Suggesting that Falls Church’s eighth graders be eaten to solve school issues (in jest, of course), and letting a Skrillex song stand in as a personal biography, might not be what most consider regal behavior, but for Mr. and Ms. Mason, who will serve as the king and queen of the City of Falls Church’s Memorial Day parade, that’s just what it took to win them their crowns. Some courage and silliness are required in order to win the Mr. and Ms. Mason mock beauty pageant, according to this year’s title holders Claire Constance and Matt Abel – and if you worry about winning, they say, you’ve already lost. The Mason seniors each competed in fields of nine to win their crowns in February, besting the competition in categories such as talent, biography and formalwear.
With the victory, Constance and Abel will be representing The Little City as the king and queen of its parade. The seniors spoke to the News-Press about their pageant victory, their time at Mason, and their plans for the parade and their post-graduation futures.
What do you think was the secret to success in winning the Mr. and Ms. Mason titles?
Claire: Absurdism, to some extent.
Matt: Yes. I think the biggest secret is making sure that you wait until the absolute last minute to figure out what you’re going to do for your Mr. Mason act.
Claire: That would definitely be part of it. I did a version of “It’s Raining Men” with a bunch of guys from our grade and the junior class, and I lost about half of them the day before because the basketball team was supposed to be in it, and their game got switched to the night of the show, so the whole last minute aspect was crucial.
Matt: And it has to be absolutely weird. Just completely off the wall. I gave a proposal to all of the parents and all the administrators who were in the auditorium that perhaps the best way of solving some of our internal issues at this school would be eating the entire eighth grade class, as kind of a spin off of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.” That was interesting. I got a lot of weird looks from eighth graders after that.
What was your reaction when you were announced as the winners of those titles?
Matt: For me, it was like “finally!” I think that four out of the five years, I was one of the Mr. Mason participants. I was, you know, like “yes, after fours years of participating in this competition, I win.” So that was exciting for me.
Claire: It was definitely well deserved for Matt. I was really surprised. It came down to me and another girl in my grade named Claire [Acosta], and she was just hilarious. She did a version of the Napoleon Dynamite dance, which is a dance a lot of us know, and her interview was hilarious. She was dressed as a hippie. She was just completely doing her own thing. But I think at the end of the day, I had a really strange bio [she took the stage while a song by recording artist Skrillex played during the biography portion of the pageant] and also, just the ridiculousness of having all those guys dancing on stage with me in their matching worker/construction men uniforms worked out in my favor.
Matt: And I have to hand it to the other people, the other male participants, as well as the female participants, but my competitors, I have to hand it to them too. They had great acts. Vijay [Menon] did an excerpt from “Slumdog Millionaire” that was hilarious, and Jack Trainor, who is a friend of mine, he did my favorite act by far. It was him doing a mock “A Prairie Home Companion”/ “Johnny Dollar” skit that he made with a couple of friends. As an avid NPR listener, for me that resounded deep in the funny bone. His, I think, should have won if more people listened to NPR like they should, but apparently they don’t, which is why I came out on top.
How do you feel about being the king and queen of the parade?
Matt: I don’t really know what to think of that.
Claire: I did not know that was part of it until very recently, actually.
Matt: I think it will be interesting. I’ve never been in a parade before.
Claire: We get to throw candy.
Matt: Yeah, we get to throw candy, so at least we’ll have something to do. And I don’t know what the procedure is, how we’re supposed to wave or anything like that, but I’m sure there will be instructors to train us.
Claire: I have little sisters who are envious that I get to be a princess for the day.
Why should Falls Church come out to see the parade?
Claire: It’s kind of one of Falls Church’s icons.
Matt: Yeah, it’s pretty important to the City dynamic.
Claire: Our culture, if you would.
Matt: Yes, the Falls Church culture. Anthropologists from all around the world come to study the Falls Church culture and their Memorial Day parade, so I think it would be absolutely ridiculous if people don’t come out. I’ve been doing this every year since I moved here in fifth grade.
Claire: It’s a great community thing, similar to our farmers’ market in its tradition, and how it brings people together.
What activities are you involved in at Mason?
Claire: I have been a member of the Mason track and cross county team for the past five years, and I’m also president of the Mustang Ambassador Club, then Matt and I are both part of the Transition movement [a sustainability movement launched locally by students at Mason] here in Falls Church. It’s really his baby.
Matt: I’ve been involved in Spanish peer tutoring here at the school. It’s both a teaching experience for the kids and the tutors. We learn how to tutor kids, a lifelong teaching skill, and kids come and get to better their Spanish and we help them out with their class for free. And it’s really something that should be free, in my opinion. Then I’ve participated in Scholastic Bowl a little bit with Claire. I played lacrosse last year, and I wanted to it again this year, but I caught mononucleosis and so I was not able to play this year because of a fear of an inflamed spleen. Transition is a thing that I’ve been trying to kick start in the City. That’s been cool, and fun to get engaged with not only the school community, but the wider community. I’ve all of a sudden found myself on a first-name basis with people in the community that I didn’t know up until a few months ago.
What are your plans after graduation?
Claire: We’ll be at rival schools.
Matt: Yes, I’ll be at William and Mary, and Claire is probably going to go to UVA for a semester and then transfer to William and Mary when she realizes how inferior of a school it is.
Claire: I was torn. Matt applied early decision to William and Mary and I was regular decision to both, and I love them both, but I did ultimately choose UVA.
What advice do you give to next year’s aspiring Mr. and Ms. Mason?
Claire: Don’t think too much about it.
Matt: Don’t worry about it.
Claire: Maybe that’s the cheap answer, or the ambiguous one that will just drive them crazy, and I hope not.
Matt: I think the thing that sets Mr. Mason apart from other pageants and things like that is that it’s all about the intrinsic value of the actual process leading up to it. It’s not about the end goal. Don’t worry about becoming Mr. or Ms. Mason or else you probably aren’t going to become Mr. or Ms. Mason. Just have a good time at school, do what you’re doing, and if you get to participate in the Mr. Mason or Ms. Mason competition, then have a good time with it and be creative.
Claire: Get gutsy.
What message would you like to send, as king and queen, to your subjects?
Claire: Don’t forget to smile.
Matt: This is kind of stolen from the Dalai Lama, but I’ll just say it, because I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently as I’m moving toward my college years. This isn’t word for word what he said, but “Don’t be distracted by trying to make a living when you’re trying to make a life.”