I was running a few minutes late getting to the residence hall of Elio Oliva, CSOM ’17, to speak with him about his recent coronation as Mr. BC, so I sent him a frantic text letting him know I was a bit behind schedule. His response set the tone for the rest of our conversation.
“No worries bro. I’m just chilling here in my room.”
After an eccentric winning performance at the RHA’s annual “Mr. BC” pageant earlier this month, it was pretty unsurprising to find that the finance and English double major was a type-A people person. In another unsurprising move, Oliva showed little hesitation at our request for a photo-op—within minutes he had donned his crown and cape from the pageant, and began nobly making his bed.
“I don’t want my mom to see these pictures and think that I have an unmade bed,” he joked, but with a drop of conceded seriousness.
He proceeded to smooth out his sheets, rearrange his pillow, and brought us to a lounge to get down to the serious stuff. Fortunately for us, the cape and crown would remain for the rest of the interview.
A newcomer to the Mr. BC pageant, and to male beauty pageants more broadly, Oliva was candid in describing his lack of knowledge of the program—and furthermore his lack of odd talents. In fact, his own nomination took him by surprise.
“One of my friends texted me saying, ‘Hey, a little birdie told me that you’re going to be in Mr. BC,’” he recalled of his first time hearing about his soon-to-be pageant debut. “I was like, ‘Uh who is this birdie?’”
Though blindsided by this proposition, Oliva noted his response was succinct.
“Why the hell not?”
Though Oliva himself is humbly dismissive of his own talents, others would beg to differ. Along with those in the crowd, Oliva won the approval of the RHA—the student organization that hosted the event—in his interview beforehand.
“RHA could not have been happier,” said Catherine Duffy, MCAS ’17 and RHA co-vice president of the student programming committee. “When we interviewed Elio, we knew that his personality and impressions were going to take him to the top—while all the guys gave it their all, it was Elio’s talent that got him the crown.”
Certainly, his talent, a knack for celebrity impressions (many of which, naturally, managed to slip into the interview) is what earned Oliva the title. Ranging from Breaking Bad’s Jesse Pinkman to presidential candidate Donald Trump, Oliva’s massively popular impressions, however, didn’t come without practice.
Beginning as nothing more than a side hobby, Oliva explained that at some point last year, he captivated the room as he let a killer Jesse Pinkman impression slip at a party.
“I let it slip, and I was like ‘Yo Bitches!’” Oliva said, slipping briefly into the Breaking Bad character he was imitating. “I was like wow, I can actually kind of do that.”
As it turns out, Oliva most certainly can “do that.” His scripted stand-up performance of impressions during the talent portion of the show even carried into the Q&A portion, where he channeled the spirit of Matthew McConaughey to define beauty, among other triumphs.
Adding to the confusion, however, was the stiff level of competition he faced as a contestant. A humble parodist in the midst of singers, dancers, and even a rollerblading accordion player, Oliva was keenly aware that any victory would have to be a hard-fought one.
Admittedly nervous, Oliva felt the pressure from all sides—even his own camp. Receiving feedback from his friends in the audience while backstage, Oliva claimed that one threat in particular stood out as a contender for the talent portion of the show.
“The pants one,” he recalled decisively when questioned about his biggest threat. “That was so impressive because practicing standup is one thing, but practicing putting your pants on without hands is unheard of.”
Building off of this success, another make-or-break moment in the show was professionally handled with elegance by the future Mr. BC—the swimsuit portion.
“I told myself I was going go to the Plex for the whole week,” explained Oliva of his preparation, along with listening to the original Superman theme several times. “I went for the first two days, and I was like, ‘No I’m not doing this.’”
The solution? Own it.
“I figured I might as well own up to what you’ve got and make a joke of it, instead of go in serious and have this weird dad-bod,” admitted Oliva with a touch of pride.
Though his first foray into the standup comedy genre, Oliva has ambitions to take his newfound talents farther and perform in the future. Adjusting his crown and meditating on the experience briefly, Oliva reflected on the experience of standup comedy as an exercise in vulnerability as well.
“So often, people, myself included, can be like, ‘Wow, that guy sings poorly,’ or, ‘Wow, his jokes are terrible,’” he explained. “After doing Mr. BC, I can step back and realize that you shouldn’t rush to some review of a performance without considering that what they are doing on stage takes so much courage. So I want to give a big shout out to all the other contestants—I tip my hat.”
This victory for Oliva is, in a lot of ways, a victory for virtue. Though my personal knowledge of the male beauty pageant landscape is fairly limited, I can’t imagine that many characters as genuine as the new Mr. BC emerge victorious from competitions of this nature.
In fact, Oliva has a hard time believing he is Mr. BC himself.
“Its funny because I’m not that involved on campus,” Oliva responded when asked about how he felt with regards to this new title. “I try to be nice to everybody, so I have a good amount of friends and stuff. But, overwhelmingly, people don’t really know me.”
For now, however, the title of Mr. BC will have to fit—and deservedly so. When asked if the newly coronated Mr. BC had plans for the future, Oliva burped, excused himself graciously, and answered graciously.
“Mr. BC is going to make the other people at BC feel like they can be Mr. BC,” he said with an impish smile. “Yeah, that’s a great quote.”
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor