When the School of Design -- best known as Rex -- chose "Royal Gardens - Hortis Regis" as its theme for 2016, little did the members know how apropos it was going to be when choosing the Queen of Carnival: Adelaide Dabezies Goodyear.
The theme is based on royal gardens from around the world from various time periods. Adelaide, who was born in New Orleans, became a world traveler at 4 1/2 years old, when her father, Chip Goodyear; mother, Elizabeth Dabezies Goodyear; and older brother, Charlie Goodyear, started their family's overseas adventures, moving to Australia. More moves followed: London at age 7, back to Australia at age 9, and China for a year when she was 12. (Adelaide speaks and reads Mandarin Chinese.) All the while, the family traveled extensively, giving the children a unique perspective of the world.
After a year in China, the family moved to London, where Adelaide attended boarding school at Marlborough College in Wiltshire, England, finishing up at Westminster School, located in Westminster Abbey in London. Adelaide chose Yale University for college. It is a family tradition: Her great-great-grandfather, great-grandfather, grandfather, and father attended.
Majoring in geology, Adelaide also has a strong interest in art; she is docent at the Yale University Art Gallery. A look around her family's residence shows a well-curated mix of Asian, European and American art. Paintings by Ida Kohlmeyer and John Alexander, known for their bold use of color but in vastly different ways, hint at how Adelaide's interest started, and how she developed her docent tour at the gallery.
It is an intensive program; those accepted into it study and train for a year, four hours a week, learning about the gallery's collection and how to bring people around. The docents create their own "discussion-based tour," says Adelaide, "using four objects in the gallery."
Those four objects and the tour they create can change based on the questions asked by the audience, as well as how Adelaide guides it, which can change depending on what she feels like that day. The pieces Adelaide chose are "mostly about color, the different objectives and different lenses by which we look at it," she says, "or the different lenses it is used to be made into different objects."
Throughout her years abroad and at Yale, Carnival was a somewhat abstract event to Adelaide. because Chinese New Year, which falls about the same time, based on the lunar calendar (this year it is Monday, Feb. 8), was usually celebrated where she lived. But that didn't mean Adelaide completely forgot the city's celebration - she returned at 13 for Carnival festivities, as well as for Les Pierrettes, a sub-deb ball, which occurs in late December.
When Adelaide's debut year came around, Carnival, and the balls and debutante presentations that go with it, were still relatively new to her. Adelaide dived enthusiastically into the scene. Her first presentation was in June 2015 at Le Debut des Jeunes Filles de la Nouvelle Orleans; her first Carnival ball was Twelfth Night Revelers on Jan. 6. She was honored with friend Lily Saer at a party hosted by their parents in late December 2015.
Though the family moved back to New Orleans in 2013, it was this season that Adelaide got closer to her extended family. Elizabeth Goodyear is from New Orleans and multiple relatives live here, while Chip Goodyear, originally from New York, has had longstanding ties to the area: his predecessors built the city of Bogalusa in 1908 to house workers for the family owned Great Southern Lumber Company. The Goodyears sold the company in 1938, but still owned land in the area, a portion of which was developed into Money Hill, a golf and country club community in Abita Springs.
As to be expected, many of her friends are curious about the traditions Adelaide is now participating in. Posed with the question of how to describe Carnival to them, via a docent tour she would give at the gallery, Adelaide came up with four choices:
"Mask with Superstructure in the Form of a Female Figure" (mid- to late-20th century). "Mardi Gras pulls its celebratory roots from many cultures, and this African mask represents one of these cultures."
"Dancer Ready to Dance with Her Right Foot Forward" (1882-1895) by Edgar Degas. "I chose this for two reasons: The first, Degas lived in New Orleans for a while and wrote about his experiences and love for the place. Secondly, one of my favorite parts and memories of Mardi Gras are the dancers at a parade, and this dancer reminds me of one of the girls you see dancing in Rex on Fat Tuesday."
"Multicolored Circle" (1921) by Wassily Kandinksy. "The variety of color and shape recall a certain energy and celebration that I also feel at Carnival. An individual's experience with the work is as unique as the Carnival experience."
"Music" (1893) by Elihu Vedder. "I felt like this is a good fourth piece to add, because it celebrates one of the most important parts of New Orleans and of Mardi Gras: music. The Roman allegory also recalls the Greek, Roman and Egyptian references in Mardi Gras krewes."
Adelaide may want to add a fifth item to the list: the dress she is wearing for her reign as Queen of Carnival. Collaborating with Suzanne Perron St. Paul, the duo looked at photos of previous queens dresses from different krewes, and picked elements they liked, tying it into the Royal Gardens theme by adding flowers from where Adelaide lived throughout the world. And in her own way, she has now added her own worldly perspective to one of the city's revered traditions.
Rex 2016, Michael Kearney, will greet his subjects on Mardi Gras
To reach Sue Strachan, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 504.450.5904. Find her on Twitter and Instagram as @suestrachan504, with the hashtag #nolasocialscene. Visit her on Facebook. And, come back to NOLA.com/society for more New Orleans area event and party news and photos.