Thumbs-up for Mr. GCU in night of good, clean fun
Story by Mike Kilen
Photos by Garrett Ohrenberg
GCU News Bureau
When a contestant shaved his roommate’s head and told stories of his childhood while stuffing giant marshmallows in his mouth, the Mr. GCU competition had found its comfort zone Wednesday night.
Stephan Cattermole was the mallow-mouth contestant in one of Grand Canyon University’s largest student extravaganzas of the year, a version of male pageant where beauty is optional and talent idiosyncratic.
He didn’t win. The winner and the new Mr. GCU, Jard Cassell, described the evening this way:
“GCU students get excited about the weirdest stuff.”
A collective buzz of excitement was in GCU Arena after a limited COVID-19 year, a return to the kind of silly and sweet that marks the event put on by the Canyon Activities Board (CAB). Though the crowd was scaled back to 1,150 sandwiched between photo cutouts, other students watched the event on the video screen in the Quad.
They saw eight contestants storm the stage in an opening dance number to the tunes of Michael Jackson, Sean Kingston and an odd punching sequence to the old hair band Europe.
Again, Mr. GCU: “The choreographers are magicians. We are not dancers.”
It was a chance for the eight contestants who made the cut of several auditions for this big night to get in front of an actual crowd, distanced and masked, and “to be a part of the community and see everybody’s smiling face,” said Patrick Devine.
“It’s going back to feeling warm, feeling more accepted, and just being 100% authentic to myself.”
Devine was authentic in 6-inch rainbow heels, dancing to Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” while alternately doing very graceful splits and defiant chest pounds.
Joshua Greer put on a comedy skit that all at once referenced his vulnerabilities, dating issues and the cartoon “Scooby-Doo.” “I’m like Velma, but like Black,” he said.
Greer said before the show that he’s a dancer but wanted to switch it up and do stand-up.
“Hopefully I’m funny. If not, I’ll start dancing,” he said, and did provide a few moves eventually. “I’m so blessed that GCU gave us the opportunity to do this.”
The theme of the event was based on the movie “Nerve,” a scary online dare competition described by one contestant as a live TikTok. So the Mr. GCU “host” was not visible on stage but a creepy, deep and computer-altered voice cracking dry, but-seriously-folks one-liners.
The whole fun exercise was put on by CAB Director of Special Events Camryn Miller and a large team from the student-run organization.
“It’s kind of the first event we’ve had this year that’s kind of normal with COVID,” said Brianna Lewis, the backstage manager. “We tried to make it as back to normal as possible.”
Normal is subjective.
The contestants answered odd questions about potty habits and embarrassing moments, whereupon contestant Luis Pena saw fit to share a story of his dog giving birth to two puppies on his lap while he watched TV.
There were sweet moments, too. Hosea Adriano and his band played a heartfelt song that he said he wrote at 3 a.m. to his girlfriend, who sat in the front row. The crowd eventually sang along to his chorus: “You make me happy. … You make me smile.”
Noah Abraham performed a dazzling jump rope exhibition before students all voted for the winner on their phones.
Cassell, a senior elementary education major, won after his frantic variety show, which started with a video lip sync with University Pastor Dr. Tim Griffin to Katy Perry’s “Firework,” continued with a bit of failed magic involving balloons, voice impersonations and a hunt-and-peck performance on the glockenspiel.
“I take really long showers,” he said, “and I took my phone in the shower and typed in ideas: ‘Do this on stage.’”
He saved the best for last, a spoken word recitation that had the crowd laughing about the rhymes.
“I wrote it literally backstage,” he said. “I kept putting it off like I put off my homework. Dude, it’s the equivalent of Sunday night, I gotta put this on paper right now.”
He called it his homage to childhood, reflecting on the good times of college that broke free on this one night from the challenge of COVID and accenting his love for the “weirdness” of GCU.
“This shows more of it. You go to other colleges, you got to go drinking to have fun. Well, we praise Jesus for fun and do random stuff like this,” he said.
Cassell saved his last line of spoken word to say this:
“Love God and love people. And don’t ever stop.”
● To see more photos from Mr. GCU, click here for a slideshow.
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.
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