Nicknames? Check. Music for dance competition? Check. Choreographed dances? Not quite yet. Poems? Check.
This isn’t a list of prerequisites for the Miss America competition; it’s what a group of 15 sophomore, junior and senior boys at Lee High School have been preparing for the Mr. Lancer contest.
“This is a show that’s been put on for the past 10 years by the Lee Girls Club,” said teacher and advisor Sherrie Cranston. “It’s essentially a beauty pageant for boys.”
For the past few weeks, the students have been meeting with Cranston and members of the LGC, fine-tuning their skills for the three-phase competition that will take place on March 29.
FIRST, THE BOYS had to come up with nicknames for themselves and write a short poem about their character.
For Asad Ali, the choice was simple: He’s decided to call his Mr. Lancer alter ego “Prince Ali,” based on the character from the Disney movie “Aladdin.”
“I’m going to come out in an Aladdin theme,” said Asad, a senior. “The poem talks about coming from rags and hopefully going to riches in the future. I’m going to come out in puffy pants and a turban.”
The students have to perform their poems individually on stage, wearing a costume that matches their nickname. They are not allowed to make direct reference to other students, but several, including Mike Williams, find ways to thank their girlfriends in their poem.
“My girlfriend’s trying to teach me how to dance,” another part of the contest, said Mike, whose nickname is Magnificent Mike. “I’m usually a very shy person, but in the poem I talk about how I’m captain of the wrestling team and I’ll find a way to talk about my girlfriend.”
Some of the nicknames are tamer than others, ranging from Dennis “The Menace” Bennett and Tad Dickman, who chose “Dr. Dickman, the cure for hearts,” to the more comical, like Brett Nickley’s “Tickle Me Nickley,” and Jamal Thompson’s “Weasy Baby.”
All of the young men were nominated to participate in the contest, said Cranston, a first-year teacher at Lee. At the first meeting for the event, more than 60 students attended, hoping to be part of the final 15 contestants.
AFTER THE STUDENTS perform their two-minute-long poems, in costumes that reflect their personalities, they will pair up and perform a two-minute dance during the “Mr. Muscle” portion of the evening.
“I am not a good dancer but it’s fun sometimes,” said Brett Nickley. “I’ll probably get together with my partner sometime this week to go over the choreography. We just finished a mix of songs that has everything from classic rock to new rap,” he said.
Warren “Sizzling” Simmons said that his position as captain of the step dance team might give him an advantage over his fellow contestants in the dance portion of the evening.
“I like being on stage and in front of a crowd,” he said grinning. “Not everyone is as rhythmically inclined as I am.”
For Ahmed Ahmed, he’s looking forward to assembling his African warrior king costume, which he envisions as looking “jungle-wise, African-wise, crazy-wise.”
Ahmed admitted to being a little nervous about stuttering when he performs his poem, but not about dancing. “I just want to make everyone smile,” he said.
Dennis “The Menace” Bennett said he’s looking forward to his poem, for which he’ll be dressed in half a shirt and carrying a slingshot and wagon.
“I’m known as the sweet guy around school, the one you can go to when you're having problems with your boyfriend," he said.
Some of the underclassmen think they can give the seniors a run for the Mr. Lancer title.
"There's a lot of pressure on us," said sophomore Tad "Dr." Dickman. He admits that the seniors may be given an advantage because this is their last year for the contest, "but I don’t think they should be. They think just because we’re younger we won’t do as well, but we’ll bring it.”
BEING NOMINATED for the contest is “a good accomplishment” in itself, said junior Brandon “Cam I Am” Cameron. If he’s chosen as the winner, it would mean “people look up to you, you’re cool and fun and you did the best job,” he said.
His dancing music has been finalized, he said, a combination of “techno, hip hop and R&B to capture the most audience appeal,” Brandon said.
Jamal “Weasy Baby” Thompson said thinks he should be chosen Mr. Lancer because “I’m nice and generous. I’m cool with everybody,” he said. “I’m doing this for all the ladies. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have been picked.”
If Daniel “Rumble in Daniel’s Jungle” Martinez has his way, however, he’ll be the one with the winning score.
“I’m cute, funny and smart,” he said with a smile. “If I don’t deserve it, who does?”
All of the students agree that while it would be nice to win, the main point of the contest is to have a good time.
“I’d be so excited if I won,” said Naveed “Mr. Deeds” Ali Shah. “It’d be an honor. The competition is tough though, these are all great guys.”
The Lee Girl’s Club has been putting in as much work as the contestants, if not more, said club president Ashley Anastasia.
“We like to see the guys happy and people look forward to the contest,” she said. Last year, due to complications between the club and the school’s faculty, there wasn’t a Mr. Lancer contest at all, which means the stakes are a bit higher this year.
“The absence of this event last year really bothered people,” she said. “We’re trying to be more organized to show that we can work hard and make this year’s event just as good as it’s been in the past.”
To show their dedication, the girls have spent more than $500 for decorations for the big event, Cranston said.
“They’ve got a red carpet and they’re going to hand-glue stars on it for the walk of fame,” she said.
As a newcomer to the Mr. Lancer competition, Cranston said she’s been impressed by all the work the students have put in for the event.
“They can only have two minutes worth of music for their dance number, but of all the CDs I’ve heard have about 10 songs in them,” she said.