It’s back: 10th annual Mr. Bellaire pageant announces winner


Irene Zheng

Seniors Zachary Johnson and his escort, Isabel Ajatta, perform a group dance while dressed in beachwear. Johnson was later crowned winner of the 10th annual Mr. Bellaire pageant.

When senior Zachary Johnson realized he won Mr. Bellaire, he, like a true Mr. Bellaire, humbly accepted the award.

“All I could think about was how the other people did so well,” Johnson said. “But at the same time, I was so happy that I did win.”

The 10th annual Mr. Bellaire senior pageant took place in the auditorium on March 26 with over 500 audience members in attendance. Nineteen seniors and their escorts participated in a costume contest, a student-choreographed group dance, a talent show and a fashion show. Then, six semifinalists were given 30 seconds to answer one question before the judges announced the winner of Mr. Bellaire.

“I’m so glad that the effort [we put in] showed through,” Johnson said. “It was a great way to connect with friends and meet new people, and it was such an amazing experience.”

Two PTO parents first started the tradition in 2012 with the goal of raising money for the senior after-prom. The performance ran “rather long” with each contestant doing an individual talent, so in 2015 the PTO allowed seniors to perform group talents. This change proved to be a success for the contestants and audience members alike.

Semifinalist and senior Noah Cook performed Justin Bieber’s “Baby” with contestants Owen Bell, Zain Hamdani and Anthony Nguyen and found the talent show to be his favorite portion of the pageant.

“I really loved performing with a great group of people,” Cook said. “We would practice [on campus], and then outside of school [we] would practice in my house. I’m not even a singer, but I sang and I had a great time. I really felt myself in the moment.”

For his talent, Johnson did a karate sequence with his best friend and escort senior Isabel Ajatta. While he had not planned on signing up for Mr. Bellaire, Johnson attended the interest meeting and signed up after receiving encouragement from his mom and Ajatta.

However, Johnson hesitated when considering competing in the pageant. Ajatta felt “more excited about [Mr. Bellaire]” than Johnson, encouraging him to compete.

“I just didn’t think I was gonna be good,” Johnson said. “So I was like, ‘Is it even worth doing it to begin with?’ But we went to the [interest] meeting and it seemed pretty fun.”

Johnson and Ajatta began to prepare for the pageant. Mr. Bellaire contestants went on campus every Sunday leading up to the pageant to rehearse the show, review old Mr. Bellaire tapes and decide on their costumes and acts for each section of the performance. After much deliberation, Johnson and Ajatta decided to dress up as Frankenstein and Frankenstein’s bride, and Johnson began to prepare a martial arts performance for the talent show.

As the Mr. Bellaire pageant approached, Johnson and Ajatta began to feel the pressure of the contest.

“The closer it got, the more we were like ‘we kind of want to win now,’” Johnson said.

The day of the pageant, Ajatta became “really, really nervous” as her stage fright mounted at the thought of doing a “silly” act in front of an audience. Once the pageant started, however, her nerves turned to excitement as she began to “genuinely enjoy [her]self onstage.”

The pair found the pageant more and more fun as the night went on. After four events, the judges announced Johnson as a semifinalist. To decide who would be crowned Mr. Bellaire, the judges evaluated Johnson’s answer to a final question: “If you could have any superpower, what would it be?” Johnson chose invisibility at first before switching to the power of flight so he could easily fly over crowds during passing periods.

“That was maybe the only question I didn’t know how to answer,” Johnson said. “I felt like my answer was really facetious. I was like, ‘Is that really enough to really put me through?’”

One-by-one in ascending order, the winners were announced. Soon, only the podiums for first and second place were left, and Johnson and Michael Carron were the final two contestants. When Carron was announced to be the second-place winner, Johnson realized he won Mr. Bellaire.

“I’m still so surprised that I won,” Johnson said. “I put a lot of effort into this, but I never thought I was going to win. I felt like if I did brag about it, then it wouldn’t seem genuine.”

After Johnson stepped onto the first place podium, Ajatta ran up and gave him a hug.

“I was just so happy for him,” Ajatta said. “I wish that I could have gotten closer to squeeze him. He practiced so hard. He completely deserved it.”

Audience members crowded around Johnson as he left the auditorium, congratulating Mr. Bellaire for his victory. The contestants raised over $5,000 for the senior after-prom party, making the pageant a success.

“It was fabulous,” Dean of Instruction Debbie Campbell said. “It was great to see the kids coming together as a senior class being funny, being serious, dressing up and just having fun together. I laughed. I cried. It was just wonderful.”