Applying to join the Miss La Cañada Flintridge Court got Hazel Valentine thinking about her hometown and what might constitute a perfect day here.
It would begin, the newly crowned Miss LCF said, with a visit to the Golden Donut Palace “because it’s my family’s favorite.” Then there’d be a hike, maybe at Descanso Gardens. A dog-lover, she’d stop by Button Nose Pet Shop before going for dinner either at Los Gringos Locos or Ichiban.
For the next year, Valentine will pack in visits to many more local businesses as she leads a court of five impressive young women who were selected to represent LCF at various community events and activities, including Chamber mixers, ribbon-cuttings and Fiesta Days.
Valentine joins Rucha Kadam, Julia Powers, Megan Andrews and Courtney Johnson on the Miss LCF Court. The young women were selected, in part, for their personalities, their poise, their communication ability and how well they fared during an interview.
Sarah Ann Settles, last year’s Miss LCF, was there when Valentine arrived for her interview, a potentially nerve-racking affair for most girls. But Settles sensed immediately how comfortable Valentine was with the process.
“I liked her confidence and how she was interacting with me,” said Settles, who had a remarkable 100% attendance record at all 32 or 34 events (depending on whom you ask) on the calendar during her reign as Miss LCF in 2017.
“Hazel was really sweet and kind, but she also carried herself very well. I remember walking away after meeting Hazel thinking, ‘I hope she’s on the court, she’d be great at this,’” Settles said.
Valentine’s sense of ease with the events might have had to do with her preparation: Her parents, John and Teri Valentine, spent a few hours running potential interview questions by her and she wasn’t shy about asking past princesses she knew for advice.
Moreover, Hazel has always had a knack for communicating with adults. When she was 5, she was a regular at the Toluca Lake Tennis Club, where her parents ran a restaurant. That meant she spent a lot of time with an older crowd — so much that her best friend back then was an 85-year-old woman named Margo.
“That’s true,” John Valentine said. “Margo was one of the oldest at the club, and she and Hazel just clicked. They were both about 4 ½ feet tall, and they just connected. They’d have a love-fest screaming across the room at each other.”
Experiences with the La Cañada High School Speech and Debate Club and with the YMCA’s Youth and Government program also helped prepare her for her new role as an ambassador for the city she’s lived in her whole life.
“We’re a bridge between the business community and the youth of the community,” Hazel said. “And I think that’s a really important thing because our town is so small and we have all these small businesses and our Chamber of Commerce is really important to us.”
“The whole idea is to have youth in La Cañada Flintridge reach out to the business community and the residents,” said Katherine Markgraf, one of the coordinators of the Miss LCF program, which also offers the members of the court an opportunity to raise scholarship funds through raffle drawings at mixers.
“Their generation gets a reputation, whether it’s earned or not, for always being on their phones and being unable to communicate. But I will say, from what we saw from last year’s court and this year’s court so far, they’ve been present, they’re not stuck on their phones, they’re talking to each other and to the business owners; it’s wonderful to see they don’t embrace the stereotype.”
The five members of the court, all currently juniors, attend three high schools, but they all knew each other before they embarked on the process of becoming local royalty. Their selections were based not only on their community service records, but also on academic achievements.
Powers attends Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, but she and Hazel became friends as members of the same swimming club for several years. Hazel said she knows Kadam from LCHS, where she’s involved in ASB and soccer and “she’s known as everything’s perfect about her.” Andrews, Hazel said, is “super-creative,” into sewing, Disney, and she has an important role in the school’s upcoming musical “Les Miserables.” Johnson attends Flintridge Prep now, but Hazel remembers her well from middle school, when she attended LCHS 7/8.
“That’s just how La Cañada is,” Hazel said. “They’re very few kids who live here whom I’ve never seen or talked to before.”
Hazel’s community involvement also includes long, ongoing tenures with the Girl Scouts and at Tom Sawyer Camps. She’s also a busy babysitter who recently took over after-school nannying duties for a 10-year-old girl in Pasadena.
And now, add Miss La Cañada Flintridge to the docket.
“I would say that the court this year is really, really going to work well together,” Hazel said. “We’re really excited and we’re really encouraging each other and we all have the same goal: To make this a really good year and make a really big impact.”