NEW ORLEANS -- It’s good to be the king, and to reign over Zulu, Tony and Chanel Barker say, is the best present of all.
“I never dreamed I would be King of Zulu, but once I joined many years ago, I wanted to be more than just a member,” said Tony Barker, King Zulu 2011. His wife Chanel said her role as queen is a dream come true.
“You know how when you’re a little girl and you say, ‘Wow, this is something like to do now.’ It’s a reality and all came true,” she said.
But it’s taken some time for the queen to get used to her royal status, as she was admittedly nervous at her debut at Armstrong International Airport last month, continuing a Zulu tradition. Her highness promises to represent the organization as best as she can.
“I hope we have a wonderful Mardi Gras and will serve to the best of my ability,” she said. Her counterpart, King Zulu 2011, is a little more outgoing. “Let’s keep doing what we’re doing. Let’s have a wonderful time,” said Tony Barker.
He first arrived in New Orleans from Michigan 25 years ago, almost as long as he has been a member of Zulu.
“That’s when I learned more about Mardi Gras, crawfish. I had no idea what those items were. From that point on, it was Zulu, Zulu, Zulu!” he said.
Barker is an accountant and tax and financial planner by trade, who now works for the Transportation Security Administration. He also currently serves as Zulu’s treasurer, and has held many other leadership roles with the club.
He and his wife, who is a native of New Orleans, have three children and four grandchildren.
Chanel Barker earned a nursing degree from LSU and pursued a business degree from the University of New Orleans. She worked as a medical assistant at Charity Hospital and has been employed with the LSU Health Care Network for 14 years.
The multiple posters around their house exemplify the Barkers’ pride for the organization. Tony hopes his passion will come through on Carnival Day.
“It will bring me back to my first year of riding, I think,” he said. “I think the same excitement when turn Claiborne to Jackson Ave. Get so excited see people screaming name hollering the excitement. I don’t know what I’m going to do but I want to see what I’m going to do,” he said.