As the Rose Court finalists waited on October 1, 2018 for the seven members of the 2019 Rose Court to be announced, Rucha Kadam (12) told herself not to get her hopes up.
“I was trying not to think about it and keep any expectations out of my mind because I didn’t want to be disappointed,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting to get on the court.”
When she was announced as the sixth member, she was pretty surprised.
“My jaw completely dropped,” she recalled. “It was crazy.”
The Royal Court is the group of seven high school girls from 24 Pasadena area schools who ride in the annual Rose Parade on the first day of the year. However, the young women do a lot more than wear tiaras and wave. From the time that they are chosen until January, they attend about 120 events, during which they act as ambassadors for the Tournament of Roses.
“It’s a lot of public speaking,” Rucha said. “I appreciate it because it gives me the opportunity to have or reach a greater audience of people which, being a seventeen-year-old girl, normally you wouldn’t really be able to do.”
These speeches and Q&A sessions sometimes discuss current events, such as the recent midterm elections, but they also give the princesses the chance to talk about things that they personally feel passionate about.
“Personally, I try to focus on supporting women in STEM or computer science,” said Rucha. “That’s something I faced a lot of problems in growing up, and something I feel everyone should know and support.”
But the events don’t only consist of speeches. The Rose Court princesses get to do fun things like going trick-or-treating with children in the pediatric unit at Huntington Hospital and going to Disneyland with the football players of the Rose Bowl game, another tradition that takes place on January 1st.
“Basically, my entire life is Rose Court events until January!” Rucha laughed.
Naturally, this makes keeping up with school work something of a chore, but Rucha says that the school and her teachers have been incredibly supportive.
“It just is tons of communication, and in car rides and underneath the table or in break rooms we all have our textbooks out and our phones out, trying to get as much studying done as possible,” she said.
Of course, because they’re spending so much time in the public eye, the girls have to make sure they represent the Tournament of Roses well. They must appear mature and professional, as well as always dress exactly the same. Their wardrobes are provided by Macy’s so they’re always matching.
“It’s down to the t,” Rucha explained. “If I’m hot and I remove my jacket, those six other girls have to remove their jackets. If I forget my name tag, name tags are gone for everyone.”
They also went through three weeks of training in subjects such as etiquette, speech, and interacting with the media before being revealed to the public. It included obvious lessons such the intricacies of public speaking, as well as the not so obvious, like the proper way to sit in an interview vs the proper way to sit in a TV interview (yes, there is a difference). And of course, they had to learn how to do the wave.
“It’s called ‘waxing the Honda’ because our official sponsor is Honda,” Rucha said as she demonstrated. “You hold out your arm at a ninety degree angle, your forearm stays still, and move this part of your arm and your wrist. You want to move slowly in order to conserve your energy.”
Conserving energy the day of the Rose Parade is important since it is such a long day. Rucha and her fellow court members have to arrive there at 2 AM in order to get through hair and makeup and dress fittings before getting strapped into the float for the five hour ride.
“Basically, you don’t sleep,” she said. “We’ll all be wearing fuzzy socks and sweatpants under our dresses because it will be incredibly cold.”
As well as gorgeous gowns provided by Tadashi Shoji, each princess wears a tiara provided and sponsored by Mikimoto, costing $80,000. This is only marginally cheaper than the Rose Queen’s crown, which costs $100,000.
“The security we actually have on the float isn’t for us, it’s for the crowns!” Rucha laughed. “There’s a running joke that if bad anything happens, they will grab the crown off our head and push us into the side!”
So far, Rucha says that the hardest part of being on the court is learning how to depend on others.
“For all of us to get into this position, there’s a certain type of drive and independence that you need to have,” she said. “Something that’s really hard about this is that you need to lean on other people, and so you have to let go of some of that independence.”
A common misconception that Rucha runs into often about the Rose Court is that it’s a beauty pageant, and that its members are chosen based mostly on their looks. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. As she explains, the girls on the court are chosen based on scholastic and community achievements and public speaking ability.
“It has never been a beauty pageant,” she said. “We are here because we represent Pasadena and because it gives us the opportunity to speak about things that we are passionate about and want to do.”