In what has become Pasadena’s own New World royal tradition, the 2020 Tournament of Roses recently crowned the 102nd Rose Queen, city native and La Salle College Preparatory senior Camille Kennedy, amid pomp and circumstance at the packed Pasadena Playhouse.
The coronation ceremony, steeped in local lore, also saw the formal presentation of the 2020 Rose Court, whose members in turn gave lots of hugs to their newly minted queen.
“The truth is I did not expect to be the one standing here tonight,” Kennedy said after she was crowned last week by 2020 Tournament of Roses President Laura Farber. “I have six other beautiful, smart and talented girls on this court with me, and truly, it could have been any one of us.”
The evening included a lively program hosted by Lynette Romero, anchor and reporter for “KTLA 5 Morning News,” and a tribute to Farber’s chosen theme for the 2020 Tournament, “The Power of Hope.”
Farber gave a unifying opening speech for “Hope,” citing her own family’s immigration from Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“My parents made the difficult decision to leave everyone and everything they knew to come to this country … because this country represented a beacon of hope. Hope for freedom of association, of speech, of religion and of economic and educational opportunities,” said Farber, the third woman TOR president and the first Latina. “From the struggles of those who came before us … to dreams yet to be fulfilled, hope is more than a possibility of fulfillment. Hope is joy, happiness, dignity and respect, aspiration and achievement. With hope you can aspire to be better and, in turn, inspire others to reach higher. And hope never, ever quits. With hope anything, in fact, everything, is possible.”
Farber presented the seven accomplished girls on the Rose Court as epitomizing the power of hope, and the crowd responded with echoing applause under the Playhouse’s Spanish Colonial Revival-style domed theater. As Queen Camille and the court returned backstage to dress and prepare for their formal presentation, the award-winning Mariachi Divas delighted the crowd with several energetic performances. The all-female mariachi band, based in Los Angeles, has become a staple in Southern California and represents the region’s diversity, with its band members hailing from countries including Argentina, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, the U.S., Egypt and Japan.
The oldest living Rose Queen, Margaret Huntley Main, who was crowned in 1940, stood to make a few comments and elicited laughter from the crowd as she kept hold of the microphone.
“You give me a microphone and you don’t know what’s going to happen,” she winked at the audience, but then signed off with words of wisdom: “Everybody is somebody, be they slow or clever. Everybody has something that lives forever.”
As the crowd and clamber of the evening dispersed, Queen Camille cradled her rose bouquet and giggled over the moment she was crowned with the striking Mikimoto creation featuring more than 600 cultured pearls and six carats of diamonds, worth a reported $400,000. The crown had initially tipped precariously to the side as Farber placed it on the Queen.
“Next time we do that, hopefully we’ll have a mirror that might make things a little easier. The crown is heavy, but I’m getting used to it — it was a little topsy-turvy those first few minutes!” Kennedy laughed. Then, on a more serious note, she spoke of her intention to serve Pasadena the remainder of the year.
“I’m so incredibly honored to be stepping up into this role, and I hope I can do my best to represent Pasadena as a community,” she said, adding that she and the Royal Court hope to leave a positive message for other young women in the community this year.
“All of my fellow court members and I believe in being advocates for being yourself and knowing oneself. And we hope that our service and representing our unique and diverse selves to the rest of the world, especially today’s younger generations who face so much, they can draw a little bit of help or inspiration from our example,” Kennedy noted, referring also to the pressures of social media on young women.
Like most chosen for the Royal Court over the years, Queen Camille has compiled a long list of accomplishments, including speaking Japanese. She studied in Japan for a year when she was a sophomore, and hopes to return to attend college there and pursue a liberal arts degree in Japanese linguistics, social sciences or culture and media studies. She is an active member of her school’s drama/musical theater program and has been in three productions. She is also an active member of the Support Our Troops club.
Waiting nearby in the wings of the auditorium, her parents, Tim and Jennifer Kennedy, along with her two younger sisters, Ava and Esmé, expressed their delight.
“It’s amazing, I’m super excited for her, but not really surprised. I kind of predicted it,” said Ava Kennedy, 15. “She’s my sister and I think the world of her, so … I thought she really deserves this.”
Her mother admitted that “Queen Camille” has a ring to it, and recalled another Queen Camille back in 2006. Jennifer Kennedy recounted that was one of the first times it rained at a parade in 51 years, and she had to take her youngster Camille home because she was so miserable. “So here we are again. … But that’s not a jinx!” she laughed, adding that her daughter’s can-do attitude has gotten her where she is, including convincing her family to let her study abroad for a year at just 15.
“The thing about Camille is, you just cannot say no; she is always so happy and motivated, you absolutely have to say yes.”
Tim Kennedy noted how much he admired all the girls on the court, especially how close they had grown in just a few weeks. They are expecting a chaotic next few months, he added.
“The number of events and appearances they are expected to attend in a very short window of time is mind-boggling,” he noted. “But Camille is up for this, and she has a great court supporting her. It’s really amazing how the girls have just fallen in love with each other so quickly. As Camille said, the queen is really just another part of the group — they all work together as a team, all seven, and that’s certainly the attitude with this court.”
La Salle Principal Courtney Kassakhian also waited to congratulate her student, the school’s second to win the crown in three years: 2018 Rose Queen Isabella Marez was also the TOR’s 100th.
Acknowledging how unusual it might be for two La Salle students to win the honor in such a short period, Kassakhian noted, “Well, that just tells you how special Camille is. She self-advocates and is a very smart, outspoken young woman who knows what she wants and is always willing to take the steps to make that a reality.”
The Rose Princesses readily linked arms, both on stage and afterward, excited and happy to celebrate as a group off stage.
Marshall Fundamental School’s Reese Rosental Saporito said she and Princess Mia Thorsen (fellow classmate) knew beforehand that Queen Camille would be the right choice for the role.
“Mia stopped me in the hall just the other day to ask me what I thought, and I definitely thought it would be Camille. She knows what she’s doing, she knows what she wants, and she’s so passionate about what she does,” she said. “She is so genuine and so kind and just gives off the energy that she ends up getting back from others. I’m very excited! It’s going to be a crazy journey, but we are going to have so much fun together.”
Together, Queen Camille and the Royal Court will attend about 100 community and media functions, serving as ambassadors of the Tournament of Roses, the Pasadena community and the Greater Los Angeles area. The grand finale will be their appearance on the Royal Court float in the 131st Rose Parade and attending the 106th Rose Bowl Game, both on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020.