April 15, 2023. Louisville, KY. – With the traditional spin of a wheel, Mahshad Taheri of Louisville was named the 2023 Kentucky Derby Festival Queen tonight during the 64th annual Fillies Derby Ball Presented by Total Wine & More at the Louisville Marriott Downtown. Mahshad 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.
This year’s Derby Festival Princesses excitedly waited for the wheel to be spun by Fillies President Barb Wainright. The other members of the Court include: Hayley Benson of Louisville, a junior at the University of Louisville majoring in Biology on the Pre-Medical track; Lauren Carter of Lexington, KY, a senior at the University of Kentucky Lewis Honors College double majoring in Management and Marketing on the Pre-Law track; Mallory Hudson of Bowling Green, KY, a junior at the University of Kentucky majoring in Communications; and Valerie Tran of Louisville, a senior at the University of Louisville majoring in Industrial Engineering. National tea company, Luzianne®, is the Presenting Sponsor of the 2023 Royal Court.
Chosen each year as ambassadors for the Kentucky Derby Festival, the Royal Court is made up of outstanding young women from around the state. Selected from a pool of nearly 100 applicants, the newly crowned Queen and the Court will reign through 2023 and attend nearly all events during this year’s Festival. They’ll help share the Derby Festival spirit, as well as the importance of academics, volunteerism and community involvement, as they represent the community at a variety of functions.
Criteria for selection included knowledge of the Derby Festival, poise, intelligence, personality and campus/community involvement. Each woman receives three $1,000 scholarships (one from the Fillies, Inc., one from the Kentucky Derby Festival Foundation, and new for 2023, Luzianne® Tea presented them with an additional scholarship). They also received an official wardrobe.
Past Derby Festival Queens include Martha Layne Collins – Kentucky’s first woman Governor, the late Gail Gorski – the first female pilot for United Airlines and a number of other community leaders. Many say their Derby Festival experience helped them prepare for their future careers.
The Fillies Derby Ball is produced by The Fillies, Inc., a volunteer organization that works closely with the Derby Festival. Total Wine & More is the Presenting Sponsor of this year’s ball. Contributing Sponsor: Capital Access Corporation – Kentucky. Official Bourbon: Log Still Distillery. Official Luxury Vehicle: Cadillac. Media Sponsor: TOPS Louisville.