Every year, the publication selects a list of Yale’s 50 most attractive students to feature in this issue, which is more commonly known as “50 Most”. Rumpus allows the community to take part in the selection of one of the 50 beauties. Students submit photos to Rumpus’s Facebook page, where they are voted upon by the public—each “like” acts as a vote. At the time of the meeting, the battle for “likes” had intensified to the point that one student had paid for a sponsored Facebook post to push his photo to the top of people’s newsfeeds. After a Rumpus editor described this desperate act to the room, some staffers groaned, and others laughed, but all agreed that contestants should not be not allowed to buy their way into the “50 Most.” When the meeting came to an end and the staff members pushed in their chairs, still laughing, one Rumpus writer quipped, “Some people actually give a fuck about this.”
Although nearly everyone at Yale has heard of the “50 Most,” the vast majority of the student body has no idea how Rumpus crowns its winners. The Facebook competition is the only public part of the selection process, yet it generates no more than four percent of the final list. On the whole, the selection of the other 49 “most beautiful” Yale students begins over winter break, when Rumpus staff members each put together a slideshow featuring the 20 men and women they believe to be among the most attractive at Yale. The editors compile these 30 or so slide shows into an enormous masterlist of “50 Most” candidates, which is then sent back to the staff. After a final round of voting, 48 of Yale’s prettiest are selected as winners. The two remaining slots are left for the winners of the competition held on Rumpus’s Facebook page: one spot is given to the individual with the highest number of votes, the other to the most beautiful student group or sports team.
Like with Academy Award or Nobel Prize winners, every year, secrecy around the Rumpus’s annual list of winners is taken very seriously. Even the Rumpus staff is told only about 20 names before the full list is published—only one editor knows all 50. Editors mentioned that students who are openly eager about wanting a spot on the list are usually not chosen; similarly, those who are given a spot and do not keep it a secret can find their title revoked.
Rumpus staff writer Vince Kennedy, BK ’16, said that the selection process was an eye-opening experience. “I didn’t expect there to be so many attractive people all over campus—not just in sororities or your typical attractive-people-places.”
Unlike the list of senior society members that the Rumpus publishes annually, “50 Most” is more than just a compilation of names. What separates it from a typical “hot list” is the comprehensive profiles that accompany each name and picture.
Ultimately, the staff believes that the content is more important than the final list.
“A lot of [the winners], in addition to being physically beautiful, have lots of stuff beneath their surfaces,” said John Sununu, SY ’15, who began writing for the Rumpus during his freshman year. Andrea Villena, SM ’15, a Rumpus graphics editor, agrees.
“It’s not a predictable list of pretty, boring people,” she remarked. On the contrary, Rumpus tries to ensure that the people selected for each year’s issue are as fascinating as they are attractive.
“They don’t try to pick the hottest person at Yale. If the second-hottest person is funnier, they’ll take that person,” said a former member of Rumpus who wished to remain anonymous. “It’s not about ranking beauty. They just want interesting interviews.”
Philosophically, Rumpus does not believe that there is a direct correlation between being physically attractive and having a compelling personality. “We get lots of drop-dead gorgeous people who turn out to be really boring or awkward,” admitted one staff writer. Rumpus considers this to be part of the beauty behind “50 Most”; the list is intended to give Yale a snapshot of fascinating students who also happen to be really, really ridiculously good-looking.
“[50 Most] is much more nuanced than simply cataloging the pretty people,” said Sununu. “Sure, you’re a beautiful person, but what else do you have to offer?”
However high-brow they claim their selection process to be, to be selected, you still need to be extremely-drop-dead-and-almost-objectively-beautiful. If selected, you are immediately recognized around campus as one of Yale’s prettiest. “You can’t let it get to your head,” said Jen Mulrow, DC ’14. This can be difficult in the weeks following the publication of the list, when the campus is buzzing with talk of that year’s crop of winners. “My grandmother somehow got her hands on the issue,” said Catherine Camp, JE ‘14, with a laugh. “She asked for a copy of the picture and put it on the fridge.”
Florian Koenigsberger, SM ’14, agrees. “The congratulating sentiment is bizarre,” he says. “I’d love to say that it helped me more romantically but I don’t think that’s the case.” Others have had a similar experience. “Afterwards, people would be like ‘Congratulations’ which made me feel uncomfortable,” said Camp.
As the Rumpus believes that the “50 Most” is taken so seriously because it is much more than a list, they put a great deal of energy into their interviews. An editor who wished to remain anonymous admitted that during the interview process, Rumpus staff members walk a thin line between being “creepy stalkers” and ardent admirers. And although writers are given free reign over the angle with which they approach their subjects, they insist their intent is never malicious.
“How people are portrayed depends on how they come across during their interview,” Sununu said. He believes that Rumpus continually selects men and women who, in addition to possessing physical beauty, are fascinating, philanthropic individuals. “If you’re actually reading the articles and not just jacking off to the pictures, you get to see what’s beneath the surface,” he said.
At Yale, the opinions regarding “50 Most” vary greatly—some are entertained, some aspire to make the list, and some disdain its vanity. This year, the Facebook contest received an unprecedented amount of attention. This is not only the case for those who have gone to extreme measures in an attempt to garner “likes,” but also from students who believe that the premise is deeply disturbing.
A lot of the hype surrounding the list is self-created. “I think [Rumpus] laughs at itself,” remarked Koenigsberger, in reference to the online competition. “To anyone who actually submits attractive pictures of themselves—all I can say is, ‘That’s pathetic.’”
While only 10 of the roughly 370 submitted pictures this year were self-nominations, according to Villena, a number of people encouraged others to log onto Facebook and “like” their photo.
Despite the existing sentiment that “50 Most” is a petty, shallow undertaking, the staff sees the selection as a positive addition to campus culture. A Rumpus writer who did not want to be named mentioned that he believes that a lot of the animosity regarding the online contest stems from the simple fact that “people don’t like to see other people getting complimented when they’re not complimented.”
Another staff member felt that such problems arise when students take Rumpus too seriously. He believes that the publication views the list as a fun tradition, and not an attempt to hurt those who are not selected. “Obviously [the list is] very subjective,” said Kennedy. In his eyes, “50 Most” is “just one big compliment to beautiful people who deserve to be complemented.”
This year, Rumpus has made an effort to raise the quality of their “50 Most” issue. In response to past complaints regarding poor photography, the publication has commissioned some of Yale’s most talented photographers to shoot this year’s winners. And despite the fact that the written profiles accompanying these pictures often tend toward the absurd, the editors always ensure that they are “somewhat” based on true facts.
“They have to take themselves somewhat seriously, but they also want to give the impression that they don’t care,” said one former member of Rumpus. As one winner remarked, “Pretty objectively, the list doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of anything.”