We talk to this year’s Royal Court to find out what it means to be A Kentucky Derby Festival Princess.
Written by Carrie Vittitoe | Photos by Kylene White | Styled by Melissa Gagliardi | Hair by Karen Stout and Laura Likins for Joseph’s Salon and Spa | Makeup by Sloan Winters for Circe Beauty Bar
Society’s idea of what a princess is and can be has changed over the years. While girls still may dream about being princesses, they often begin to wonder whether princesses are commended only for their beauty and poise and not their intelligence or activism. The Kentucky Derby Festival Court is mindful of the stereotypes surrounding princesses and “strives to keep our Royal Court all-inclusive while encouraging more involvement in the community in a service-oriented way,” says Cindy Lewandowski, vice president of The Fillies, Inc.
The young women who make up the 2022 Royal Court have had to consider their own stereotypes about the idea of a princess and consider how they can use their Derby Princess role to show all the facets of what a princess is.
What do you think about the word princess?
Sarah Rhodes: The word princess, historically, has had a very feminine connotation and often is aligned with perfection. My name, Sarah, actually means “princess,” but I think I am an example of how I challenge these connotations. I consider myself feminine, but I know this is not the only title that defines me. As a nursing student, a part of the learning process is making mistakes, and I think I break down those stereotypes when regarding perfection. A modern princess to me is a leader that serves her community. As a Derby princess, we are actively living this title serving and celebrating the community of Louisville.
What does your Royal Court role mean to you?
Jimi Porter: It’s an amazing opportunity that showed me [not to let] fear and the potential for failure stop me from reaching greater heights. It’s a challenge not to be afraid. I realized through this process it is taking the days step-by-step with all your courage that allows you to move forward and up, and I hope all those who see me in this role recognize their power to do the same.
What do you see as the Derby Royal Court’s most important responsibilities?
Molly Sullivan: Our most important responsibility is to be role models in the community. We represent something bigger than ourselves. We are representing our communities, our universities, the Kentucky Derby Festival, the Fillies, the Louisville area, and even the Commonwealth of Kentucky. I am proud to represent something that is important to many people.
What are you most looking forward to in your role as a Derby Princess?
Haven Wolfe: One of the great things about this program is the scholarship opportunity it provides. As a first-generation college student, the scholarship will be a great benefit to me. I plan to savor each and every moment of this experience.
What have you learned about yourself, the Fillies, and our community’s traditions?
Nancy Ngo: I learned that KDF really cares about civic mindedness and that the Fillies are a tight-knit group. When I attended my first Fillies meeting, I remember how lively and supportive all the women were. I am slowly starting to learn that the Fillies and our community traditions aren’t just there for entertainment. There is a purpose behind every event and there is a strong love for all the events. There is a sense of pride in our traditions, and I can’t ask for a better community to share the pride with.