Santiago Portillo speaking during the Mr. MHS show. Photo by Cristobal Marey.
You’ve heard of Miss America, now get ready for Mr. MHS! The annual Mr. MHS Competition was held in the Jenkins Auditorium Friday night at 7pm. Mr. MHS is a fundraiser that is hosted by James Valente in order to raise money for the yearbook. It is an all male pageant that was “conceived out of the idea that years ago there was an all female fashion show and the guys were complaining that there was nothing for them” says Valente. Mr. MHS was something the school had done in the 60s and 70s until it died out in the 80s. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that they were able to bring back the tradition and use it as a fundraiser to pay for the cost of the print of the yearbook.
Although Valente has been working at the school for 25 years, he wasn’t always the yearbook advisor. Before him the position belonged to another English teacher who was struggling financially with getting the book paid for. This English teacher asked Valente if he knew of anything they could do to help defray the cost of the yearbook. The principal at the time mentioned that he actually competed in Mr. MHS back in the day and suggested it to the teachers.
Valente agreed that it was a great idea, but they would have to modernize it. In order to get some ideas, he was went and watch Peabody High School do their own version of Mr. MHS. For them, the competition lasts for three days and he really enjoyed it. Valente says that “if [he] could even take some percentage of that and try to infiltrate [it], that’s what [they’re] going to do.”
Each year about eight students are selected to be in the competition. Anyone that is in good standing academically and in terms of absences and behavior can sign up. These names are then taken to the assistant principals who vet them. The kids that make it through the vetting process are put into a hat and the first eight names are chosen for the show.
The seniors that were chosen this year were Matt Farias, Tyler Martineu, Kevin Phan, Dexter Haag, Gustavo Silva, Fernando Pedro, Kyle O’Brien, and Santiago Portillo. Farias said that he wanted to participate in this year’s show because “it’s one of the last things you can do at the school before you leave.”
Something you may not know about the competition is that it is unscripted and there are no rehearsals. The program of events for the night included the opening dance and introduction, the beach, casual, and formal wear competitions, talent competition, staff impressions, a question and answer session, and the night concluded with the final declarations and crowning. Farias says that “[he is] most excited for the hilarious stuff that goes on” and Portillo adds that what he is most excited for is “the swimsuit competition [because he] wants to see what the other boys are wearing.”
The judges this year are Mayor Gary Christenson, Paul Hammersley (Director of Malden Overcoming Addiction), Joe Luongo, Judy Sullivan (Administrative Assistant of the High School), and Jeanne Marquardo (Administrative Assistant of the Athletic Department). Valente explains that “[they] try to find all walks of life” because they don’t want just Ms. Marquardo for example, who only knows the kids athletically. In addition, everyone that comes in gets a ticket and during intermission, they pull a ticket and that person gets the opportunity to come up and be a guest judge. This makes the competition more interesting because the guest judge could be a friend of one of the boys in the show and tip the scales.
The night started off with an opening dance where all of the boys got on stage and performed various dance moves. After that, there was a mix-up where the boys were sent out in their casual wear for the beachwear category. Whether this was planned or not, it added an element of humor because you could see the boys pulling up their pant legs and taking off their shirts to try and accommodate the theme.
After the confusion of the beachwear competition, this time the boys were actually presented on stage in their bathing suits. The boys were accompanied on stage by their “escorts.” Farias by Agatha Silva, Haag by Melanie Moulaison, Martineau by Maria Oliveira, O’Brien by Shataeya Smith, Pedro by Pamela Coelho, Phan by Kristine Vo, Portillo by Michayla Moody, and Silva by Olivia Forestier.
The talent competition came next. Haag serenaded one of the hosts to the song “L.O.V.E.” by Michael Bublé followed by Martineau lip syncing to a Drake song. Following him was O’Brien dancing to the iconic “Old Town Road” which featured an appearance from Smith, which the audience loved. O’Brien was not the only one who danced though, Phan also performed a dance routine. Next, Silva tried to play soccer while wearing high heels. Finally, Portillo played “Slow Dancing in the Dark” by Joji on the guitar.
Succeeding intermission, the boys carried out their staff impressions. Some of the most memorable performances included Portillo’s impression of Ms. Mazza, a music teacher at Malden High and Phan’s portrayal of Ms. Briggs, one of the school’s P.E. teachers.
Nearing the end of the event, the boys went on stage for the formal wear category wearing various suits. Finally, to conclude the night the boys answered questions from the judges and they presented their final declarations each explaining why they should be Mr. MHS. Kyle O’Brien won Mr. Fabulous (2nd Runner Up), Dexter Haag won Mr. Congeniality (1st Runner Up), and Santiago Portillo was crowned Mr. MHS. Also, Timothy Lane, a business teacher at Malden High received the Honorary Mr. MHS award. Portillo says that “[he] was really surprised” and that “[he] came into Mr. MHS not expecting to win… just planning to fool around and put [himself] out there!” Nevertheless, he was really glad that he won and he felt like it reflected the amount of effort he put into the show. Portillo definitely recommends future seniors to participate.
Valente thinks the most interesting part of every year is that he tells the kids to write their declarations beforehand and every year no one ends up reading off their cards. Valente believes that the final declaration shows the reality of what Malden High kids are really like. To him, they’re all Mr. MHS. He feels like just putting your name in and “having the courage to get on stage and help out” shows the kind of people they are.
As much as they want to crown everyone, they have to crown somebody. However, Valente doesn’t think “there are any losers in the show,” just the people who didn’t come to see it.