Naomi Stillitano — an Italian-American senior at Arcadia High School with a love for dance, theater and swimming — was named the 105th Rose Queen on Oct. 27.
The naming took place during a special ceremony led by 2024 Tournament of Roses President Alex Aghajanian at the Tournament House in Pasadena.
The new queen was overcome with emotion by the announcement, holding back tears as she recited the Queen’s Oath pledging to honor and celebrate the history and traditions set forth by the 104 Rose Queens who came before her.
“I’m crying, this is amazing, I have so many emotions right now,” she told the media following her coronation. “This is an incredible honor and I’m so proud to be part of this history of queens.”
Stillitano was born in Italy and moved to America at age 7. She is co-president of the Italian Culture Club at Arcadia High School, a dancer and actress with the Arcadia Stage Theater, and was a swimmer on the Rose Bowl Swim Team. She is a fluent Italian speaker and a capable Spanish communicator.
“The Rose Parade was one of the first things I saw when I moved here from Italy,” she said. “I always wanted to be a princess and now I get to be a queen!”
The Royal Court — full of accomplished teens — is now set, too. They are: Olivia Bohanec, a senior at La Salle College Preparatory; Trinity Dela Cruz, a senior at Marshall Fundamental School; Phoebe Ho, a senior at South Pasadena High School; Mia Moore-Walker, a senior at Flintridge Preparatory School; Jessica Powell, a senior at Flintridge Preparatory School; and Emmerson Tucker, a senior at Blair High School.
When asked how she plans to make her mark as queen, Stillitano said by ensuring her court maintains their close-knit bonds.
“Each and every one of us is a leader and we all show queen characteristics and this is why we are here in this court,” she said.
The court was first announced four weeks ago and since then its members have undergone a whirlwind of training in public speaking, media communication, etiquette and leadership, said Tournament of Roses President Alex Aghajanian.
“The Rose Parade was one of the first things I saw when I moved here from Italy. I always wanted to be a princess and now I get to be a queen!” – Naomi Stillitano, 105th Rose Queen in the Tournament of Roses
Their selection followed a month-long process where hundreds of students from around 30 Pasadena-area schools participated in multiple interviews while vying for a spot on the court.
As in years prior, participants in this year’s Royal Court were chosen based upon a combination of qualities, including public speaking ability, youth leadership, academic achievement, and community and school involvement.
The theme for the 2024 parade is “Celebrating a World of Music,” which plays well into Stillitano’s love for the arts.
Tournament President Aghajanian said he initially struggled to come up with the theme, until inspiration struck in the middle of the night.
“I woke up about two o’clock in the in the morning, tapped my wife to wake her up and I said the ‘theme is celebrating a world of music’ and then I said ‘please write it down,’ and thank God we did because neither one of us remember what I said in the morning,” he told amused audience members during the coronation ceremony.
Members of the Royal Court will ride Jan. 1, 2024, through the 135th Rose Parade on the Royal Court float and attend the College Football Playoffs semifinal at the 110th Rose Bowl Game on New Year’s Day.
The 2024 Royal Court will also receive a $7,500 educational scholarship and participate in nearly 100 community and media functions, serving as ambassadors of the Tournament of Roses, the Pasadena community, and the greater Los Angeles area.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to correct an error. Stillitano is the 105th Rose Queen and will participate in the 135th Rose Parade.