Given her choice of Mardi Gras costumes as a child, Laney Langenstein invariably selected princess attire. “I always wanted to be a princess,” the current Vanderbilt University student said, “never a queen.”
But little princesses grow up.
On Tuesday, Charlotte Lane “Laney” Langenstein, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Henry Langenstein III, will reign as queen of Carnival. She will follow in the royal footsteps of her maternal grandmother, who, as Dolly Ann Souchon, wore the Rex Organization crown in 1949.
Laney, whose mother is the former Edith Charlotte “C.C.” Parker, has many fond memories of her “Grand Dolly,” who died when Laney was 9.
“We’d sit with a ton of dolls and have tea parties,” Laney said. “We always had to have gloves. She’d wear gardening gloves.”
Well before Laney was born in 1994, Grand Dolly, then Dolly Ann Parker, taught court etiquette, including the rules of glove-wearing, to the royalty of a number of Carnival krewes. She retired from this task when she married Erik Frithjof Johnsen — who subsequently reigned as Rex in 1991.
Echoes of Queen Dolly Ann’s gown, such as a chevron motif, are being incorporated by designer Suzanne Perron into Queen Laney’s gown for the Rex ball at the Sheraton Hotel. And if the memento fits under her all-important glove, Laney will wear the wristwatch her grandmother was given by her king, Lester Alexander, to mark their reign.
The delicate silver timepiece was an essential element in the scenario staged by her parents to inform Laney of her upcoming regal role.
“Last year they called me in from school, and I celebrated my birthday in late March. They gave me two gifts my grandmother had left me,” Laney said. One was a ring; the other was the watch.
“My dad put on ‘If Ever I Cease to Love’ (the theme song of Rex) and opened some champagne and raised a toast to the queen of 1949. Then he turned and raised a toast to the queen of 2015, and I broke down crying. They had put out some Rex memorabilia, and my little crown I wore when I was a princess.”
Laney’s family has been receiving Rex honors since the late 1800s. Just last year, her brother, William Henry Langenstein IV, was chosen as a duke.
Her great-grandfather, Edmond Souchon III, was a duke in 1920; her great-aunt, Marion Souchon Richeson, was queen in 1922; and her grandfather, John Milliken Parker III, was a duke in 1942 — to name just a few.
“It’s such an honor to have Laney be a part of that tradition,” said mom C.C., who was first maid in the Rex court during her debut year.
What the family does not have is a connection with the local Langenstein’s grocery store. Laney’s father is a lawyer.
To prepare for her own career, Laney has a double major at Vanderbilt in cognitive studies and corporate strategy.
Now in her junior year, she chose the first field, she said, “because I have a fascination with people and how they think. Then I took a business class my freshman year that I really thrived in” — and that led to the second field.
For the coming summer, she plans an internship in marketing. This past July to November, she attended a study abroad program at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.
An alumna of Trinity Episcopal School and Isidore Newman School, Laney made the dean’s list at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, among others.
Asked for an adjective that best describes her only daughter, C.C.’s first choice was “vivacious.” Her second was “determined,” and dad Bill agreed, saying, “That would be my word.”
Explained C.C.: “She goes after her goals, and she has always reached them.”
During high school, for example, Laney saw a need for a wheelchair-accessible raised garden at Magnolia School, which serves adults with developmental disabilities. So she launched a one-person letter-writing campaign to raise $20,000 for the project. And she succeeded.
Undoubtedly, Laney’s vivacious side will be much in evidence on Tuesday.
“Mardi Gras is filled with magic,” she said. “There’s this connection — you’re standing next to someone you may have nothing in common with, and you’re catching beads together.
“It’s a great way to bring all of New Orleans together,” said the princess who grew up to be a queen.