Junior wins Mr. Wash. U. as fundraising exceeds goals

Mr. Wash. U. contestants open the organization’s annual show with a group dance. Junior Princeton Hynes (front right) won the competition.

Mr. Wash. U. contestants open the organization’s annual show with a group dance. Junior Princeton Hynes (front right) won the competition.

The Mr. Wash. U. organization punctuated its yearlong fundraising effort for the charity City Faces on Friday with an evening of dancing, singing and ridiculous costumes. After three hours of friendly, beauty pageant-like competition, junior Princeton Hynes was crowned the winner.

“It’s really exciting to win. I’m still on cloud nine,” Hynes said. “I wasn’t even trying to predict who was going to get anything because I would have genuinely been happy for anybody to [place].”

Hynes’s winning performance included a talent where he named every Oscar-winning, best picture film from memory with a pause to include a dance to “Chicago”’s “Cell Block Tango.”

At times dressed as Stormtroopers and Darth Vader, incarnations of Lady Gaga and frequently wearing tightly fitted clothes, candidates participated in two dances as an entire group in addition to a small group dance with three or four other candidates. Additionally, each had his own talent portion of the program, where some sang, some produced videos and others explained the most meaningful parts of their Washington University experiences.

For Hynes, the most enjoyable part of the evening was a small group performance of the iconic dance to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies.”

“Listening to her album version really got me pumped up. I was driving to it and almost getting in wrecks because I was trying to do moves in the car,” Hynes said. “I practiced that dance like six times a day because I wanted to be worthy in the eyes of Beyoncé and do it well. It was such a wonderful dance. I really liked the guys I did it with, and we had a fun time practicing it and learning it.”

Senior Zack Whitacre, one of the contestants, enlisted the help of members of groups he is involved with, such as members of Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity, Team 31, Chimes Junior Honorary and his residents from Lee Hall, in a large dance number.

Mr. Wash. U. winner, Princeton Hynes, front left, leads a dance to Beyoncé’s “All the Single Ladies.”

Mr. Wash. U. winner, Princeton Hynes, front left, leads a dance to Beyoncé’s “All the Single Ladies.”

“I definitely wanted to get people involved in my talent, and I was really excited to get the turnout that I got,” Whitacre said. “All the people were so dedicated to helping me make my talent as good as possible and just being so supportive and involved in it throughout the whole process. It was really fantastic to have the support of so many people. …It really made the Mr. Wash. U. experience that much better because I had so many people behind me.”

After each candidate performed a talent and small group dance, the group of 13 was narrowed down to five semifinalists including Hynes, Whitacre, seniors Spencer Goodman and Taz Ahmed and junior Zach Gale. Each of them took part in an interview where they answered questions that made them describe their favorite moments during their times as candidates or speculate on the internal thoughts of gargoyles around campus.

“As a whole, we all worked hard, especially when it became crunch time, to focus and pull together all our energy on [fundraising],” Whitacre said. “I didn’t go in with any expectations; I just knew that I had worked hard to fundraise and help make the show as entertaining as possible.”

The Mr. Wash. U. process begins in the fall when candidates are nominated. Nominees then apply and interview, and a smaller group selected from the original batch of nominees then competes for votes to determine the final slate of candidates.

The group spends a year fundraising for City Faces, an organization started by architecture professor Bob Hansman. Senior Daniella Gafen, president of this year’s Mr. Wash. U. competition, said City Faces began as a summer art program for children in a downtown housing project. The group aimed to raise $32,000 this year and was happy to have its total exceed that at $32,521.32.

“Mr. Wash. U. is the primary source of funding for City Faces, so the money we raise goes towards rent, art supplies, food—really anything that Bob Hansman and his son, Jovan, who run City Faces, see a need for,” Gafen said. “They have art, still, but they also have a tutoring program, sports and music and cooking lessons. They’re like a second home for the kids and are so incredibly caring and invested—they’re a part of their families and neighborhood community.”

With its major production complete, the group will now focus on choosing its next executive board. Applications for those interested are due April 11.

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