Review: Los Al crowns its first Next Top Griffin

Senior Ella Shapiro dissed her way to victory, winning the hearts of the judges and audience
The Top Griffin candidates and their escorts pose for a group photo backstage. Im feeling excited, grateful for the opportunity, and so excited to see how the rest of senior year goes, said candidate Philip Pinto.
The Top Griffin candidates and their escorts pose for a group photo backstage. “I’m feeling excited, grateful for the opportunity, and so excited to see how the rest of senior year goes,” said candidate Philip Pinto.
Joelle Kaiser

LOS ALAMITOS, CA — During a night of talent, humor, and a few well-worded insults, eight Los Alamitos High School seniors faced off in the Performing Arts Center on Tuesday night to compete for the title of Los Al’s Next Top Griffin through group dance numbers, a talent show, and a Q&A. After performing a scathing diss rap, Ella Shapiro became Los Al’s first female Next Top Griffin. 

I thought it was fantastic. Everyone worked very hard, and I think Ella definitely deserved to win.”

— David Wilson, Los Al student

Senior class Co-Presidents Mona Taylor and Dana Kim organized and hosted the show, breaking up the acts with banter and reading comments that audience members submitted to ASB’s @losalofficial Instagram. Several students requested that Shapiro do the worm, and she gladly delivered, dashing out for a quick worm multiple times. 

The show began with a premiere of the Top Griffin music video, produced by Griffin News students Kyan Whiten and Emily Fitzgerald. The contestants danced and lip synced to “Bye Bye Bye.” 

After the showing, the candidates performed a group dance to “Like a G6.” Unfortunately, contestant Dillon Luyben suffered a concussion over the weekend and was unable to participate in physical activities, but sophomore Arron Myers stood in for him. Although not all the candidates were dancers, everyone performed admirably and with high energy, setting the stage for the talent show part of the competition.

Los Al Advanced Dance member Tessa Meider opened the talent show with a self-choreographed number to “Womanizer.” Setting a high bar, she executed an upbeat, jazzy dance of leaps, turns, legs, and tricks with a confident attitude and sparkly red costume.

Next up was Carter Zimmerman, a Los Al goalie, creatively displaying his soccer skills with a foosball game against two of the judges. A camera positioned above his table let the audience view the game from overhead on screens. While the audience first appeared skeptical of how Zimmerman would prove his talent with foosball, he scored goal after goal with apparent ease. 

“I thought Carter was actually really good at foosball. Even though it wasn’t the most physically challenging, I thought it was quite impressive,” Wilson said.

It was such a fun experience. I made so many new friends, and it’s something I’ll remember forever.”

— Jocelyn Vlasic, Top Griffin candidate

After Zimmerman’s foosball victory, Jocelyn Vlasic performed “favorite crime,” by Olivia Rodrigo, singing and playing guitar. Her voice and guitar rang throughout the PAC, prompting the audience to wave their phone flashlights in the air like they were at a concert.

The fourth act was Misha Romo’s “gymnastics dance infusion” number. He wowed the audience with handstands and break dancing, adding in fun choreography with Advanced Dance backup dancers. They brought a small trampoline and mats onstage, and Romo launched himself into the air, twisting into flips and sticking the landings. 

When candidate number five, Owen Gooch, took the stage, he jokingly asked film teacher Mr. Brown why he made him follow Misha’s act. Like Vlasic, Gooch performed a simple song with his guitar, sitting on a stool and singing “That’s Life,” by Frank Sinatra. 

Myers was next, performing the dance number that Luyben choreographed. The number was short, but Myers, a choir dance captain, presented Luyben’s choreography well. 

The seventh act was Pinto’s magic show. An audience volunteer helped him with card tricks, but the stage was too far away for the audience to see very well. Pinto closed his act with a “disappearing trick,” making his younger brother think he’d turned invisible. The audience may have been more impressed with an actual disappearing trick, but it was still endearing to watch Pinto chase his “invisible” brother around the stage.

Last but not least, Shapiro performed her self-written diss rap. The audience was in hysterics as she roasted each of her competitors alongside a picture slideshow. Shapiro was ruthless, blazing through her lyrics even when the audience’s laughter and cheers drowned out her words.

“I was really nervous, but I practiced my rap every day for weeks and had help from friends and family, so I knew I was ready for it,” Shapiro said.

Her insults hovered on the border of almost going too far while still being hilarious. Shapiro confirmed that she cleared the contents of her diss track with both the school and the other candidates.

Some of her most memorable digs included poking fun at Zimmerman for being benched on the soccer team, Pinto for losing ASB President to Melaeni Rocker, Vlasic for losing Homecoming Queen to Rocker, and Meider for being a “nepo-baby” (because her mom is Mrs. Meider, Los Al history teacher).

“My favorite act was definitely Ella’s rap,” said Tuesday Delmonico, senior.

“Honestly, I loved it. It was so funny,” agreed senior Elise Briseno-Tapia.

After the talent show, the candidate’s introduction videos played on the PAC screen, and they returned to the stage in formal wear for the Q&A portion of the show, walked on by their escorts. 

Finally, the judges’ points were totaled and Taylor and Kim announced the winners. Pinto’s fellow ASB members Maddie Shafer and Hannah Vosskuhler won the Miss Congeniality award for best escort, and Shapiro was crowned Los Al’s Next Top Griffin.

It feels amazing. The competition’s great. I loved Mr. Griffin, but I’m glad that Next Top Griffin was opened up to everyone, and I’m glad to be the first girl to win.”

— Ella Shapiro, Top Griffin

Overall, Los Al’s Next Top Griffin was a wildly entertaining show, starting an exciting tradition for all seniors. Audience members said that they’re already looking forward to next year.

“When I was talking to the contestants, they were all telling me ‘We don’t care about winning. We feel like a family now,’” Taylor said. “After all the effort and stress that went into this, I feel so fulfilled. It was really a lot of fun.”

The full video of Los Al’s Next Top Griffin will be released on YouTube early next week, and Griffin News has posted the music video on their YouTube channel, @GriffinNews2024.

This version was updated on Jan. 26 at 9:01 p.m. with the correction that the full Top Griffin video will be released on YouTube next week, not today. 

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  • I

    Issy SteinbergJan 31, 2024 at 12:38 pm

    The show was great, and this was a fantastic recap!

  • K

    Katie ArnoultJan 26, 2024 at 1:26 pm

    Going to see Next Top Griffin was so fun! And congrats to Ella for winning!