McKenzie Street joins another sisterhood, tiara included


Photo courtesy of the Tournament of Roses

Rose Court princess McKenzie Street ’22 prepares to make her debut at the Rose Parade.

“Why do you want to be on the Royal Court?” 

Last fall, while trying out for the Tournament of Roses, McKenzie Street ’22 pondered this question at the Tournament’s headquarters on Orange Grove Blvd. While making eye contact with the judges in black suits, Street understood how one could be intimidated. Refusing to cave, she took a deep breath and let the words flow. Street would have to use this technique multiple times during multiple rounds of interviews. 

On the day when the Tournament announced its Royal Court — a group of young women who represent their communities in the Tournament of Roses Parade — Street looked around at the 27 contestants, satisfied that she had made it this far. Believing her journey was over, she tuned out the voices around her and enjoyed the moment. 

Little did she know, her journey was just beginning.

On October 4, 2021, Street was announced as a Royal Court princess. She was one of seven girls selected out of hundreds to be part of the 2022 Royal Court, a tradition that has gone on since 1905. This Tournament of Roses draws high school seniors and college freshmen from all around the Pasadena Community College District to participate. For the women selected, becoming a Royal Court ambassador entailed attending over 100 events in the Southern California area, riding on a customized float during the Rose Parade and attending the Rose Bowl Game. 

Street believes that her confidence during the interview process is one of the main reasons she got selected. 

“You really do have to be confident going into this process to succeed. You’re standing in front of 12 judges, and they just ask you questions. You don’t know the questions beforehand, and they’re all staring at you. You are very much on the spot and you know 400 girls are trying out and there are only seven spots. I think the necessary skills to be a good public speaker and express myself have come from here [FSH],” Street said.

The glory that came from being called a princess was just the beginning of a long journey. 

“I did not expect it to be such a huge time commitment. The first three weeks, we were in training every day from three to nine. I would have to leave school early, and I would be exhausted after. The first month was definitely the hardest,” Street said. 

Despite the exhaustion she faced, Street had many opportunities to engage in fun events and service projects for her community. 

“In the first two weeks, we spent a few hours sorting through clothes that Forever 21 had donated to this group for women who have suffered from domestic violence. That was really cool and impactful because we were actually doing hands-on work,” Street said. 

Street is thankful for the time spent with the other girls and all she has learned from them. The different interests each girl had made the Rose Princess experience all the more exciting for her. 

“I was able to share with them my love for fashion and passion for environmental activism. Some of us are writers, some of us are interested in psychology and some love science and research. I was with these girls every day, so that definitely was helpful to [get to know] each other. It was also interesting to learn about different school experiences,” Street said. 

Street met all kinds of girls from various educational backgrounds. The Court has been known to select private school students in the past, but in recent years the Court has become more inclusive.

“Everyone else [on the Court] went to public school, which is a big deal this year because traditionally half the Court ends up being from private schools. So, this is also a big push of diversity,” Street said. 

Streets believes the Tournament has improved on its diversity over the past few years. 

“I think this Court in particular resonated with me as a Black woman because we were very diverse in every aspect, and that is what they [the Royal Court] need to continue doing — representing all of Pasadena with the Court. If it wasn’t as diverse, I probably would have felt less connected,” Street said. 

Street is grateful for her journey on the Royal Court as well as her positive mindset that allowed her to try something new without the fear of failure. Despite the critique of others who view the Royal Court as merely a beauty pageant, Street understands it as much more. 

“Sometimes, I do feel like the tradition itself is a bit outdated. I mean, it’s not a beauty pageant, let me make that clear; it’s not about what you look like anymore. The Tournament stands for unity, and I think that’s what the Rose Bowl stands for too… The Rose Bowl serves as a place where people can come and enjoy different things… It brings people together all around Pasadena, and I’m glad to be a part of something like that,” Street said.