The hopeful faces of dozens of potential Rose Queens shined with possibility on that special night when the 99th Rose Queen for the Tournament of Roses was crowned. Just before the announcement, the sense of anticipation builds. Each one of these worthy, intelligent young women have earned the right to be considered for the coveted title — whether through academic achievement, civic service or other valuable leadership roles. But there can be only one chosen for the highest honor.

On Thursday, Oct. 20, Victoria Castellanos, a senior from Temple City High School, was crowned and now enjoys the prestige as the 99th Rose Queen. She will preside over the 128th Rose Parade and the 103rd Rose Bowl Football Game on Jan. 2

The Royal Court includes Autumn Lundy, 17, a student at Polytechnic School; Shannon Larsuel, 17, of Mayfield Senior School; Natalie Petrosian, 17, from La Cañada High School; Audrey Cameron, 17, from Blair High School; and Maya Kyan, 18, and Lauren Powers, 17, both from Arcadia High School.

The group will make more than 100 appearances before the parade and college football game.

“Honestly, it felt surreal. It doesn’t really feel real still. I think I’m dreaming,” said Castellanos, Temple City’s first Rose Queen in 42 years. “I didn’t believe. It’s like a dream — I still don’t believe it.”

Castellanos’ mother, Rachel Lasota, describes her immediate sentiment as feeling “beyond proud” of her beautiful daughter.

The winsome teenager developed her love for helping others and the performing arts at a young age. She currently volunteers at the Eagle Rock chapter of the American Legion, as well as the Pasadena Humane Society, and has performed in five musicals at Temple City High, in addition to membership in the school’s performing group, Brighterside Singers.

Though a busy student, Victoria enjoys reading, antiquing and shopping for vintage clothing with her doting mom, as well as writing short stories in her off time.

After high school, she plans to attend Amherst or Smith College, with a focus on musical theater, as well as studying English and Japanese.

“I’ve always wanted to be an inspiration to people, and I’ve always kind of wanted to leave a legacy, and now I can. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” she said.

This year, 771 young women from Pasadena and its neighboring cities vied for the coveted title. The area’s best and brightest braved the arduous process with a gleaming eye on the possibility of holding the esteemed designation. Candidates are evaluated on several key traits that exemplify the spirit and ideals of the contemporary Rose Queen of the Tournament of Roses. According to the Tournament of Roses website, “participants are evaluated on a wide range of qualities including poise, personality, speaking ability and overall demeanor. Academic achievement is also a factor.”

Almost 100 years ago, the first Rose Queen — more formerly known as the Queen of the Tournament of Roses — was crowned. Back then, the pool of applicants was less than 20.

The pool of hopefuls is whittled down to 250 entrants, then 75, and finally 25 candidates, where the stakes are raised even higher.

Of the 25, seven young women are selected to demonstrate their leadership abilities at a weekend retreat in Newport Beach with the volunteer members of the Rose Court Selection Committee, a team comprised of 11 men and women.

The first Rose Queen, Hallie Woods of Pasadena High School, paved the way for today’s Rose Queens with her beauty and style. At her 1905 inaugural coronation, she set the standard for gracious Rose Queen poise and etiquette. Today, our Rose Queen and her court share many similarities to those of the early 1900s, but also some surprising differences. The 1906 Rose Queen, Elsie Armitage, was accompanied by a record 24 Royal Princess, and in 1913 and 1914 both Royal Court’s featured men; Rose Kings Harrison Drummond and Dr. F.C.E. Mattison, respectively. Candidates were allowed to be married under the guidelines of the 1900s, while under today’s more carefully defined Rose Queen criteria, hopefuls must be unwed and without children.

For the initial 30 years of the tradition Rose Queens were required to sew their own outfits, while today’s Rose Queens dazzle in gowns and ensembles created by renowned designer Tadashi Shoji.

Today’s Rose Queens and their courts enjoy perks that are incomparable to those enjoyed by the pioneer Rose Queens. With less tangible benefits, as well as crowns worth an estimated $100,000 and festooned with six carats of diamonds, 600 cultured pearls, and designed by famed jeweler Mikimoto, it’s no wonder this marvelous tradition has a beloved place in the hearts and minds of so many talented young women.