It is a truth universally acknowledged that Mr. U of R, the annual philanthropy event hosted by Sigma Delta Tau, is one of the most exciting events on campus. Every year, the sorority compiles a group of volunteers from various campus organizations to compete in an all-male beauty pageant and raise money for their charity, Prevent Child Abuse America. 

It is a tradition that has taken the student community by storm. Over the course of several weeks, the contestants are primed by the sisters to compete in the four different categories — a personality-exhibiting introduction, a question and answer session, a holiday performance, and a talent portion. There are two winners. The first, the “People’s Choice” is chosen by the audience. To vote, audience members must donate money to the sorority chapter (one dollar equals one vote). But the ultimate winner of Mr. U of R is crowned by a panel of three judges — this year, Fraternity and Sorority Affairs director John DiSarro, alumni guest Shoshana Mazer ’21, and some lady from Public Safety? (Editor’s note: Her name is Erin Vess, a Community Resource Officer) And, for the first time since the pandemic, the event was held live, in-person, in Hubbell Auditorium, hosted by sophomores Sabrina Terando and Liz McGinn.

It was admittedly hard to hear the hosts, as technical difficulties caused the microphone to sound warbled and muted, so many of their jokes throughout the night were lost on the audience in a sea of chatter. There was a mention of the winning contestant scoring a date to the sorority’s formal with one of the hosts, Liz, which landed somewhat awkwardly. A flurry of uncertainty followed as they grappled with what to do with the awful sound quality — nothing. Quickly, then, they introduced the competitors. 

Each of the men prepared their own introductions, which were read aloud by Liz and Sabrina. First was sophomore George Murphy of Sigma Epsilon, with a self-declared major in roadkill taxidermy, and a minor in NASCAR. His hobbies included street racing Subaru Outbacks, punching holes through drywall, and passionately reading Shakespeare. In my opinion, this was the most interesting introduction, and also the only one I could actually hear because of the technical difficulties. Good for you, George.

The second contestant was junior James Bentayou of Psi Upsilon, who, instead of appearing from the back doors, stood up from a seat in the audience, throwing off his hoodie and throwing on some reflective skiing goggles,  much to the uproarious joy of the crowd. He made his way down the Hubbell steps with robust confidence. Then came first-year Matt Grier representing UR baseball, who lived by the ruling mindset of “respect bitches, get money,” followed by the soccer team’s sophomore Max Lebbern, who spends his free time “simping over his girlfriend.” 

The fifth contestant was first-year Omar Zakaria of UR’s very own division I squash team, who was cheered on with sophisticated applause from his teammates wearing matching white dress shirts in the front row. He labeled himself as a “five foot assassin” and wanted everyone to know that he started playing squash at the age of five. Sophomore Sam Eichel from Delta Upsilon called himself a “certified girlboss.” Then came juniors Tommy Wunder from the football team, Aidan Kropinwincki from track and field, Sidhant Bendre from Delta Kappa Epsilon, and Jasper Lemberg from Alpha Epsilon Pi. 

Ultimately, despite being dressed for success, all of the contestants looked horribly awkward as the hosts read their introductions. Most of them walked back and forth across the floor, uncertain how to position themselves, while some just stood in place and awkwardly flexed. Come on, guys. This is a beauty pageant. Confidence is key. 

Because we as an institution respect all bodies, the swimsuit section of the traditional beauty pageant was replaced by a holiday wear section in which contestants dressed as various holidays and were interviewed in a question and answer session by the hosts. Much of this session was lost on the audience because of the poor audio quality, which is a shame because the whole point of a question and answer session is actually being able to hear the questions and the answers. It’s also worth mentioning that many of these costumes were about as revealing as swimsuits. 

Still, the holiday wear was fun — Mr. Fourth of July wore a tiny pair of star-spangled boxer-briefs and a Nicki Minaj American flag as a cape (but the song they played as he walked on stage was not Nicki Minaj, which was a total missed opportunity); the Easter man dressed in a Hugh Hefner-esque cap and robe, throwing candy and condoms into the audience while his fraternity brothers jumped around him wearing bunny ears in a nod to Playboy (at least one condom balloon was spotted during the evening); ; and Omar of the squash team dressed conservatively in business casual clothing with some silver tinsel as a scarf to represent New Year’s Eve, telling the audience that it’s his favorite holiday because it’s the only time all year he gets to kiss a girl (bless your heart, sweet Omar). In the upcoming spirit of Hanukkah, Jasper wore a sweater with the Star of David embroidered across the chest and announced himself as the Nice Jewish Boy every mother wants for her child. “Why have just one night when you could have eight wild and crazy ones?” he said. Clearly, this man went for the most wholesome act (and won my little heart over).

The talent section that followed received mixed reviews from the audience. Unfortunately, being physically attractive is not, in fact, a talent on its own, but many of these constants believed otherwise. One gave a lap dance to a participating audience member, accompanied by the blaring  sound of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” complete with a rumpled dress and matted wig. The dance was tired, and the outfit was ill-fitting. It was uncomfortable and poorly done. 

“Is this supposed to be fun, or am I supposed to boo?” a student behind us said.

Omar singing his heart out during the talent portion.

While some other contestants tried to bring out tricks, like the student who tried his hand at drumming on neon orange buckets,  two of the performances showcased real talent in my opinion. One was Tommy of football, who juggled three tennis balls to Katy Perry’s “Firework.” His stage presence was a bit awkward, but the effort was there, and many of the balls were thrown in time to the music. Good job, Tommy. 

The other was a group dance performance by James and his friends, who emerged from the audience and tore off their outfits to reveal either heart printed boxers, or aggressively 80s parachute pants. They stormed the stage and performed a pretty cohesive and clearly well-practiced dance to Fergie’s “Fergalicious,” which was honestly pretty smooth. Teamwork makes the dream work, guys. Well done.

The audience’s attention waned throughout the night as the microphone situation continued to devolve. Crowd retention was poor (but not terrible), and students yelled excitedly over one another as the talent section drew to a close and all of the contestants performed a group dance. We do respect the practice that it took, but they were definitely not in sync with each other. During a call and response, the boys split into two groups and tried to taunt each other, but instead gave off middle school dance vibes. 

Quickly, the judges deliberated backstage while the YellowJackets (surprise) tore down the steps for an intermission performance. We sat amongst the rambunctious crowd as Liz and Sabrina announced the People’s Choice, Sam — who raised over 6,000 dollars in votes — and Mr. U of R of 2021, James.

James being hoisted by his fraternity brothers once he was announced the winner.

All in all, this year’s Mr. U of R was a welcome return of in-person shenanigans and college kid tomfoolery. Not every joke landed, but everyone had a great time cheering for everybody else (barring the occasional fraternity rivalry induced jeer, something that the judges quickly shut down). And, of course, it was for a good cause.

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