One evening almost a year ago, Anna Huger was called downstairs in her family home by her parents, Jim and Stephanie.
“I was confused because two of my father’s friends were there waiting for me, and one of them started reading a poem,” recalled Anna, whose middle name “Eugenie” has given rise to the nickname “Noonie.”
“I didn’t get, until the end of the poem, that they were letting me know I would be queen of Carnival.”
An arts management major at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, Anna said that reigning as queen of her hometown's signature celebration exceeds all of her previous life experiences, even the semester she spent in Florence studying Italian art and staging shows for galleries.
“It was a life-expanding opportunity to visit museums and galleries, talk outside of class with professors, meet artists and arrange for gallery exhibitions,” she said of that experience.
That Anna has a passion for the creative world is due in large part to her mother, the former Stephanie Goliwas, a ceramicist who has a studio — complete with a kiln — at home.
“Because Anna grew up with it, she was exposed at an early age,” said Stephanie Huger (pronounced "you-gee").
Indeed, ceramic works by Anna and her siblings — younger sister Charlotte and twin brothers John and William — fill every shelf in the family's sunlit library, while sculptures by artists including Evelyn Jordan appear elsewhere.
Describing his daughter, Jim (James Middleton) Huger said she is much like his mother, Eugenie Jones Huger, who was queen of Carnival in 1952. To honor Huger's mother and the family connection, the 1952 flag will hang at the Rex viewing stand on Mardi Gras.
“Anna is like my mother in that she is intelligent, charming and socially at ease in any situation,” Huger said. “She doesn’t ever seem to be at a loss for words."
For the past few months, Anna has been directing her creative energies to her upcoming reign, including working with Suzanne St. Paul to develop the gown she will wear at the Rex ball.
The crown she will wear and the scepter she will carry Tuesday both belong to the Rex organization, but the gown will be hers to keep. It likely won’t be worn again, she said, adding that some Rex royalty donate their gowns to the Louisiana State Museum or to the organization for display.
Anna developed an abiding interest in children and their well-being when she tutored young students at Lafayette Academy while a student at Isidore Newman school.
Her interest in children inspired a special treat she and her mother planned for Children’s Hospital and Ochsner on Saturday afternoon, when the queen brought Rex beads to the pediatric patients, along with specially made plush queen dolls for the girls and swords for the boys.
“It’s a custom from the Mayoki Indian organization in Pensacola that my parents belonged to 25 years ago, and it fits so well with the 'Pro bono publico' motto of Rex and its dedication to civic duty,” Stephanie said.
If there is a single aspect of being the queen of Carnival that doesn’t completely thrill Anna, it’s the requirements of hair, makeup and garb for public appearances.
“I have to wear my hair in an up-do with plenty of makeup to stand up to the lights at the ball. And the tradition of the queen wearing a suit (during the parade) is a little tough,” the young monarch admitted. “My friends and family will tell you that, in real life, I’m much more at home in jeans with my hair down.”