Tate Miller, 19, is a freshman at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, majoring in chemistry. In January, the Lafayette native played the role of princess for three days at the annual Washington, D.C., Mardi Gras Ball.
The event, a mash-up of partying and politicking, began in the 1940s. A parade of Louisiana figures, including lawmakers, other elected and appointed officials, business leaders and lobbyists rub shoulders and raise glasses as they discuss topics ranging from governmental regulations to economic development.
Miller said the opportunity to be on the court was unexpected.
“My aunt is a judge who works with someone from (U.S. Sen.) John Kennedy’s office. She called my mom and asked if I wanted to be a princess,” said Miller. “He needed someone to represent him as a princess. … It kind of just happened.”
The Millers got the call in the summer of 2019 and began preparing for the annual bash, which is held at the Washington Hilton in the nation’s capitol. This year, the Mystick Krewe of Louisiana was led by U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, krewe captain, and U.S. Sen. Clay Higgins, event chairman, who named Greg Hamer and Madeline Noble as king and queen of the ball. The court also includes festival queens from throughout the state and princesses, young women who are invited by krewe members, as Miller was.
“My mom is a big researcher, so we started to look around and pick out dresses,” Miller recalled. After months of shopping, Miller’s carnival wardrobe was assembled. By December, there were three new dresses in her closet: a blue cocktail dress and two formals, a green, off-the-shoulder gown and a full-length white dress, along with a collection of accessories. With bags packed, her royal experience began in Baton Rouge, in January.
Take a look back at the royal experience with Princess Tate Miller.
Wednesday, Jan. 22
7:30 a.m. Check in begins at the Baton Rouge Metropolitan airport. Mardi Gras princesses receive their rhinestone tiaras.
8:30 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. Reception at the Governor’s Mansion, hosted by Gov. John Bel Edwards and First Lady Donna Edwards.
11:20 a.m. Flight to Washington, D.C., departs Baton Rouge airport.
2:55 p.m. Arrival at Reagan National Airport
“We checked into the hotel and unpacked. That night, all the princesses, queens, chaperones, the king of the ball, and some other people had dinner at Ruth’s Chris.”
6:45 p.m. Royal Court Dinner
Thursday, Jan. 23
10:00 a.m. - 11:20 a.m.
Miller tours the U.S. Capitol and is one of four princesses who are introduced to Sen. Kennedy. “We got to meet him and take a picture with him. Everywhere we went, people gave us gifts. He gave us wine glasses.”
11:30 a.m. The Louisiana delegation and members of the court attend the King’s luncheon at the International Spy Museum
“Then we went back to the hotel for hair and makeup.” Makeup artists and hair stylists visited the participants’ hotel rooms. “They were willing to do anything you wanted, from the most simple to the most glam thing you’ve ever seen.”
6:30 p.m. - 9 p.m. The “Louisiana Alive!” cocktail party features food prepared by Louisiana chefs. “It was a circus theme” with acrobats performing with aerial silks, long pieces of fabric suspended from the ceiling. “It was really neat. Louisiana food places had booths set up around the room and there was a band in the center where the princesses and queens were on stage, dancing and singing along to the music.”
Friday, Jan. 24
8:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. Tours of Arlington National Cemetery and the Lincoln Memorial.
“(The cemetery) felt peaceful. We walked around a little bit and saw the changing of the guard (at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier). Seeing (the Lincoln Memorial), was kind of like, ‘wow.’ I had seen it on television and in movies, but it was different seeing it in person.”
11:45 Lunch at the Sulgrave Club. Queens and princesses dine at D.C.’s “most exclusive private ladies club.”
2 p.m. Rehearsal for the evening event, “Friday Festival”
“After rehearsal, we went back to the hotel to relax. On Friday and Saturday, for our hair and makeup, we went to a room that had been set up with (styling) stations.”
6:30 p.m. Friday’s celebration is a formal one. Court members are presented at the Captain’s Dinner/Dance. “There were tables set up and aisles where the princesses and queens walked. We were presented on stage.”
Saturday, Jan. 25
10:00 a.m. Continental breakfast and rehearsal for the ball.
“Saturday was a free day to go exploring the city, but I slept in that morning and just hung out with everybody at the hotel during the afternoon. It was fun.”
5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m After a final round of hair and makeup, court members are divided into four groups for professional photos: queens #1 - #11 and #12 - #23, and princesses #24 - #42 and #43 - #62.
6:30 p.m. Tate Miller, Princess #43, poses for her photo.
7:45 p.m. Members of the court line up to enter the ballroom.
8:45 p.m. Presentations begin. Escorted by her father, Troy, Miller walks the stage. A customized sign, “Princess Tate Aline Miller,” lets everyone know who she is.
During the event, something happened that wasn’t on the program. “The LSU band came, as a surprise. They played a couple of songs.” On the floor of the ballroom, “there was an actual parade. There were miniature floats in the aisles and people were throwing beads. Everyone had a really good time.”
Sunday, Jan. 26
12:30 a.m. After the ball, Saturday night spills over into Sunday morning with the Queen’s Breakfast. “(Admission) was by special invitation only, but if you had a tiara or a crown, you got in. A tiara meant you were a princess and a crown meant you were a queen.”
2:30 a.m. Curfew
12:55 p.m. - 2:25 p.m. Return flight to Baton Rouge