When she showed up for a 5 a.m. hairdresser's appointment Tuesday, 17-year-old Caroline Hsu was wearing her pajamas--white, with small pink and red hearts. It was too early, the San Marino High School senior reasoned, for real clothing.
But four hours later, she was a teenager transformed. Wearing a red dress and a smile, her hair and makeup picture-perfect, Hsu was named the 84th Rose queen by the Tournament of Roses in a ceremony held on the front lawn of the organization's historic Wrigley Mansion in Pasadena.
Hsu was one of seven San Gabriel Valley high school seniors chosen last week from more than 900 applicants to represent the tournament at more than 120 media and community events between now and Jan. 1. As queen, she will reign over the 113th Rose Parade on New Year's Day and the national championship football game at the Rose Bowl Jan. 3.
When Tournament of Roses President Ron Okum announced Hsu's name, she stood speechless for a moment, her mouth agape. With her hands dangling at her side, she seemed to fall back onto the other princesses, who reached in to hug her.
"I almost didn't hear my name," she said later, "until I realized that people were all looking at me."
After the announcement, the entire Royal Court was almost immediately engulfed in a sea of media. Photographers, television cameras and reporters pressed in on the new queen.
Hsu, clutching a bouquet of red roses that had been handed to her by Michelle Jacobs, the 2001 queen, did interviews as well for the Chinese Daily News and Sing Tao newspaper--in Mandarin, a language she speaks conversationally. She is the first Chinese American Rose queen.
A varsity cheerleader, she is also the school board representative in the San Marino High School student government and a black belt in taekwondo. She hopes to attend UCLA next fall and plans to become a pediatrician.
After spending much of the last week and all of last weekend with the seven members of the court--along with Hsu, they are Kimberlee Cordova and Rachel Frandsen of La Canada Flintridge; Shannon Stockdale and Stephanie Valenzuela of Arcadia; Katherine Stroud of San Marino and Lauren Tapp of Altadena--the tournament's Queen and Court Committee took nearly four hours Sunday evening to decide on Hsu.
"She's articulate, has good judgment, is sensitive to the feelings of the other court members--and, most important, she's regal," said Scott Jenkins, committee chairman. "We had a hard time defining what that means, but you know it when you see it."
Hsu is already getting used to her new regality. For starters, no more pajamas at the hairdresser's. She must also grow accustomed to being called "Queen Caroline."
"They start treating you like real royalty," Hsu said after the announcement, about the adults on the Queen and Court Committee. "And I feel like royalty. I've felt like that for the last week."