Top Cougar contestants open up about themselves

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“Live from Vernon Hills, it’s Saturday Night!”

The annual Top Cougar show is back on Saturday, March 16. This senior-year tradition allows contestants to show off their fashion and looks, talents and finesse at answering questions. By the end of the night, one contestant is crowned Top Cougar.

Students, family and community members can purchase tickets to attend. This year, the audience can anticipate eight contestants all battling for the crown at the SNL-themed “pageant.” Here’s a closer look at each contestant and what he plans to bring to the stage:

 

Joey Levitan answers interview questions about himself.

Photo taken by Rachel Chung

Joey Levitan

Talent: Singing Ed Sheeran songs

Why did you choose that talent? “Obviously, I have red hair, so a lot of people have said that I kind of look like Ed Sheeran, so I decided to play into that and sing some Ed Sheeran. I also do love his music.”

Who do you think is your biggest competition? “Probably Max, because he’s really good at the piano, and he’s very cute.”

If you’re hosting a late night talk show, what three celebrities would you want on the show? “Tiger Woods, Ed Sheeran and Michael Jordan”

What is your personal mantra/favorite quote? “Time flies by in the yellow and green.”

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given? “Shoot your shot from Maximos Xu, because you never know what’s going to happen, so you might as well try. Worst thing that can happen is that you miss.”

What is the best thing that happened during your senior year so far? “Winning Color Wars, and I was a big part in leading the student section with all the chants. And that was really fun seeing everyone come together and having a really fun time.”

 

Max Xu answers interview questions about himself.

Photo taken by Sara Weisblatt

Max Xu

Talent: Singing and playing the piano to “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen

Why did you choose that talent? “Music has always been a big part of my life. Through band, I’m in Wind Ensemble with Mr. Sundell; at home, I play the piano; and I’m always listening to music. So I thought, ‘Why not do music?’”

Who is your biggest competition? “I know Joey is singing “Perfect.” He’s been taking singing lessons, so I’m going to have to step up my singing too.”

What is your personal mantra/favorite quote? “There’s always a way.”

What do you think is the biggest problem in the world right now? “The polarity in terms politics and through the news, especially with fake news. Instead of working together, we’re arguing over identity politics.”

What is your dream vacation? “Iceland”

What ice cream flavor would you be and why? “Mint chocolate chip, it’s the best, and I’m the best.”

 

 

Jack Farag answers interview questions about himself.

Photo taken by Rachel Chung

Jack Farag

Talent: Stand-up comedy

Why did you decide to run as a Top Cougar Contestant? “I love to perform, and throughout the years, watching Top Cougar, it always seemed like a really good time. I’ve always been a fan of stand-up comedy, and I’ve always had a dream to do it someday, and now’s as good of a time as ever.”

Why do you think you stand out? “I’m going with the theme of presidential. And I think I stand out because I’ve got good jokes, I’ve got pizzazz, stage presence, and I’m really going to put the squeeze on them and razzle dazzle the audience.”

Who is your biggest competition? “My biggest competition is Micah Kim because I know he’s doing the ASMR act. He’s quiet, but when he’s not quiet, he’s loud. And people love him. Plus, we both are from the same theatre [group], so we’re going to split votes there for sure.”

What ice cream flavor would you be and why? “I’d be Superman ice cream because I’m bright, and I command people’s attention. And I’m not normal, I’m not vanilla, I’m not boring. I like to have a good time and laugh.”

What are you listening to these days? “My teachers, my parents”

Who is the last person you texted? “Ethan Schuster”

 

Ethan Schuster answers interview questions about himself.

Photo taken by Rachel Chung

Ethan Schuster

Talent: Singing, playing the piano, and playing the guitar to “Wayamin” by Ethan Schuster (accompanied by Evan Peepo and Nick McNamara on trumpets, Owen Christensen on bass, Fred Sides on drums, Noah Proft on guitar, Bobby Black on piano)

Why did you decide to run as a Top Cougar contestant? “I’m a talker; I’m a person who likes to communicate with others and try and send some sort of message to my peers…I ran for Top Cougar, not for my intention of trying to win — that’s not my priority —, [but] more or less send a message. I’m more excited for the talent portion of it because of the lyrics I made are a message I want to be heard: I want people to be comfortable, and I want people to know that if I can put myself out there, you can too.”

Why do you think you stand out? “If people listen hard enough, I stand out because my message is different than others…I’m putting myself on stage not because I want to be there, but because I want to try and create some sort of change, and change starts with the little things.”

What is your personal mantra/favorite quote? “The quickest way to happiness is to be selfless.”

What do you think is the biggest problem in this world right now? “The fast-paced society we live in is constantly growing, and a lot of changes are happening. And we tend to turn a blind eye on the fact that we’re supposed to accept those changes, especially living in America, where we grow off of the fact that people are new and different.”

If your life was a song, what would the title be? “Where Are We?”

What are you listening to these days? “This is pretty weird actually, [but] I’m listening to a lot of Southern folk music. I’m trying to Westernize myself because I’m moving to Nashville, and I hate country music. So I’m trying to make myself more country.”

 

Micah Kim answers interview questions about himself.

Photo taken by Rachel Chung

Micah Kim

Talent: ASMR

Who do you think is your biggest competition? “I’d say Brett Sweeney; he doesn’t talk much, but I know the man has so much funny in him that if he ever let loose, I would stand no chance.”

What is your personal mantra/favorite quote? “But he was still hungry.”

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given? “You should do Top Cougar.”

What are you looking forward to for the end of senior year? “Graduation, going to college and walking out of here for the last time.”

If your life was a song, what would the title be? “10 Minutes of Screaming ASMR”

What are you listening to these days? “Ariana Grande and Wu Tang Clan”

 

Brett Sweeney answers interview questions about himself.

Photo taken by Ethan Schuster

Brett Sweeney

Talent: Stand-up comedy

Who is your biggest competition? “I will say Jack Farag because he is also doing stand-up comedy, and he’s more used to doing the theatre stuff; I’ve never been doing something in the auditorium before like that.”

If you’re hosting a late night talk show, what three celebrities would you want on the show? “Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, there’s something going on there.”

What is your personal mantra/favorite quote? “Shooters shoot.”

What is your dream vacation? “North Korea”

What ice cream flavor would you be and why? “Birthday cake, because I’m always ready to have a party, and birthday cake means party time.”

Who is the last person you texted? “My mom”

 

Noah Proft answers interview questions about himself.

Photo taken by Ethan Schuster

Noah Proft

Talent: Singing and playing guitar to special rendition of “Hey There Delilah” by Plain White T’s

What is your personal mantra/favorite quote? “Ability is nothing without opportunity.”

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given? “Do what you want to do. Don’t waste your time trying to do things for other people that you don’t want to do just to make other people happy.”

What are you looking forward to for the end of senior year? “Just to have one last summer with the boys, with everyone. Get excited for college. I don’t think there’s one specific event that I’ll really look forward to other than the culmination of everything.”

What will you miss about Vernon Hills? “Very little…maybe consistency. This is the last time where life is pretty simple, straightforward — basic responsibilities, you see the same people everyday, talk to the same people. It’s kind of nice sometimes, but at the same time, it’s boring. You’re ready to branch out as soon as you leave. After this, a lot of things will be changing very rapidly.”

If your life was a song, what would the title be? “Where is My Mind?”

Who is the last person you texted? “Greg Tow”

 

David Leshchiner answers interview questions about himself.

Photo taken by Anjali Parande

David Leshchiner

Talent: Singing and playing the kazoo to “Tequila” by the Champs

Why did you decide to run as a Top Cougar Contestant? “I had a lot of friends ragging me on to do it. And what also brought me was this song called “Tequila,” and the second I heard it, I was like, ‘I’ve got to do this as a performance somehow, sometime, somewhere.’ And I thought, ‘Well Top Cougar obviously.’”

Why do you think you stand out? “I’m not exactly similar to the normal crowd. I’m not even the nerd; I’m the kid far out on right field, who’s just doing his act with 10 people supporting him, but I’m just doing it because I’m having a lot of why not’s, so just do it. I’m going to graduate in two, three months, so I can’t really ruin anything, so I’ll just have fun while I’m at it.”

What is your personal mantra/favorite quote? “Give a man a fire, and he’ll be warm for a day. But set a man on fire, and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life.”

What do you think is the biggest problem in the world right now? “Climate change is a big problem. [And] there are too many divisions that people can’t get over, and the fact that people aren’t willing to change their mind.”

What is your dream vacation? “I have a lot of dream destinations, for example the Faroe Islands [or] if I could do a backpacking over the Scottish Highlands.”

What ice cream flavor would you be and why? “Cheesecake, because some people don’t really like me, some people do like me. It’s kind of a love-it-or-hate-it thing, and it’s a different unique flavor.”

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