The Homecoming Royal Court competed Tuesday for the hard-fought titles of King and Queen. Ten contestants chosen from several student organizations on campus showcased their talents in the costume, performance and evening wear segments to see who deserves this year’s crown and the right to make an appearance at the Homecoming football game Saturday.
MCs Jacob Lopez and Stacy Filosa did an amazing job of pumping up the crowd and getting huge rounds of applause for each contestant. They introduced each member of the Royal Court alongside the name of their organization and their organization’s team name, which was based on television shows to correspond with the theme “Streaming Storrs.”
In order to break up the pageant, the “Alma Mater Sing” was held between segments. During this, renditions of the UConn alma mater song “Old Connecticut” were sung by small groups from different teams in a capella style. The song seemed like a cross between fight songs from old football movies and Christmas carols. During one rendition, some alumni from the audience quietly sang along from their seats, clearly moved. During another rendition, the audience went crazy as the team remixed “Old Connecticut,” with a funky 90s-esque beat in the background.
The costume segment largely consisted of costumes that stuck to the theme of the team names, such as Drake Bell from “Drake and Josh,” Chief Hopper from “Stranger Things,” Michael Scott from “The Office,” Meredith Grey from “Grey’s Anatomy” and a couple members of “The Proud Family.” Others chose their costumes from slightly outside the theme. One boy dressed in traditional clothing from Laos to honor his parents who both came from there, and one girl dressed in traditional clothing from the Philippines in honor of Filipino American History Month.
The performance segment showed exactly how much talent UConn students have to offer. Contestant and “Kids That Fly” singer Nick Smeriglio (i.e. Drake Bell) kicked off this segment, by singing an original song. He played guitar and sang to an enthralled audience.
“I think we just had Drake Bell in the house,” Filosa joked after Smeriglio left the stage.
Another contestant, Ashley Amaro, was joined by a partner to dance the merengue to the beat of the clapping audience. Between a series of complex spins and a couple of beat drops, the crowd loved her. Amaro was followed by pianist, Steven Kao, who played “Never Enough” from “The Greatest Showman” on the keyboard. Caesar Valentin then challenged Smeriglio’s original song, with his own original rap about his love of PRLACC.
“PRLACC that is the place that made me,” Valentin rapped.
Valentin was followed by Alexis Abbotts’ sign-language translation of Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts.” This performance was both impressive in her skill and attitude when signing, but also in how she engaged the audience by playing a song they can’t help but sing along to. Raven Soumpholphakdy moved the audience even more with his spoken word poem about the pressure he felt from his family to play football growing up, when all he wanted to do was cheer.
“If only they knew how I could turn out a crowd at Gampel Pavilion,” Soumpholphakdy said.
Although the final few performances of this segment had to follow an immense amount of talent, they didn’t lose their audience. Arguably the best singing number of the night was done by Cydney-Alexis De La Rosa, who sang Andra Day’s “Rise Up,” hitting all the notes that came her way. De La Rosa’s incredible singing voice matched the next contestant Kerwens Saint-Anne’s ability on the piano, with several audience members closing their eyes or holding up the lights on their iPhones to appreciate his rendering of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” better.
“I think that this competition is a really great way to bring all our student organizations together and have a nice friendly competition,” Alexa Sanson, a third-semester allied health major, said. “It also brings out the talents that we don’t often see, and helps us bond.”
Angelique Campo finished off the segment by singing Emeli Sandé’s “Read All About It” in response to the stereotyping against Asian Americans. She earned huge cheers as members of the different Asian student organizations on campus stood around her in solidarity. Next to Soumpholphakdy, she seemed to move the audience the most.
The evening wear segment featured the candidates dressed for prom answering one of an array of questions about themselves or their views regarding UConn. Smeriglio took this as an opportunity to mimic traditional pageant contestants by using a deeper voice and large hand gestures, to the delight of the audience. Some of the contestants’ answers were insightful, such as one that demanded more transparency from UConn’s board and administration about what they’re doing to UConn. Others were sweet, like how Valentin’s favorite memory at UConn is when he played balloon keep-it-up freshman year with the people who would later become his best friends here.
“Avatar the Last Airbender,” a.k.a. the Asian American Cultural Center (AsACC), was the big winner, with their team winning the Alma Mater Sing, and their contestants Campo and Soumpholphakdy taking home the crowns as Homecoming Queen and King, respectively. Both couldn’t stop smiling as they were presented with their crowns and sashes.
“I think the outcome of the pageant was good,” Te’a Gray, a third-semester ACES student, said. “I wasn’t able to fully watch it because I was helping out backstage, but all of the contestants were amazing and congratulations to the winners.”
AsACC is one of the cultural centers located on the fourth floor of the Student Union, in rooms 424 through 436. It strives to enhance UConn’s commitment to diversity by increasing outreach to the Asian American community on campus and beyond. It provides a supportive environment for Asian American students, faculty and staff to help them be the best they can be during their time at UConn, but is also open to anyone on campus. As can clearly be seen by their team in the pageant, AsACC is capable of wonderful things, so make sure to keep an eye out for their events like Asian Nite and the IMPAACT conference in the future.
Rebecca Maher is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.