So Pas Princess Shares Royal Court Journey, Dreams

Lauren Michele Baydaline, Rose Princess on the 2019 Royal Court for the Pasadena Tournament of Roses. Photo courtesy of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses.

For South Pasadena’s very own Rose Princess Lauren Michele Baydaline, the idea of one day being on the 2019 Royal Court of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses started with catching a glimpse of the queen and princesses when she was eight years old and attending her first-ever Rose Parade.

“I remember seeing the Royal Court’s float come down and I saw the princesses and I was like, ‘Wow they’re real princesses!’” Baydaline shared with The Review. “I was so shocked as a kid. A friend turned to me and said, ‘That could be you!’”

The 17-year-old senior at Pasadena’s Westridge School is one of seven young women who make up the Royal Court, selected from more than 1,000 initial applicants from Pasadena-area schools. The girls on the Royal Court serve as ambassadors of the Tournament of Roses, the Pasadena community and the greater Los Angeles area. The grand finale for the Royal Court will be riding on the Royal Court float in the 130th Rose Parade on January 1 and attending the 105th Rose Bowl Game that afternoon.

Baydaline is the daughter of Nick and Selena Baydaline and has one younger brother, Christian. She serves as Westridge’s secretary of the Associated Student Body, founder and head of Every Body Affinity, 3rd-year peer-to-peer, a volunteer in the Reading Rocks program at Hillsides and a camp counselor at YMCA Glendale. She has also been a competitive basketball player since age 8 and plays post for Westridge.

Born at Huntington Memorial Hospital, Baydaline holds South Pasadena close to her heart. She attended Arroyo Vista Elementary and South Pasadena Middle School. She has fond memories of sharing root beer floats and ice cream with friends and family at Fair Oaks Pharmacy on Mission Street, which she said is an icon of the neighborhood and always makes her feel at home when she catches sight of the colorful corner neon signage after being away. 

“South Pasadena is kind of a little retro town,” said Baydaline. “It’s such a small community and a tight-knit community. Everybody knows everybody and it’s such a, like, inclusive community which I love and it’s so special in that way.”

The 2019 Royal Court for the Pasadena Tournament of roses: (from left) Helen Susan Rossi (Flintridge Preparatory School), Rucha S. Kadam (La Cañada High School), Lauren Michele Baydaline (Westridge School), Louise Deser Siskel (Sequoyah High School), Micaela Sue McElrath (Westridge School), Sherry Xiaorui Ma (San Marino High School) and Ashley Symone Hackett (John Muir High School). Photo courtesy of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses.

As Rose Princess, Baydaline has been visiting local schools, senior centers, hospitals and other community organizations alongside her fellow court members since being named to the court this past October. As a start to her courtly duties, she engaged in etiquette training, leadership training and coordinated with Macy’s for a full wardrobe consultation for the burgundy-centric attire that the Royal Court will be outfitted in for the more than 100 media events leading up to the parade.

Being on the Royal Court has been a “life-changing experience,” according to Baydaline. The start to becoming a princess was one of cool calm for her, which included having 15 seconds to present to the judges why she wanted to be on the court. She went into it with no pressure and a clear mind. 

“I went in there and I was like, ‘I’m just going to be myself’ and I think that’s something that I wanted to shine through when I met all the judges,” said Baydaline.

Baydaline’s confidence carried through, and to her own surprise she continued to advance through the rounds, although at one point she thought her robust sense humor may have been her downfall.

“In one of the phases, I laughed at my own joke during the interview process,” Baydaline recalled. “I thought, ‘This is it, I’m done!’”

To her credit, she was far from done. In early October, Baydaline was one of 44 finalists on stage for the naming of the 2019 Royal Court. She recalled Louise Deser Siskel being named first as Rose Queen, only one number away from her own identification number of 392. When her fellow Westridge student Micaela Sue McElrath was named Rose Princess next, Baydaline felt her anticipation spike even higher, as she didn’t feel it was possible for two Westridge students to be chosen.

“As soon as they said 392, I was like, shocked,” said Baydaline. “I didn’t know how to feel or what to say!”

Since being selected, Baydaline has enthusiastically stepped up to the energy, elegance and poise expected of the Royal Court. She is passionate about serving as a positive role model to young people, especially to young women who may harbor doubts about their abilities to succeed.

“I want to be, like, an example for others and show them that, like, no matter who they are, or what gender, what race, what ethnicity, that they shouldn’t be deterred by certain things and certain limitations and they shouldn’t fear that,” said Baydaline.

On the issue of fear and doubt, Baydaline has had her share of facing and overcoming them. She credits her SPMS history teacher Andrew Adanto for encouraging her to pursue her dreams and carry on with her love for basketball. She recalled Adanto helping her overcome her worries when she felt she wasn’t a strong player. When she tried out for the freshman team at Westridge, she made varsity and said it was a strong learning experience to put her best foot forward no matter her worries.

“He always encouraged me to like, play, do my best and like, try out, saying, ‘Hey, you don’t lose anything,’” Baydaline recalled.

The medical environment has been a longstanding interest for Baydaline, who is looking towards a career in medicine as an obstetrician-gynecologist. She is looking to apply to Duke University (her top choice and her mother’s alma mater), Tulane University, Villanova University, Emory University and the University of Richmond where she plans to study linguistics and Latin in her goal towards eventually going to medical school.

“I’ve always known I wanted to go into the medical field,” said Baydaline. “Since kindergarten, I was like, ‘I want to be a doctor and save people!’” 

This past summer, she completed a medical internship at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center where she had the opportunity to meet with different healthcare professionals and get to know patients. She said she learned a lot about the level of care and humanity that the doctors bring to their patients. She was also surprised to learn about the pay disparity that female doctors often struggle with and she wants to make positive inroads towards equal compensation.

“For me, I want to be a doctor and I want to, like, destigmatize what it means to be a female doctor, and to end that and to kind of make it more equal because I think we’re doing the same work, why wouldn’t we be getting paid equally?” Baydaline said.

Looking fearlessly towards the future, Baydaline hopes to one day be a mother while she runs her own OBGYN practice. She envisions having her own children and adopting as well, as many of her friends were adopted and she’s witnessed the power of love that results from a family choosing a child. Whatever the future holds, she plans to face it confidently and encourage others to do so as well along the way.

“Now more than ever, we need people to go out there, and especially women, who need to pave new roads and try new things and be different,” said Baydaline. “That’s something I want to do. I want to inspire my kids to do that.”