Profile Of A Queen
By AMY PEARSON
Someday, you might find her behind a movie camera, shooting film in a style that will rival cinematography master Alfred Hitchcock's.
But right now, and for the past year, she's been in front of the lens, an ambassador for the city and the smiling face of Tyler's premier event, the Texas Rose Festival.
Rose Festival Queen Emily Anne Austin has poise that belies her 19 years. Even rushing into Dance N Drill one summer morning for an interview and rehearsal, Emily appeared unflappable. She must have been tired because the previous day she'd rehearsed the coronation ceremony for hours, and then drove to Dallas, hopped a flight to San Antonio, met with the dressmaker to have her Rose Festival gown fitted, flew back to Dallas and drove back to Tyler.
"I'm not tired," she insisted. "This has all been so much fun."
A sophomore at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Emily is majoring in cinema and television and hopes to someday produce or direct movies, but a large portion of the past year has been dedicated to the Rose Festival.
"It's been absolutely amazing," she said. "It's been kind of nice to stay this busy."
Emily, the daughter of Jeff Austin III and Holly Austin, had some inkling of how her year would be as she's been involved in the Rose Festival since she was small.
"When we were growing up, we'd participate in ways like picking up trash and helping clean up the community for Rose Festival," she said.
And even since she's been away at college, she's come back for the Rose Festival.
But when the moment came for Emily to be invited to become the Queen of the 2009 festival, she was "in complete shock."
"My dad called and asked me to come over to his house," she remembered. "Then Mr. Brookshire came in with roses and I thought I was going to be a Lady-In-Waiting. But when I found out I was going to be the Queen, I was so excited. I think I was in shock for a week!"
Anticipating the naming of the new Queen was always a fun guessing game, Emily said.
"In past years, we were always trying to find out beforehand and guess who it would be," she said. "Now I'm the queen and I feel I shouldn't be. It's a very proud and humbling honor. It's surreal."
Emily quickly names working on the Habitat for Humanity women's build as one of her favorite parts of her year as Queen.
"It was the first time I've ever done it and it was a very profound experience," she said. "Doing Habitat with all the girls was wonderful. We all came together and did something for the community, although I think more paint ended up on me than on the house! I'm really glad the Festival has become involved with Habitat; it's such a great cause."
Another of the high points of the year was visiting the Rose Garden for a behind-the-scenes lesson in the area's rose commerce.
"I didn't realize the magnitude of what roses bring to our economy," she said.
Emily's community involvement doesn't end with the Rose Festival. She is a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority at SMU and works to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, a cause that touched her heart early in life.
"A good friend's little sister was diagnosed with it," she said. "We'd do fundraisers, like carwashes and making and selling bracelets. I didn't realize how much work goes into caring for a child with CF. So much goes into it and it's hard work."
Emily chats easily with the girls assembled at Dance N Drill, lounging in puffy white crinolines and colorful practice shoes before rehearsal begins.
"I have been friends with all these girls for a long time," she said. "We've had so much fun."
They were all happy at her appointment as Queen, Emily said.
"I thought it might be a little awkward, but it wasn't," she said. "They were all really excited for me."
Her sister, Blynn, 21, who was a Lady-In-Waiting two years ago at the Rose Festival, was also excited for her younger sister.
"She's been so supportive and since she's already been through it, she's been giving me tips and hints and everything," Emily enthused.
In fact, Emily was a little sad that her coronation gown stays under wraps until the big ceremony.
"I wanted my friends to see it!" she said.
Emily loves the dress, which weighs almost as much as she does.
"I think if I lean forward, the train holds me up," she said.
The dress, designed by Wynn Morton, whom Emily describes as "absolutely amazing," will feature details about things that are important to Emily and her family. She was able to choose a color palate for the dress and is excited for her mother to see it for the first time at her coronation.
"I can't wait for that night," Emily said. "It's going to be awesome. Tyler is such a close-knit community so everyone I know and love will be there."
Emily will be escorted that evening by longtime friend Ross Weathers.
The coronation itself represents the culmination of a year's worth of hard work. Emily took care of herself by running almost every day and working out with a personal trainer. She, along with the other girls, spent an intense week over the summer rehearsing for the big night, slipping on knee pads under their practice clothes to protect their knees from bruising as they curtsied again and again.
"The choreography is very pretty," she said.
And after it's all said and done, Emily will go back to being a Cinema and Television major at SMU, hoping to direct her own films some day.
"I love Alfred Hitchcock," she said. "His cinema techniques and the way he uses the camera is amazing."
But until then, she's enveloped in a flurry of activity, enjoying the excitement and anticipation of the coronation on Oct. 9.
Before she leaves the interview, country music blasting from her silver coupe, she offers to pick up coffee for the other girls from Starbucks.
"It's just all been amazing," she said.