Tara Dunaway, a junior Marketing major at the University of Louisville, was recently selected to be one of five 2018 Kentucky Derby Festival Princesses.
The princesses earn their spots through high scholastic achievements and dedication to service within the community. The winner of the crown will be determined on April 14 by a spin-of-the-wheel at the annual Fillies Derby Ball.
Dunaway, from Leitchfield, Kentucky, decided to attend UofL’s College of Business because of the accomplished professors and networking opportunities. She serves as chairman of Outreach in the College of Business Student Council and is active in the community, volunteering at Portland Elementary and Adopt-A-Highway.
UofLNews had the chance to talk to Dunaway about why she embarked on this journey and the process of becoming a princess:
UofLNews: What has been your fondest moment so far at UofL?
Dunaway: I have met so many great people that my college experience would be incomplete without. One of my fondest moments was spring semester of 2017, I was selected out of my business communications class to compete in the Northwestern Mutual Annual Fast Pitch Speech Competition. I was honored just to be selected to compete and be able to talk about my study abroad experience in Austria, I was so shocked and ecstatic when I won. I am looking forward to judging this year’s competition in March.
UofLNews: Why did you choose to embark on this journey and become a KDF princess?
Dunaway: I choose to partake in the application process because I saw all the exciting events past princesses got to be a part of. Specifically, Sidney Cobb and Natalie Brown. These ladies represented UofL and the festival with utmost respect, and I wanted to have that opportunity as well. The other princesses grew up in Louisville and have always known about this opportunity and wanted to be a part of it. My connection with this program is unique because I am the first princess from my county and I have fallen in love with the Kentucky Derby Festival events and opportunities so quickly.
UofLNews: What are your favorite things about the process?
Dunaway: The Kentucky Derby Festival and The Fillies truly do treat us like royalty. I am so honored to take part in literally every festival event, knowing I’ll never be able to experience so many of these events again. It’s so exciting to go in public and see the excitement on kids faces when they see us, I will never get tired of kids asking to take pictures with us or asking for our autographs. I am so grateful for the networking opportunity and the so many amazing people we have gotten to meet. I know the other princesses and I have made a bond that will last forever.
UofLNews: What surprised you about the process?
Dunaway: I had no idea how many people were involved in the selection process and how many women in the Fillies organization spend countless hours reaching out to sponsors and accompanying us to events. I knew that the spring was going to be a busy season for me taking 16 hours this semester, working part-time downtown for my internship, and having to attend over 75 festival events. I’m sure I will be exhausted by the time the Derby is over, but I am so excited to experience all these events in so little time.
UofLNews: What is next for you as a KDF Princess?
Dunaway: We have several events that we will be attending in February, but the festival really kicks off on March 1 with Festival Unveil. I am really looking forward to this event because it a celebration that the whole community can be a part of. After being named as a princess, the festival queen will be selected at the Fillies Ball on April 14. Many people are unaware that this is a random selection. All five princesses have an equal chance at being named queen based on a spin of the wheel.
UofLNews: How do you want to change the world?
Dunaway: I’m so passionate about this world that we live in and I love learning about all the different cultures, customs and religions that inhabit it. It’s crazy how small things have impacted me throughout my life, and I hope that I have the same impact on others. I’ve always believed that a generous smile can change someone’s day, and it’s something I love to see no matter where I travel. I hope one day the world will be more accepting and understanding of others’ situations, including myself. You will find a new level of hospitality and respect within yourself once negative judgments are eliminated and differences are not only expected, but welcomed in to your life.
UofLNews: What is your favorite book?
Dunaway: It’s so hard to pick just one. The book that has probably impacted me the most directly is, “Purpose Driven Life” by Max Warren. This is such a popular book that I was against reading for so long until my dad basically threw it at me and told me to figure it out. I highly encourage it for anyone who has no idea where their life is going, and for people who think they have it all together.
UofLNews: Favorite restaurant in Louisville?
Dunaway: This is such a tough question for a girl who loves to eat. Right now I am on a Royal’s Hot Chicken binge — their apple pies are a must for anyone who goes. I also really like The Post, Guaca Mole and Toast on Market.
UofLNews: Do you have any advice for incoming students?
Dunaway: I promise it may not always feel like it, but these four years fly by so fast and they really are some of the best times you will ever have. Never wish these years away but have a plan for when it ends. I think the most important thing I could recommend is to stand strong in what you believe it. At so many points, your morals and beliefs will be tested, and even though sometimes your views will change, it is so important to be yourself and believe in your values. Don’t let your identity falter for others, but surround yourself with organizations and activities that encourage you to be the best you possible. Remember that your time here is not a right but a privilege, but you can always make it fun.
UofLNews: What drives/motivates you to get involved and work hard?
Dunaway: I am so lucky to come from such an amazing family that supports me in everything I do. My mom and sister are both extremely accomplished engineers, and my dad is one of the most-loved influencers in my hometown. For so long I felt as if I had to live up to their standards, but they have never pushed me to be anything I didn’t want to be. They would be thrilled wherever I landed in life as long as I’m happy. I however, have big dreams for myself, and having friends and family that believe in me and truly want to see me be successful is the greatest support I can have.
UofLNews: What are your plans after graduation?
Dunaway: Upon graduation I hope to pursue a masters in international business in Boston. Since I will be graduating a semester early, I plan to return to Europe and travel until my program begins. Eventually, I would like to work in consulting in an international banking firm and pursue a PhD in management.