Meet the Bee Finalists
ABC will do a fine job tonight introducing you to the 11 remaining Spelling Bee finalists (and yes, you will watch the Bee instead of, or at worst in addition to, the Cavs-Magic game. There are more than a dozen NBA conference final games most years, but only one Spelling Bee. You know it's true.)
Anyhow, ABC will do a fine job tonight introducing you to the 11 remaining finalists, but still, I wanted to make a few points.
* All day I've been referring to Serena Skye Laine-Lobsinger as Bee Goes Punk, and she sort of was ok with that description.
"I'm kind of adventurous with what I like to wear," the 13-year old from West Palm Beach told me. "I'll wear pretty much anything."
She's particularly fond of bandanas, was sporting some sparkled-out Chuck Taylors, and had four shades of nail polish on (black and white alternating on her right hand, and silver and pink on her left). So, punk?
"You probably could say that," she said. "That's probably how a lot of people look at me."
Just to make sure, I asked her what sort of music she listens to. The answer: alternative rock, techno, electronica, and "screamo," which has some roots in hardcore punk. Score.
"Like heavy metal, but with screaming," she explained, since I haven't listened to much screamo lately.
Among others, she named The Devil Wears Prada, I See Stars and Attack Attack as a few of her faves. The vocals, she explained, go from really low, "like a growl," to high-pitched screaming. I asked her how one would spell the typical screamo scream.
"That's the hardest word I've gotten all day," she said.
* Kennyi Kwaku Aouad, the showman who whipped out his glasses mid-word this afternoon, fielded several questions about his elan. Like, that glasses gimmick?
"I'm trying to get the crowd into it," he said. "And I'm near-sighted."
And he was asked whether he looks at athletes as inspirations for his showmanship.
"it just comes naturally; I've always been a happy child," he said, as his brother snorted. "I'm a speller first, then an entertainer," he later told me.
His brother Emmanuel, by the way, is a decorated track star at Wabash College; he just returned from the Division III nationals, where he placed 14th in the 110 hurdles, a result that slightly disappointed him. This, though, was more stressful, he said.
"I don't get nervous when I compete," he told me. "Watching [Kennyi], my heart was racing. I was like, 'Mom, I think I'm gonna pass out.' "
* Sid Chand, last year's runner-up, was easily the biggest pro during the post-Semifinal press conference. He was asked whether he has more pressure as one of the favorites.
"The Spelling Bee is the Spelling Bee," he said, an answer Bill Belichick would have approved...."You never know what word you're gonna get, you never know how difficult the words are gonna be. Every year there's pressure. Would I say there's more pressure than last year? Maybe a little, but not that much. I guess that's it."
I asked him why he has that famous mustache; "why? he said. "I haven't shaved yet, I guess. I hate shaving." He also said that there are religious reasons behind the 'stache, which I hadn't realized, and which made me feel stupid.
* I've mentioned several times that
Reston's Centreville's Tim Ruiter will be representing the DMV tonight. But did you know that no DMV kid has won the Bee since Richmond's Amanda Goad in 1992? And, further, that no D.C. metro kid has ever won the Bee, which began in 1925? Tim could turn us all into witnesses tonight.
(Correction: Someone just pointed out to me that, when skimming the results, I missed the fact that Leesburg's Daniel Greenblatt won the Bee in 1984. I guess that's D.C.-area. My fault.)
* The contestants were asked about good-luck charms, and the excitable Neetu Chandak piped right up.
"All right, um, I have many of them," she said. "My first one is this bee watch and I got this in 2007 at the Nationals. My second one is my lucky charm, I've had this since I was in fourth grade. Um, I have this pin on here, and it says, New York State Spelling Bee....And I have this pin, and I got it from my regional bee. I'm not wearing anything else."
Then she chirped back up a moment later; "and I forgot to say one more thing, here's my bee necklace, my second grade English teacher...gave it to me this year," she said.
* There are four boys and seven girls, although boys have won eight of the last nine Bees. Four of the remaining spellers had never appeared at Nationals before. On the other end, three--Kyle Mou, Kavya Shivashankar and Chand--have made appearances in the Finals. Those three have also combined for nine trips to Nationals, with Shivashankar contributing four..
"I'm really sad that this will be my last Spelling Bee," Kavya said. "I definitely will miss it after this year because it's such a big part of my life and I love doing this, but I'm really excited to be in the finals again this year."
Her little sister was allowed to ask a question, and asked Kavya whether the Finals will be boring. "No, definitely not, it's going to be excited," big sis said.
May 28, 2009; 4:40 PM ET
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