Highlight: Rachelle Liu, Princess on the 2016 Royal Court

This week we are excited to highlight our very own WYD team member Rachelle Liu, a Southern California native, recent Johns Hopkins University graduate, and princess on the 2016 Tournament of Roses Royal Court.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Sure! I am an only child and grew up in Southern California. I was pretty passionate about public speaking, and competed in mock trial and speech and debate for seven years throughout middle school and high school. I later left sunny Southern California for Baltimore, Maryland where I studied Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. I had pretty severe allergies and asthma as a child which sparked my interest in science and medicine, and I am now preparing for a career in medicine where I hope to positively impact the lives of others, alleviate suffering, and improve quality of life for many. In my free time I enjoy spending time with my two dogs Xiaobao and Baobei and I am also a huge foodie! I love to explore different areas, try new places, and share my findings with others. I’m really proud to be a part of Jiā Food Blog with Kathleen (co-founder of WYD) where we help promote business for Asian owned eateries and share the founders’ unique and deeply compelling stories. Of course, I am also very proud to be a part of the WYD Community team and build up this platform for Gen Zers to connect, be inspired, receive mentorship, and hear directly from industry professionals. I really hope that everyone in the WYD Community will feel supported by our mission and that they will discover or fulfill their personal aspirations!

What was it like being on the Royal Court? What does New Years mean to you? 

I grew up watching the Rose Parade and in high school even volunteered to decorate the floats, but I never imagined being in the parade much less being a princess on the Royal Court. The experience turned my senior year of high school upside down in the best way possible. Our schedule was packed and everything from what we wore to the order we would speak in at events was coordinated to a tee. It was such a whirlwind and an honor to serve as a community ambassador and the Tournament of Roses is truly a wonderful organization. While the glamorous aspects of being on the court like riding the Goodyear blimp or attending Disney day with the football teams were very fun, my favorite part about the experience was getting to know the community I grew up in on an entirely new level. I especially loved getting to meet the students at Villa Esperanza school and trick or treat with patients at Huntington Memorial. At events we usually spoke about our own experiences and activities, but it was equally if not more exciting to hear from community members of all walks of life. They shared really insightful life advice and spoke about their memories of the parade and meeting past Royal Courts. I was also amazed at the dedication of Tournament of Roses and got an inside look at just how much goes into planning and executing all that the Tournament does in the community. The organization is almost entirely volunteer based, and our own Queen and Court Committee consisted of 11 “white suiters” and their spouses who became like second parents to all of us. Our theme that year was “Find Your Adventure,” and I think that will always be a part of what New Years means to me now. A fresh start, new hope, and an entire new year of life to embark on new adventures!

What is something most people don’t know about the experience?

While the experience was like a dream, it definitely came with its challenges. Overnight I went from being a regular high school girl to a community ambassador, and while it was an honor, it also brought pressure and scrutiny. I didn’t expect people online to be commenting about my appearance or making remarks that I was whitewashed or picked because I was tan and fit Western standards of beauty. I was simply proud to be representing my school, the organization, and my community. The experience made me think deeply about my identity and heritage, and I came out of it even prouder and more vocal about what being Chinese American means to me. We also received intensive etiquette, speech, and press training and went through a bootcamp of sorts. It was a transformative experience and one that gave me the confidence to speak in front of large audiences and handle unexpected situations with grace. Many people referred to the Royal Court as a beauty pageant, and I would like to clarify that it is a group of young women selected to serve as community ambassadors and representatives for the Tournament of Roses. Every one of the girls on the court was passionate about serving the community, functioned as leaders in school organizations, and had diverse interests. I think a lot of people also assumed that I was getting a free pass from schoolwork but that was definitely not the case. While I was probably absent from school more days than I was present between October to December, I still had to complete all my schoolwork and fell asleep studying at my desk more times than I can count. I am so grateful to my friends who were always walking me through what I missed and to my teachers who were supportive and understanding. 

What advice do you have for Gen Zers? 

If you are thinking about taking a chance or trying something new, go for it! You never know what experience is going to be the one to alter your worldview, provide meaningful experiences, or become a new passion. Also, it’s okay not to have things figured out! I remember feeling really lost and overwhelmed my first year of college when everyone seemed to have everything together, but the truth is no one did. Explore different interests and take advice from others with a grain of salt. At the end of the day, it’s your life to live and your journey to take so try not to compare and focus on living each day earnestly. 

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