This past May, hundreds gathered at the annual Rougarou Ball to witness the crowning of this year’s Rougarou Queen. A panel of celebrity judges voted for a queen-hopeful that not only had the best make-up and costume, but also that be the face of this year’s festival—keeping the spirit of the festival alive while also staying true to the event’s mission of saving Louisiana’s coast. The Times got a chance to talk to this year’s royalty Kaylee Lina. Here’s what the Queen had to say:
Tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised in Bayou Black. I recently moved back down to Louisiana from California after working for local designers in the fashion industry. I have lived in several places, but there’s no place like home—my roots.
Did you ever imagine you would one day reign as Rougarou Queen?
I believe that we are all artist in our own unique way, expressing myself through creativity is something that’s always been therapeutic for me. I want more than anything to give back to our community, support our local artist and represent a wonderful organization and cause.
What are the expectations of your reign?
We all play a vital role in our community; it is up to us to preserve our coast, protect our natural resources and keep our traditions alive. Louisiana is a place like no other. Without these things, we would just be another dot on the map. We can simply help out by conserving water, recycling, supporting our local artist and coming together as a community.
What inspired your look?
Our look was inspired by Louisiana’s eery swamps, cypress trees, vegetation and the tale of the Rougarou. Our team named “The Rougarou Queen and the Full Moon” was inspired by the Rougarou tale but with our own twist, hoping that our tale will live on. Our queen arises from the swamps every full moon, in search of the ones harming our wetlands. She carries a cage filled with the remains of those who have harmed our coast: her torso—covered in wolf fur, her dress—dripping in gold, covered in moss from the depths of the swamp and wearing a golden white wolf crown.
What goes into making your look happen?
This was the fun part—putting our own twist or the tail into a vision—then creating it. We started from scratch with everything. It took a few months to get everything together, but it was everything we had envisioned.
How did you pick your design team?
I picked my design team based off of three things. Those three things are what I always look for when working with other artists: ambition, commitment and persistency. Since the beginning of our Rougarou journey, we have had a lot of great artists wanting to work with us but couldn’t fully commit. I thank them for that, but at the very end, I only had one standing; that was Ashley, who carried all those three things throughout this entire experience.
What did Ashley contribute to your look?
Her work really just speaks for itself. She’s been doing hair and makeup for years. Her vision, myself and other various artists helped us create something beautiful.
What have you enjoyed most about the Rougarou Queen experience so far?
I’ve enjoyed the process of creating something beautiful, working with and supporting our local artist, speaking out about our coast and representing for this organization. I owe a huge thank you to not only everyone that’s helped us with this, but to my mom and dad, Leah and Jim Lina, who have given back to our wetlands for years and many more years to come.
What is your favorite part of Rougarou Fest?
My favorite part about Rougarou Fest this year is that the festival has made a commitment to become a zero-waste event within the next five years. There will actually be recycling bins on site. We need more events that make those types of commitments to our community. I would love to see more of that and willing to help out in any way we can to make that happen.
All the activities going on, it’s a festival like no other. The local artist booths are neat too, and we decided to buy a booth for the festival this year to host our handmade and all natural products—giving back a certain percentage towards our wetlands. Our booth name is called Southern Soul.
What is your favorite food at the festival?
That’s a really hard question. I would have to say all of it; honestly, every dish has its own unique flavor.
When you’re not reigning as Rougarou Queen, what is a typical day like for you?
A typical day for me…would be working at Oakshire Elementary School as a pre-K paraprofessional, yoga, exercise and creating handmade crafts and all natural goodies. I’ll be starting my certification to teach yoga this upcoming January.
What are some things you enjoy most in life?
The things I enjoy most in life are spending time with my loved ones and pup, the freedom to express myself through my art, setting goals for myself, seeing and experiencing different places and just living my best life.
What is the most magical thing that you have ever that has ever happened to you?
Growing up in Louisiana is something that I consider very magical. Our people, food, music, culture and traditions are what make us so unique. I have some of the best memories growing up here that will hold with me forever. •