Purdy Tran, an honors student and activist for AIDS prevention and racial tolerance, was named the 80th Queen of the Tournament of Roses on Tuesday.
A crowd of the 17-year-old's friends from Westridge School shrieked with delight as their schoolmate's ascendancy was announced in a ceremony at the Tournament House mansion in Pasadena, just blocks from their campus.
"Puuuurrrdy!" they shouted, as her majesty broke into tears of joy. "I told myself I wouldn't cry, but I'm crying," Tran said. With grace befitting her new role, she explained that the real honor was being among the court of princesses, who are all "the same great team."
Loren F. Brodhead, chairman of the committee to select the queen and court, said Purdy was chosen because she is "a leader, a queen who is polished, poised, with outstanding speaking ability, someone other girls can look up to."
At Westridge, a private girls school, Purdy is co-captain of the tennis team and a member of the Latin Club and the Unity Club, a group of students who promote understanding of different races and cultures. A senior, she has also worked on several AIDS prevention fund-raisers.
Purdy was born in Arcadia and grew up in Arcadia and Monrovia, shuttling between the houses of her father and mother, chiropractors Tuan Tran and Laura Christensen, who divorced when she was 2.
Tuan Tran said Purdy has always been very independent, and that he "always encouraged her to build up her mind."
A nearly straight-A student, Purdy is also unafraid to challenge authority over matters of principle. Last school year, she joined about 100 Westridge students in a walkout of classes, protesting what they said was authoritarian behavior by the administration.
Purdy said she was proud to have been part of the demonstration and that this year, school officials "have tried really hard to open communication with students. I'm really happy."
Christensen described her daughter as "very much in my mind a feminist, and above all a humanist."
Purdy said that serving on the Royal Court matches her belief in the strength of women. "This is not a beauty contest," she said, noting that the princesses are top students chosen for their leadership ability and qualities other than looks.
Those gushing over the new queen, however, remarked most on her beauty, including a reporter who thrust a tape recorder forward and asked Purdy to begin an interview by telling him her height and weight.
Purdy plans to study psychology and has her eye on Columbia University.
Along with reigning over the New Year's Day Rose Parade, Purdy will also appear at numerous community events over the next year. Joining her will be Princesses Grace Huang and Kristen Kneier of San Marino, Leslie Marrero and Amber Ross of Pasadena, and Lauren Poindexter and Kate Sargeant of La Canada Flintridge.