2020 Rose Queen Camille Kennedy / Photo courtesy of Hillsides
Published : Wednesday, December 4, 2019 | 5:42 AM
2020 Rose Queen Camille Kennedy hopes her reign will build bridges.
Kennedy, a senior at La Salle College Preparatory, has grown up in a multicultural household and she wants to use that background to foster understanding among people of different cultures.
Kennedy’s lineage is Irish but her heart is in Japan. Her father grew up in Hawaii where he was influenced by Japanese culture, and, like her dad, she too has fallen under the spell of the land of the rising sun.
“One of the things that I admire so much about Japan is the fact that they rely heavily on their own traditions and culture,” she said. “I’m really fascinated by their history and the way that they’ve married ancient culture to the modern, and how they’ve been able to find a balance between the two.”
Kennedy hopes to attend college in Japan and said she was fortunate to spend 10 months there when she was 15.
“The Japanese do take a lot from American culture, they love our trends, they love our music, our artists, our fashion style,” she said. “They wanted to know more about America. And so I was able to bring the culture of Pasadena to Tokyo when I went over there.”
“One of the experiences that I remember well is, I sat on New Year’s Day and watched the Rose Parade on the computer with my host family,” she recalled. “I had said, ‘Do you know what this is?’ And they were like, ‘No, what is it?’ And now they’re excited to see it this year and I get to say ‘Look, that’ll be me.’”
Kennedy’s ambitions lean towards entertainment and performing with an emphasis on language and traditions.
She said she has a theatre background and despite her wholesome appearance enjoys playing villain roles in the theatre. The roles are more fun and challenging, she said.
The first few weeks of life on the Royal Court were a bit challenging for the Princesses, but Kennedy said overall she passed the various exercises with flying colors. Except for one.
Kennedy said the one difficulty she had during her experiences as a member of the Royal Court actually has helped her move ahead.
Seeing herself on video after the group’s media training session upset her.
“I felt so bad about my practice interview,” she said. “I was like, ‘I can never go on TV. I can’t do this.’ And I was really knocked down for the evening because I felt inadequate.”
“But I was able to look past that and work through it and say, ‘Well what did I have a problem with and why?’ And having that experience was actually helpful because now I know what I like and how I should be speaking or presenting myself. So it was hard at the time, but something good did come out of it.”
Kennedy said the main thing is being able to communicate with others — and not necessarily in an on-camera environment.
“I am really, really passionate about linguistics, specifically Asian languages,” Kennedy said. “Japanese and Korean are my favorites. I would really love to work in a job that requires being bilingual, whether it be translations or working in some sort of setting that requires me to be able to converse fluently as a brand ambassador.”
So where did the interest in Asian language and culture come from?
“My dad was born and raised in Hawaii and Hawaii has a really, really concentrated Japanese population,” Kennedy said. “So I’ve grown up around the culture and the people my entire life. But ever since I was really young, I had a picture book and it was about children just like me from children all around the world. And my favorites were always these two twin boys from South Korea and the one little Japanese boy and I would point at it and wave my little fists. And so growing up more, I began to explore the cultures because I knew I had some sort of fascination with them and I fell in love with a Japanese movie studio called studio Ghibli and that became my Disney growing up. So I grew up with a specific set of films that are now they’re beloved and very well known.
As an exchange student in Tokyo, Kennedy built up her support network
“I actually spent my sophomore year of high school as an exchange student in Tokyo, so I’ve already lived there. I spent a year there and I have a whole network of host family and friends there now, which is so incredibly beneficial to me now because I now have a community and people who I can trust and rely on over there.”
What are her college plans?
“I’m hoping to return to Tokyo for university,” she saod. “That’s my goal.”
And while she dreams of the future she is practical about the next year.
“I think as the Rose Queen you’re constantly having to be able to put yourself out there. You have to talk to new people, meet people, and represent yourself and the Tournament of Roses to the best of your ability.”
“Having been an exchange student and being thrust into an unknown culture and unknown language all alone, that was really beneficial because now it’s so much less intimidating,” Kennedy said. “It’s definitely helped in terms of my ability to feel confident in myself when introducing myself, putting myself out there and representing others.”