When Jean Black, née Reubold, was a student at Central Islip High School, she just wanted to blend in. Black wasn’t used to being in the spotlight — in fact, one of her pastimes was working behind the scenes creating the sets for the school’s theatrical productions.
“I did not want to be recognized,” she said. “I did not want to be looked at. I was a teenager, and I didn’t want any attention drawn to myself.”
So when Black was named prom queen in 1965, she was floored.
“I looked at my boyfriend as if to say, ‘Really?’” she remembered, laughing. “Is this what’s happening tonight? I didn’t want to come to this stupid prom and they’re gonna make me a queen!”
The tiara was placed on her head in front of her peers and, as Black still remembers, dug painfully into her scalp.
“I was like, ‘Oh no, this is going to be my new favorite accessory now because I won’t be able to get it off!’” she said.
Looking back, Black remembers this moment fondly. She laughed while recollecting how members of the football team tried to sneak out some food from the buffet in the box with her bouquet of roses.
“It was just a night of comedy,” she said. “One thing after the other was funnier than the next.”
Black went on to be voted “wittiest” in her senior class superlatives. After graduating, she attended cosmetology school but says she never really used her license. She became a stay-at-home mother in addition to volunteering for the Look Good Feel Better program, which teaches beauty techniques to people with cancer.
Black got married to fellow Central Islip graduate Buddy Black when she was 20, and now lives in Oakdale. They have four children and 10 grandchildren.
At 71, Black feels it’s important for young women to stay present during milestone moments, like when she received that tiara in 1965.
“There are so many young women out there who feel less than,” she said. “Then you have that moment in life, whether it’s your wedding day, putting your dress on, or graduating from college and you didn’t know if you could make it . . . These moments are so wonderful, and you never forget. It stays with you for the rest of your life.”
Black also said that inclusivity is important to her, and she’s noticed that young people are becoming more and more accepting of each other’s differences. She added, “We have to embrace every single person who comes through those doors.”
Editor's Note: Newsday.com is catching up with former Long Island prom kings and queens to reflect on being named royalty and see what they're up to now. If you're a former Long Island high school prom king or queen and would like to participate, email firstname.lastname@example.org.