Meet the Royal Court!

The Derby Festival Royal Court is a long-standing tradition with the Kentucky Derby Festival and The Fillies, Inc.

Chosen from over 100 applicants, these five young women represent represent The Fillies®, the Kentucky Derby Festival, the City of Louisville, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky as official ambassadors for the springtime tradition of the Festival.


Meet the 2024 Royal Court!


Paighton, 21-years-old, is a senior at the University of Louisville with a Double Major in Political Science and Criminal Justice and is a Pre-Law and Public Policy student. She is a McConnell Scholar and their DEI Chair, and a Woodford R. Porter Scholar and also serves as President of Porter Scholars. She’s a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., is the 2023 University of Louisville Homecoming Queen, and volunteers with The Hope Buss.

Sarah, 23-years-old, is a secondyear Med student at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. She is a member of the Distinction in Business & Leadership Track, the social chair of her class, and the public relations chair of Project Heal. She is an avid pianist and has her own Kentucky Proud certified bakery.

Ankita, 25-years-old, is a third-year Med student at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from UCLA in three years with a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Biology and Society. She is the reigning Miss University of Louisville and was a Quality of Life finalist at Miss Kentucky. She founded her own preventative health initiative “Let’s Live Kentucky” to improve state healthcare outcomes and led her school’s Medical Spanish program. 

Emma, 24-years-old, is in the second year of her Master’s Program at Bellarmine University focusing on Elementary Education, and is a thirdgrade teacher at Saint Agnes School. She was a member of the Bellarmine University Dance Team, served on the executive board of Phi Mu Fraternity, has taught English in Italy and Austria, is a three-time national ballroom dancing champion, and is a conservationist.

Laurel, 22-years-old, is a senior at the University of Kentucky with a dual degree in Political Science and Writing, Rhetoric and Digital Studies. She is Pre-Law and will be attending UK’s Rosenberg College of Law in the fall. She’s a Lunsford Scholar and Lewis Honors College student, is on the Executive Board for UK Panhellenic and Student Government Association, and serves as Director of Programs at Hugh O’Brian Youth (HOBY) Leadership Kentucky. 

1957 – Jackie Love
1958 – Pat Travis
1959 – Martha Layne Hall (future Governor Collins)
1960 – Lillian Campbell
1961 – Dillard Marr
1962 – Jane Helm
1963 – Judy Roach
1964 – Trudie Musson
1965 – Jennifer Burcham
1966 – Lynne Girdler
1967 – Julie Short
1968 – Lynn Morris Haymond
1969 – Melinda Milliken
1970 – Starr Sprigg
1971 – Jennifer Lynn Storm
1972 – Gail Gorski
1973 – Julie Williams
1974 – Marion R. McCord
1975 – Annette Grundy
1976 – Kathy Carpenter
1977 – Robin Marie Clore
1978 – Elizabeth Page Penna
1979 – Ronda Marie Hartlage
1980 – Holly Wright
1981 – Gwen Francis Hettinger
1982 – Mia Todd
1983 – Lala Michele Thomas
1984 – Jessica Elizabeth Thomas
1985 – Peggy Barton
1986 – Kristen Zapata
1987  – Jennifer Lynn Stratton
1988 – Christina Lynn Levy
1989 – Margaret McGaw
1990 – Heather Marie Peet
1991 – Kristi Wright
1992 – Michelle Gaines
1993 – Preethi Anathakrishnan
1994 – Melissa Purvis
1995 – Tara Lutz
1996 – Charliese Brown
1997 – Leslie Ann Corbett
1998 – Natalie Ann Hallal
1999 – Michelle Elaine Ackerman
2000 – Kerri Richardson
2001 – Anne Marie Abell
2002 – Caryn Rae Willian
2003 – Rebecca DeSensi
2004 – Maria Maldonado
2005 – Brittany Diane Carpenter
2006 – Patti Jo Grice
2007 – Charlee Doom
2008 – Taléa Renee Drummer
2009 – Harini Chenna
2010 – Megan Imel
2011 – Trisha Maclin
2012 – Kaelyn Gault
2013 – Cameryn Jones
2014 – Julia Springate
2015 – Briana Lathon
2016 – Madison Orman
2017 – Natalie Brown
2018 – Tara Dunaway
2019 – Brittany Patillo
2020-2021 – Giavanna Combs
2022 – Nancy Ngo
2023 – Mahshad Taheri
2024 – Ankita Nair