted to represent my community because both my grandparents, both sets, live in La Cañada and both my parents grew up in La Cañada so we have deep roots here. I just wanted to be able to show my love for the city.”
Francesca’s mother, Heidi Hamilton, said in a phone interview she didn’t know her daughter had applied until the application was submitted.
“I was really happy she was willing to put herself out there and apply in the first place,” Hamilton said. “It takes a lot of confidence to put yourself out there and go for it.”
Hamilton, who drove her daughter to the Royal Court interviews, said she was thrilled her daughter had achieved the crown.
“It was definitely not expected,” Hamilton said. “We didn’t even think she would be part of the court initially, just because of the pool of girls. They’re all accomplished girls.”
Hamilton described her daughter as independently minded — “She knows what she likes,” she said — but an active member of the community.
Christensen’s family nickname is Franny, Hamilton said.
“We named her after the J.D. Salinger book ‘Franny and Zooey,’” Hamilton said. “We named her Francesca because we wanted her to have a pretty name in addition to her nickname.”
Hazel Valentine, Miss LCF 2018, said in a phone interview she was rooting for Christensen to win because she deserved it. Christensen’s grandmother is best friends with Valentine’s mother but they didn’t have a relationship, Valentine said.
“I knew of her,” Valentine said. “I had seen her at a couple of family things. We were never really close.”
Nonetheless, Valentine said she was cheering for Christensen when she won the crown. In her time as Miss LCF 2018, Valentine said she and the other girls on the court learned about community involvement.
“She embodies what Miss LCF will be,” Valentine said.
“It’s a bridge between the youth and the city,” added Valentine, who added the court runs on Markgraf’s advice and leadership. “We were starting to get involved in ribbon cuttings and City Hall meetings and become more of a part of the community. That’s our main goal.”
Christensen said she has received a lot of congratulations since her victory. Besides her parents, her grandparents on both sides were excited because of the local connection.
“Both my parents grew up here and they went to [Paradise Canyon Elementary School] right here,” Christensen said. “And my grandparents live less than 2 minutes away. It’s funny because both sets of my grandparents live on the same street.”
Ultimately, Franny wants to major in nursing, as a neonatal nurse practitioner, at Villanova University or Boston College. The reason she wants to move to the east coast for college is in part because she has lived in the area nearly her whole life.
“Just a new experience, experience a new state, exploring a new city,” Christensen said. “You can be anywhere in the country for four years and move back if you’d like.”
She’s also leaning toward Catholic schools because she currently goes to one and enjoys the experience.
“I just really like the Catholic values of forgiveness and love,” Christensen said. “Really it’s been my school that’s kind of influenced me in that sense, speaking the truth and leading lives of integrity. I’m not sure necessarily how it’s influenced me as Miss LCF but I definitely think it does influence me as a person because I do value those things.”