Living Her Dream

Nadia Chung crowned 2022 Rose Queen

By Annika Tomlin

La Cañada High School senior Nadia Chung dreamed of becoming the Rose Queen. 

For the next year, she’ll lead the Royal Court as she was selected the 2022 Rose Queen.

Chung was crowned as the 103rd Rose Queen along with fellow seniors Jeannine Briggs (John Marshall Fundamental High School), Abigail Griffith (Pasadena High School), Jaeda Walden (La Cañada High School), Swetha Somasundaram (Arcadia High School), Ava Feldman (South Pasadena High School) and McKenzie Street (Flintridge Sacred Heart) rounding out the court.

“It was always a big dream for me, especially growing up in Pasadena meeting all of the Royal Court when I was younger,” Chung says. 

Since she was 3, she looked up to the women, calling them role models. 

“This year’s theme particularly made me want to try out for this Royal Court because ‘Dream. Believe. Achieve.’ is honestly so encompassing of everything that I personally believe in and try to live by,” she says. 

“Everybody on the court is a real optimist and we are all people that are really positive. The message of this theme made me know that I wanted to try out.” 

Chung says she was impressed by the professionalism of the young women. 

“It didn’t feel like a competition,” she says. “As you went through each interview — at least for me — I loved getting to talk to each of the girls that I met.

“For instance, I was No. 39 and No. 37 was McKenzie Street, who is on the Royal Court, and No. 34 is Jaeda Walden. As we waited in line for all of our interviews, we got to know each other extremely well and I felt really connected to my city because I was surrounded by inspiring young ladies all around me when I was going through those interviews.”

Each interview lasted roughly 15 seconds. Contestants had to be quick on their feet to present a well thought out answer. Chung worked through the process by “determining what about me is really important to who I am.” 

“I think the hardest part was having the confidence initially and also trusting myself,” Chung says. She was surprised each time she advanced through the competition. 

“After my first round, I thought I was out,” Chung says with a laugh. “The second round, I thought I was out and then most definitely when we were lined up as the 29 finalists, I didn’t think my name was going to be called.

“I say, for many of us on the Royal Court, as much as it was surreal, we also took time to realize that everything that we have done and all the people who have supported us have led us up to this moment. That is not just chance or luck but rather intentional selection and that we are here for a reason.”

During the crowning ceremony, Chung was not initially aware she was Rose Queen until the announcer started saying her middle name. Her first reaction was shock, then happiness followed by “a lot of gratitude.”

“I do feel really grateful to have this opportunity to help represent Pasadena and spread that sort of joy and positivity,” Chung says. “But I also will say I felt happy because I know that the girls on the 2022 Royal Court are going to be my best friends for life.”

As the Rose Queen, Chung will immerse herself in the Tournament of Roses organization through volunteerism; develop public speaking and etiquette skills while boosting her self-confidence and receive a $7,500 scholarship.

“We actually have 100 events that we are going to (as the Royal Court) from the day after we were announced up until even after the Rose Parade,” Chung says.

The Royal Court has already attended engagements at Huntington Hospital and USC’s Cancer Center.

“I know that we are also going to be going to different elementary schools and talking about reading and literacy since our theme is about celebrating education,” Chung says. 

She is particularly looking forward to helping the Girl Scouts with its cookie kickoff. 

“This is my 13th year (as a Girl Scout) and I’m currently finishing up my Gold Award, which is an initiative to help promote voter registration and voter preregistration within youth and to create more civic engagement,” Chung says. 

“I’ve had a lot of fun with my troop over the years and then these more individual projects have allowed me to find what my specific interests are and how I would like to help my community to become more engaged in politics and using their vote as a way to voice their opinions.”

Always learning

Chung takes part in a slew of extracurricular activities at La Cañada as she looks forward to graduating next year.

“At school, I am currently the president of speech and debate and mock trial,” Chung says.

“Those are some of my favorite activities because they gave me a voice and then amplified my voice to give me the confidence to actually learn about things outside of just my own perspective. When I am doing a speech, I get to have the opportunity to listen to other people and listen as much as I’m speaking and in that I have been able to get a lot better perspective of the people in our world and have more empathy.”

Chung said throughout high school she met “incredibly inspiring people” who continue to mentor her. Girls in higher grades helped her find success and she hopes to pay it forward.

“For college I actually just started my applications and I turned in a few now,” Chung says about her future plans. 

“It is a really interesting process to be going through. It is definitely not an easy one, but I think what is making me still want to go through this process and what is making me excited is that every application that I turn in I am one step closer to my aspirations in terms of career goals.”

Chung hopes to study political science and journalism with the hopes of becoming a civil rights attorney.

Embracing the Rose Queen

When asked what it meant to her to be Rose Queen, Chung said that “it’s hard to even put into words.”

“I think part of it is because the girls that I thought as the Royal Court when I was a little kid, in my mind they were untouchable, unachievable,” Chung says. “I never thought that I would be in that position of becoming that role model that they were to me and people that I looked up to on a daily basis who I knew were beacons of positivity, of happiness, of intelligence, of poise, of serving. 

“Being in that position now, I feel really honored and grateful but I also feel the responsibility because I want to be a good role model for all of those young kids and also be somebody that helps to uplift Pasadena and really foster and live the them that we are doing this year.”

Following the COVID-19 rollercoaster, Chung hopes the Royal Court’s community engagements will show the “the lack of connection that we had (during the pandemic) is not permanent.”

“I hope that it can remind us how important it is to be connected and that anybody really can pursue their dreams,” Chung says. “I think during COVID there were people who had to put their dreams on hold, and I know that coming out of it what we need is confidence and a lot of belief in one another in order to know that we still can pursue those dreams.”

As tradition, the Royal Court will attend the Rose Parade New Year’s Day and the Rose Bowl game. Chung says she will wear Tadashi Shoji at the events. 

“Our gowns were actually very generously given to us by Tadashi and so we are all going to be wearing the gowns that we were wearing for coronation day,” she says.

“That means that the court will be wearing the midnight blue gorgeous floor length gown and I’ll be wearing the white dress that I wore.”

With the appearances, Chung hopes the women’s bond shines through.

“I think it is really important to me and for others to know how much the girls and I have really formed a sisterhood and how important we are to each other and how much we love each other.”

Leave a Reply