San Francisco Rose talks about festival’s role in the healing process.

The Rose of Tralee Festival has given San Francisco Rose Amanda Donohue plenty food for thought, not least how she might use her experience of being bullied to good effect.

Amanda mentioned suffering during her teen years at the hands of bullies in a radio interview with Ryan Tubridy. She subsequently received a letter from the mother of a young girl who was going through a similar ordeal. “Ellen” asked whether Amanda could
mentor her daughter.

“I was so touched and, honestly, a bit shocked with it,” she said. “I was sitting in my room and had a solid cry and it’s something I found absolutely phenomenal because something as simple as me writing a letter for young girls could be a life or death thing so it’s definitely something I will be following up.”

Amanda, 20, who lost her sister and a cousin in the Berkeley balcony collapse two years ago, also spoke again about how the festival has been “monumental to the healing process”.

The physics student at the University of Nevada was one of the last on stage at The Dome last night where she spoke bravely about the loss of her sister Ashley, 22, and her cousin Olivia Burke, 21.

She spoke of how being
selected as the San Francisco Rose had brought “light” into the lives of her family.

“I think it’s been very, very good for us,” she said. “It has definitely brought a huge light to our life and I do want to say we are in a better place as a family, extended and immediate.

“We’ve gotten more out of it than I would have ever hoped. It’s been monumental to the healing process, I would like to say.”

Amanda showed off her artistic flair with a drawing of host Daithí Ó Sé’s late father.

Preparing for the Rose of Tralee means getting leaner, fitter and stronger, and losing a stone — and that’s just t Daithí, who had an early alarm call in son Micheál Óg, waking at 4am and shouting: “It’s time to go to the hotel.”

But when your job entails having a go at an aerial hoop, limbo dancing, yoga, sparring with a boxing partner and even cracking the whip, fitness is key.

“I don’t like rehearsing any of those party pieces because that should be more spontaneous and part of the craic,” said Daithí, who’s hosting his eighth show. “I don’t like rehearsing in general, but that’s part of it and you have to for timing.

“The easy part is the broadcasting. The only time I get nervous is when I’m
unprepared — and you’re so prepared for this.”

Chicago Rose and Kerry Group research scientist Teresa Daly gives Daithí Ó Sé a blind taste test.
Chicago Rose and Kerry Group research scientist Teresa Daly gives Daithí Ó Sé a blind taste test.

Daithí said security had been “beefed up” this year, so he and the Roses don’t have to share the stage with any intruders.

And after last year’s calls by Sydney Rose Brianna Parkins for the repeal of the eighth amendment, fears of another outspoken Rose were mostly unfounded — Fermanagh Rose Stephanie Maguire’s discussion of domestic violence in Ireland was as political as it got.

Donegal Rose Amy Callaghan gave an aerial hoop performance — a skill she learned doing a circus-style workshop while studying dance — to the haunting soundtrack of Clannad’s ‘Theme from Harry’s Game’.

Viewers were treated to a display of limbo dancing by Toronto Rose Colombe Nadeau O’Shea, who encouraged the host to have a go.

Hong Kong’s first ever Rose, Clarissa Langley Coleman, performed ‘Danny Boy’ as never heard before in The Dome — in Cantonese.

Chicago Rose Teresa Daly, who grew up in Kanturk, is based in Beloit, Wisconsin, and worksm as a research and development scientist with Kerry Group. She made the host blind taste some well-known Irish foods.

She looked stunning on stage last night, but Louth Rose Aoife Heffron revealed she used to feel ugly due to hair loss, a condition she writes openly about on her blog, and the anxiety she suffered as a result. She says it’s just as difficult for men as it is for women, yet they’re expected to be able to handle it.

“I’m a magician when it comes to doing my hair and I’ve learned how to disguise it,” said Aoife, whose hair extensions were sponsored by Peter Mark.

Tonight it will be the turn of the remaining 14 finalists to be prepped and preened for their moment in the spotlight.


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