The Doo Dah Parade Queen's Beauty Routine Is All About Social Justice
While the typical parade queen rocks a crown and a gown, the queen of the Pasadena Doo Dah Parade has a different set of priorities.
The Doo Dah Parade bills itself as the Rose Parade's twisted sister. Think sword swallowers and men in kilts instead of flower-covered floats and stately equine teams. Like any proper parade queen, Jennipha-Lauren Nielsen is aware of her responsibilities and devoted to her public. But her perparations don't revolve around practicing her wave or learning to demurely cross and uncross her legs.
Nielsen is the CEO and co-founder of the One World Project, which keeps her busy addressing social problems on a global level — but not too busy for some irreverent fun.
"Doo Dah means it's going to be hilarious, slightly off-color and you're going to feel good," Nielsen says. "You're going to laugh."
STARTING THE DAY
Nielsen begins each day with a regimen of listening to a news report from the United Nations. Then she checks in on the Pasadena Politics — Moderated Facebook page to see what's happening locally.
When she heads out, each day bringing something different. This week, she was trying to set up a "hack for human rights," which brings people together to solve human rights problems with technology.
"My every day job is just to give an example of how you can affect change," Nielsen says.
On a day-to-day basis, she uses mobile technology to help link people in need with human rights solutions.
"There's more telephones than toilets in the world," she says. "And there's solutions available, but often they don't connect to the person in need."
Another recent project included putting together suitcases of supplies for victims of the hurricane in Puerto Rico, which she flew there to bring. Now she's distributing more of those suitcases to people affected by Southern California's wildfires.
She also does a lot of work for the United Nations to support their programs overseas.
SUPPORTING HER COMMUNITY
Right now, Nielsen is spending a year at home, trying to engage her neighbors in civics.
"That's hard because a lot of people think it's fast-food democracy, and no — it's a slow-cooked pot," Nielsen said.
She's a spokesperson for gender equality and disability rights, and a block captain for her neighborhood watch.
She's also a political activist. As the Doo Dah Parade queen, she has invited groups ranging from local chapters of the Sierra Club to liberal group Indivisible to participate in this year's parade.
In a year, she's planning to head back to Asia to continue her work with international development but for now, she's enjoying her time in Pasadena.
OH YEAH, ALSO, HAVING FUN
Through all of her activities, Nielsen tries to maintain a positive attitude.
"No matter what I fight for in the world, if we don't have a place to live, we've got no alternative," Nielsen said. "But I also make sure I have a really good time. So I do the Doo Dah because I've got to remember what I'm fighting for."
This isn't the first time Nielsen has served as royalty. In 2011, she was crowned Miss California World on a platform of funding higher learning for women and minorities, especially in the STEM fields.
Nielsen had seen the Doo Dah Parade before. When she saw ads on social media for Doo Dah queen tryouts, which were set for the Tuesday before the midterm elections, she thought, "We just had a lot of bad stuff happen in the national news. People were fatigued — getting out the vote, knocking on doors. And I thought, 'All my friends are suffering from burnout. We need to do something awesome.'"
She invited her friends to watch her act crazy, throwing on her grandmother's evening gown and singing a Scottish drinking song for her audition.
"I'm from Missoula, Montana, where people are encouraged to let your freak flag fly," Nielsen says.
That spirit earned her the queenship.
WHAT THE DOO DAH MEANS
You can catch Nielsen performing her courtly duties this Sunday, Nov. 18, at 11 a.m., when the Doo Dah Parade rolls through the streets of East Pasadena. Her pro tip: bring lawn chairs or step stools.
She'll be joined by grand marshal Jamie Woolner, an Altadena pizza shop owner who made news earlier this week after taking a boat to rescue his grandparents from the Woolsey Fire.
Part of what Nielsen loves about the Doo Dah Parade are the STEM skills that go into making the floats.
"[The Doo Dah is] where science and creativity come together," Nielsen says. "Because that's the kind of stuff that allows people to think out of the box. That's what gets people to the moon."
Look out for the royal float. Nielsen says it won't disappoint although it isn't motorized. "I'm bringing a little Montana to Pasadena," she says.
Nielsen also promises, "It is the most Instagram-worthy event you're going to see all year."
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