Former princess takes throne as queen

Twelve years ago, Rachel Christine Tunberg’s first title was Princess Anna. This month, the 18-year-old college student will be honored as Queen Citrianna during the 78th Texas Citrus Fiesta.

Tunberg, who had been serving on the court as Lady in Waiting, clearly was surprised when the announcement was made at the Royal Coronation in January 2014.

20150109 Queen-Citrianna“If you see my face in pictures, you could fit a whole cake in my mouth,” she joked.

The Lady in Waiting is named with the new queen’s court, which includes Queen Citrianna, Princess of Grapefruit Blossom, Princess of Orange Blossom as well as Lady in Waiting, at the end of the coronation. The new court is honored the following year, so the court named in 2014 will be honored this year.

When Tunberg first competed as Duchess of Palms in 2013, she was named second alternate. It was only after one of the princesses on the royal court dropped out and the first alternate declined to take her place that Tunberg was called to fill in as Lady in Waiting in the 2014 court. She had thought she wouldn’t have another shot at the Queen Citrianna title.

It was an opportunity she didn’t waste. Tunberg began dance lessons at the age of 4, started dance and piano lessons at 6, and she’s been doing her own make-up since she was 8. Tunberg, a pageant regular, was ready.

Tunberg’s mom, Dina, also was ready. She’s taken Rachel to every Royal Coronation since Rachel was a 6-year-old Princess Anna. Of course, competing for Princess Anna was a much different experience. They barely made the cutoff deadline to participate and Rachel had just started doing pageants. She was still very shy, but she remembers answering questions about pets, how she liked school and if she had any brothers and sister.

Competing for Queen Citrianna was a natural progression.

“I’ve had a long time to think about it and plan dresses,” Dina Tunberg said. “For us, it was all about the dress. For me, that’s what people come to see.”

Over the years, Rachel said, participating in pageants has sharpened her verbal skills and she likes the focus on community service. In 2012, she competed for Miss Texas Teen USA, learning how to carry herself and feel comfortable on a stage.

Still, she recognizes the Queen Citrianna contest is much different from a typical pageant – sixty percent of the girls’ scores comes from the interview.

20150109 Rachel Tunberg-Princess-AnnaAs Duchess of Palms, Rachel said it was a stretch to talk to judges about her product – palms –because they’re not really a product. She said she had to be creative and talk about how people recognize the Valley because of the palm trees. As Lady in Waiting, it was easier, she said, because she didn’t have a product. She was the last to interview, figured everyone was tired and went in joking with the judges.

Since then, Rachel graduated in the top 5 percent of her class at Edinburg High School and finished her first semester at the University of Texas-Pan American, where she made the Dean’s List. She’s in the pre-nursing program, and plans to use her career to fund her dream of one day performing on Broadway.

Already, Rachel has gone with the Edinburg Ambassador Chorale to sing in Italy and France. She sang at the beach in Normandy, and she’s sung at Notre Dame. Rachel plans to go to New York after graduation.

“That’s the big tenant of pageants: If you can dream it, you can do it,” Dina Tunberg said. “They’re so positive.”

As the Royal Coronation nears, Rachel’s excited about her dress, which she said is unique with its ruffles. Dina Tunberg said the dress has to fit Rachel for a year as she goes on the parade circuit in San Antonio, Laredo and Corpus Christi.

“I want her to be visible,” Dina Tunberg said. “I want her to be remembered as one of the best.”

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