When her grandparents first immigrated to Southern California, the famed Pasadena New Year’s tradition immediately made them feel welcomed and cared for despite living in an entirely new country. They eagerly passed on their love for the parade to their grandchildren. Chung had also met the Rose Court at the San Gabriel Youth Ballet as a child.
From that moment, she recalls her respect for the “dedication to service and…intelligence of all the girls on the court.” Thus, she felt compelled to apply to be part of the 2022 Rose Court and represent the greater Pasadena community in this year’s parade.
Over 400 young women from the greater Pasadena area initially applied, but in the end only seven were selected for the Court. The selection process for the Court involved multiple interviews, with the first interview being a 15-second pitch on why the interviewee believed she should be a Rose Princess.
As the candidates were slowly whittled down, the interviews became longer and more in-depth.
“Each [interview] was more nerve-wracking than the past one…every time I didn’t think I was making it forward, so I didn’t think I would be coming back to the next interview,” Chung said. “It was constantly an exciting surprise.”
After the seven princesses were selected, a coronation ceremony was held for the announcement of the Queen.
On a crisp October evening, the seven princesses huddled together holding bouquets of pink roses as Pasadena Tournament of Roses President Bob Miller slowly opened the envelope with the name of the Queen. A cheer of excitement erupted as Miller announced: “Ladies and Gentlemen, our 103rd Rose Queen is Nadia Chung!”
“From the moment they announced [that I was the Rose Queen] it’s been so exciting,” Chung said. “I feel really honored to be a part of this wonderful tradition and to now be a part of a sisterhood of not only Rose Queens but also this Court, which I feel so connected to. I just feel so much joy to get to represent Pasadena and hopefully make people in Pasadena happy at all the events that we go to.”
The Rose Court attends over 110 events between October and early February, making appearances at up to four events in a single day. The role of the Court varies depending on the organization hosting each event.
“At Villa Esperanza [a non-profit supporting intellectually/developmentally disabled individuals] we had a great time on Halloween getting to help pass out candy to all the students there,” Chung said. “We also got to help them with Halloween activities, [which was] really fun.”
The Court also recently visited the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, where they learned more about cancer research and met some of the patients undergoing treatment.
This intense schedule has certainly interfered with Chung’s typical school and extracurricular routine.
However, she graciously acknowledges the support the La Canada High School community has given her.
“The administration and teachers at La Canada High School have been so incredibly understanding but also encouraging to me. I feel so grateful and I owe them the hugest thank you in the world,” Chung said. “In terms of extracurriculars, I’ve definitely felt very grateful to have incredible co-presidents for certain clubs and to have wonderful people that I can…trust with the club in their hands.”
Though Chung reigns as the Queen, she insists that the Court is united in both duty and friendship.
“We’re all just trying to spread a lot of unity and optimism throughout Pasadena,” she said. “My favorite part [of being on the Court] is having met these wonderful girls that have become family to me…we’ve automatically clicked and become best friends, and I know we will be best friends for life.”
Like most traditions and large events, the Rose Parade has been influenced by the pandemic.
“Our [parade] theme is ‘Dream. Believe. Achieve’…the theme transformed over COVID to include healthcare workers and scientists and everything they’ve done to help reopen the world so that we can once again dream, believe and achieve,” Chung said. “COVID has also shaped our experience because we’ve seen so much hope within the community now that we know things are coming back to what they may have been or are changing to adapt to the new world.”
The young women chosen for the Rose Court are evaluated on their academics, community involvement, leadership and public speaking. Chung wears many hats as the President of LCHS’s Speech and Debate Team, Concert Choir,and Mini Mission Club as well as a Girl Scout, a ballet dancer at the California Contemporary Youth Ballet and a writer for the LA Times’ High School Insider.
However, past her many achievements, she is passionate about making a difference in the world.
“I want to work in civil rights law,” Chung said. “I’m just really hoping I can defend people and lift the voices of those who might otherwise have no other way of being heard.”