Monday, May 19, 2008

Smells Like Queen Spirit

This is what my grandmother would call a "lemonade story" (as in the best outcome when life gives you lemons): Among six girls who ran for Rhododendron Queen in 2007, Chelsea (left) was a self-described tomboy and farm girl who ran to get outside her comfort zone--not your typical queen candidate. Dana (right) was a cheerleader, drum major, and student body leader—more the profile you’d expect. Dana did win, but Chelsea didn’t just lose--she placed fourth, which meant she wasn’t on the three-girl court at all—no scholarship, no travel. Just before this year’s queen, the 2008 winner, was crowned this spring, last year’s results were rediscovered to contain a horrible error: a column of points had been omitted, all from Chelsea’s score. Not only should she have made the court; she should have won. When the truth was revealed after the 2008 queen was crowned, Dana (who had served all year) found out literally just before leaving on vacation—with no way to control what people would say about her while she was gone or when she returned. And then the story made the newspaper all the way down the Peninsula all the way to Seattle. The girls were not really close to begin with—even their friends weren’t friends—so the awkwardness could have turned easily into something worse. In fact, there were adults who said some negative things in the aftermath and the local paper claimed that the festival’s reputation had taken a hit. It was up to these young girls themselves to rise above it: Dana called Chelsea and not only congratulated her but offered Chelsea her crown to wear; Chelsea proclaimed to the press that Dana had been a terrific Queen; and, when it came time for this year’s Rhody Festival Returning Royalty Luncheon, they both came as Queen and stayed together, side by side proving what it means to lead.

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