January 9, 2023. Louisville, KY. – Louisville just got a little more royal this morning, as the Kentucky Derby Festival introduced the 2023 Royal Court during an event at Dillard’s in Mall St. Matthews. Five young women have been selected to serve as Princesses for this year’s Festival and will act as ambassadors for the Festival and community as they attend more than 70 events this spring. National tea company, Luzianne®, is bringing more Southern charm and scholarship money to the Royal Court Program as the new Presenting Sponsor.

The Program celebrates the state’s most civic-minded and academically achieving college students, and each woman receives a $2,000 scholarship ($1,000 from the Fillies, Inc., and $1,000 from the Kentucky Derby Festival Foundation). New for 2023, Luzianne® Tea presented the five Princesses with an additional $1,000 scholarship. Each Princess will now receive $3,000, which is a combined total of $15,000 for the Royal Court Program.

“For the past six decades, seeing the Derby Festival Princesses out in the community has been one of the most visible and anticipated signs that the fun and excitement of the Derby Festival season is around the corner,” said Matt Gibson, Kentucky Derby Festival President & CEO. “We’re honored to partner with Luzianne® Tea, an iconic brand that shares our values of celebrating traditions that bring people and communities together.”

For Luzianne® Tea, it was the Derby Festival’s passion for Southern family traditions that made its sponsorship of the Royal Court Program a natural fit for the more than 120-year-old company.

“As the South’s original tea maker, we’re proud to be a part of the kick-off to a Southern cultural celebration like no other – Derby Season!” said Courtney M. Cola, Head of Beverages Marketing at Reily Foods Company. “We are inspired by the commitment and leadership of Derby Festival Princesses each year during Derby Season and hope our partnership as the 2023 Kentucky Derby Festival Royal Court Sponsor only amplifies their positive impact on the Greater Louisville community.”

The 2023 Royal Court was selected after attending final judging over the weekend with 23 other finalist candidates. There were dozens of original applicants for the Royal Court Program, representing different colleges and universities from around Kentucky and the region. All of the applicants went through preliminary judging in November. The Royal Court is coordinated by The Fillies, Inc., a volunteer group that works closely with the Festival.

The members of the 2023 Court are:

Hayley Benson of Louisville, KY – Hayley, 21-years-old, is a junior at the University of Louisville majoring in Biology on the Pre-Medical track. She’s a Woodford R. Porter Scholar, Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Scholar, a recipient of the Humana Foundation Scholarship Program, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, and works for UofL’s Resources for Academic Achievement as a General Chemistry I Structured Learning Assistant.

Lauren Carter of Lexington, KY – Lauren, 22-years-old, is a senior at the University of Kentucky Lewis Honors College double majoring in Management and Marketing on the Pre-Law track. She is a Merit Scholar, Vice President of the Order of Omega Leadership and Honors Fraternity, has received the Girl Scouts Bronze and Silver Awards, is involved in Best Buddies, and is the Founder of Stop Throwing Stones: A Kindness Movement.

Mallory Hudson of Bowling Green, KY – Mallory, 21-years-old, is a junior at the University of Kentucky majoring in Communications and minoring in Political Science. She has served as an ambassador for Jovani Fashions and is the reigning Miss Bowling Green, as well as the founder of Inclusive Stages, which provides theatrical experiences for individuals with special needs.

Mahshad Taheri of Louisville KY – Mahshad, 21-years-old, is a senior at the University of Louisville majoring in Finance. She is a Jones Scholar, a SHPEP Scholar, Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Scholar, founder of MENASA (Middle Eastern North African Student Organization), volunteer for Kentucky Refugee Ministries, a mentor for College Mentors for Kids, and works for the Admissions Office and Campus Housing Department at UofL.

Valerie Tran of Louisville, KY – Valerie, 22-years-old, is a senior at the University of Louisville majoring in Industrial Engineering. She is the Executive Director of raiseRED Dance Marathon, co-founder of the Homeland Project, a Vogt Scholar, member of Chi Omega Sorority, and has been named Volunteer of the Year (by UofL) and Young Philanthropist of the Year (by the Association of Fundraising Professionals).

Two alternates were also chosen – Brooke Berry, of Eminence, KY, a sophomore at the University of Kentucky, was chosen as the first alternate. Arushi Gupta of Louisville, KY, a senior at the University of Louisville, was chosen as the second alternate. They will become Princesses if one of the other women is unable to serve.

One of the five Princesses will be crowned the Derby Festival Queen by a spin-of-the-wheel at the annual Fillies Derby Ball on Saturday, April 15 at the Louisville Marriott Downtown.

Since 1959, the Royal Court Program has been overseen by members of The Fillies, Inc., a non-profit organization with 250 community volunteers who work closely with the Derby Festival. Candidates for the Princess Program must maintain a minimum 3.0 grade-point average and are selected by a panel of three out-of-state judges. Criteria for selection includes knowledge of the Derby Festival, poise, intelligence, personality and campus and community involvement.

The first Derby Festival Princess was crowned in 1957, the second year of the Festival. Previous Princesses have included former Kentucky Governor Martha Layne Collins and the late Gail Gorski, the first female pilot ever hired by United Airlines.


June 21 - June 21