SASA hosts male pageant to benefit charity


Image courtesy of Sophia Oommen

The winners of Friday’s Mr. SASA male pageant pose with SASA in the O’Hara Ballroom of the William Pitt Union.

By Shreya Singh, Staff Writer

When Mr. SASA pageant emcees Shreyan Patel and Avi Patel mentioned how well contestant Guru Ram could apply makeup during the annual Mr. SASA pageant, Ram responded with a cheeky comment. 

“I’m a makeup Guru, put some respect on my name,” Ram said.

More than 150 students filled the O’Hara Ballroom Friday night to attend the South Asian Student Association’s Mr. SASA event. SASA board members handed raffle tickets to students attending, offering the possibility of winning a raffle basket full of snacks and goodies during intermission. 

During the Mr. SASA charity pageant, a male student from each class at Pitt competes against one another in a series of silly challenges to entertain the audience. This year, SASA chose to donate the event’s proceeds to the Ashiyana Foundation — which focuses on building a safe space for children and youth at risk.

The contestants this year were first-year undeclared major Lochan Karthikeyan, sophomore psychology major Guru Ram, junior business major Parth Shah and senior biological sciences major Prithvi Vidas. Shreyan Patel, a senior finance and business information systems major, and Avi Patel, a junior neuroscience and business double major and a prior Mr. SASA winner, moderated the event. 

The contestants faced four different challenges — a modeling challenge, a makeup challenge, a Truth or Drink riddle challenge and a talent round — where they took the opportunity to showcase their abilities. For the modeling challenge, Vidas strolled across the walkway in heels while blindfolded. Meanwhile, Karthikeyan balanced a textbook on his head as he strutted down the runway. 

The emcees announced that Ram, the captain of Pitt’s First Class Bhangra team, won this year’s Mr. SASA pageant. 

Ram said it feels great to follow in the footsteps of his teammates’ legacy of winning Mr. SASA.

Pitt’s South Asian Student Association at Friday’s Mr. SASA male pageant in the O’Hara Ballroom of the William Pitt Union.
(Image courtesy of Sophia Oommen)

“It feels great to win Mr. SASA,” Ram said. “A lot of the old people on FCB have won Mr. SASA and it was awesome to be able to fulfill the legacy and win it in front of all my friends. I think the most enjoyable part of this pageant was being able to entertain my friends and have all my friends support me.”

Shreya Babu, a senior sociology and administration of justice major who is also Ram’s teammate on FCB, said she enjoyed cheering him on with the rest of their dance team. 

“I always have a good time at Mr. SASA,” Babu said. “Every year, there’s usually a contestant from FCB and we pretty much treat it as a team event and always show up for our squad. This year’s and last year’s champions were both from our team and it’s super fun cheering them on throughout the show and supporting our family even when the competition has nothing to do with dance.”

Babu said she agreed to let Ram apply makeup on her during the makeup challenge because she knew it would be an enjoyable moment for both them and their teammates.

“I agreed to let him put makeup on me because even though I knew it was going to be embarrassing sitting in front of the whole crowd inevitably looking like an idiot, I’m always ready to support the team no matter what,” Babu said. “I figured I’d have a little fun during my last show partnering with one of my closest friends.”

Sophia Oommen, SASA’s publicity chair and a junior nutrition and dietetics major, said the Mr. SASA pageant is about bringing everyone together for a night of fun. 

“Mr. SASA is not necessarily based on any morals or values, it is typically more of a casual and realistic event,” Oommen said. “We use this event to make people laugh and allow our contestants to be creative and entertaining. Typically, Mr. SASA will be the most outgoing, creative and talented contestant who encourages their friends to come and support them, so they can vote for them.”

Oommen said there isn’t a strict set of qualifications SASA looks for in potential pageant participants.

“Each year we typically choose Mr. SASA by choosing someone from each grade who would be willing to participate,” Oommen said. “There are no requirements or a screening process, we just hope to find contestants who are happy to get on stage.”

According to Shreena Patel, SASA’s president and a junior accounting and business information systems major, ticket profits from the event go toward a charity of the club’s choosing.

“Mr. SASA is a charity event we put on each year to raise money for the charity our board picks for the year,” Patel said. “We typically let our freshman chairs come together and decide what charity we will support for the year after research and consideration. This year we chose Ashiyana, which is an organization for South Asian women and children experiencing violence.”

Oommen said the Ashiyana Foundation focuses on more than just one region in South Asia, which is why they chose to represent it this year.

“We chose Ashiyana because it is helping women and children in several South Asian countries such as India, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakistani and Sri Lanka,” Oommen said. “We wanted to support a charity that expanded into other South Asian countries — not just India.”

Shah, the junior contestant, said he entered the pageant because it seemed like a fun event to take part in. 

“I was asked by a close friend and couldn’t say no,” Shah said. “I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet some new people and do something fun before finals season comes around. I mean look at me, I’m model material! Most of the preparation was deciding what to wear, finding and practicing a talent, and spreading awareness of the show.”

Shah said his favorite part of the pageant was the excitement surrounding the event. 

“The most enjoyable part has been the overall hype of the show,” Shah said. “People were so excited to come and see us make a fool out of ourselves, but it’s all fun. I was most excited to see Guru and Prithvi show their talents on stage.”

Shah said he is glad Ram won. 

“Guru danced very well,” Shah said. “He deserved it.”