SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead if you have not watched the Season 6 season premiere, part one, of “The Masked Singer,” which aired September 22 on Fox.
Basketball star Dwight Howard will at least have more time now to focus on bringing a championship back to Los Angeles. The Lakers player was the first celebrity to be unmasked on Season 6 of Fox’s “The Masked Season,” which returned on Wednesday — the first of a two-night premiere and double elimination.
The other eliminated contestant, Mother Nature, won’t be unmasked until Thursday’s episode.
Howard wore the Octopus costume, and sang “Tutti Frutti,” by Little Richard. He said it was his mom’s favorite show, hence the choice to join “Masked Singer.”
“I enjoyed every moment,” Howard told Variety in his exit interview. “Oh man, it was hot and sweaty. I couldn’t really move my head a lot like I wanted to. And even though I couldn’t dance like I really wanted to, I still tried to do enough, and it was great.”
NBA superfan Ken Jeong immediately knew it was Howard and singled him out immediately. “Based on your story, I just think [it’s you],” he said.
Given the Octopus’ height, basketball players were a popular choice. Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg guessed Dennis Rodman and Nicole Scherzinger thought it was Shaquille O’Neal. Robin Thicke thought it was Joel Embiid.
Why choose the Octopus outfit? “I think Octopus chose me,” Howard joked. “I think he wanted to kind of get his personality out there. Most people are afraid of octopus. They’re mysterious, they’re these creatures that people do not want to mess when they get into the ocean. But they like to eat them sometimes, which is crazy. But I felt like we needed to bring out some of our character and show people a different side of who we are. When I became the octopus I was able to let go of my fear.”
Howard said he first started thinking about doing “The Masked Singer” after his name popped up during Season 2, when NBA star Victor Oladipo competed as the Thingamajig. A lot of viewers wondered if it was Howard. Then last season during his time with the Philadelphia 76ers, Howard said he and his teammates would sing a song while practicing at the free-throw line, and again, others suggested that he ought to try “Masked Singer.” So when he received an email from the production inquiring about his interest, Howard was on board.
Howard said he “was kind of bummed” to leave the show so soon, but that “it gave me the confidence that I needed and I was good after that. I would have wanted to carry on and do more songs, and complete the show but, just doing that show was great for me.”
Howard was ready to sing “It’s Your Thing” for his second number if he had returned. Here was the voiceover for Octopus’ clue package: “I wanted to become the Octopus because eight is a lucky number, and I’m a lucky guy! I reached success at a young age, and I felt like I had it all. And all I could do was smile. But everyone took me smiling as me not being serious. People wanted me out. And I fell. And when you’re this big and you fall, you fall pretty hard. In order to get a fresh start, I had to let go of my ego. But I told you, I’m a lucky guy.”
“The Masked Singer” enters Season 6 with 16 contestants, and the return of a studio audience for the first time since the pandemic began. This season’s costumes include Baby, Banana Split, Beach Ball, Bull, Caterpillar, Cupcake, Dalmatian, Hamster, Mallard, Mother Nature, Octopus, Pepper, Pufferfish, Queen of Hearts and Skunk.
The Season 6 contestants boast a combined 85 Grammy Nominations and 27 wins, three Academy Award nominations, 12 Emmy Nominations, 12 Razzie Award Nominations, two Super Bowl appearances and two Lifetime Achievement Awards.
Also new this season, a “Take It Off” buzzer will allow the show’s panelists to prematurely demand a celebrity remove their mask, if they’re convinced they know who it is.
The show’s panelists will once again compete for a “Golden Ear” trophy based on their first impressions of each masked performer (which McCarthy has won the last two times) — and in week one, all of the panelists’ final guesses were also their first impressions. That means Jeong got a point.
For Mother Nature, Jeong and McCarthy Wahlberg both guessed Tiffany Haddish. Scherzinger went with Chelsea Handler but switched to Tracee Ellis Ross for her pick. Thicke’s first impression was Ross, and he stuck with her for his pick.
Here were the other contestants and their performances on night one:
Song: “Diamonds,” by Sam Smith
Likes: “The Executive Suite.”
Dislikes: “Coffee without cream.”
Voice-over: “I chose to be the skunk because I relate to the duality. The yin and yang to it all. And while life’s not always black and white, there are always certainly two sides to every story. I’m here to tell mine. Over the years, I’ve seen it all, honey. There might be misconceptions that I’m quick to get into a fight. But honey, that couldn’t further from the truth. I learned you don’t always have to react when provoked. I took a break for a minute to focus on family. But I’m ready to get back out there and make it do what I do, boo.”
Panel guesses: Faith Evans, Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton, Janet Jackson, Sade
Song: “Say So,” by Doja Cat
Strength: “Nothing she can’t fix.”
Weakness: “Keeping secrets.”
Voice-over: “I’m excited about becoming the pufferfish. Because I know a thing or two about defending myself. For most of my life, I wanted to blend in but I just couldn’t. I was that weird kid in science class who messed up all the experiments. And don’t get me started about singing. My voice was always different, and not always in a good way. I was ridiculed a lot, so I had to learn to stand up for myself. I think that’s what made me so successful. Tonight, I’m hoping to stand out like I have my whole life.”
Panel guesses: Maya Rudolph, Paula Abdul, Issa Rae, Jessica Alba
Song: “I’m Coming Out,” by Diana Ross
Voice-over: “I’m excited to be Mother Nature, because I’ve done it all. As seasons changed, so did I. But there’s one thing I’ve never had the chance to do: Be a mother. It took me a while to come to terms with it, until I realized the family I already have. Even though I’m not a mother, I’m very protective of the ones that I love. If you come after them all cray cray, this whole wave of shame will come your way, honey! Tonight, I’m going to blossom. Because darling, life is good.”
Panel guesses: Aisha Tyler, Tiffany Haddish, Chelsea Handler, Tracee Ellis Ross
Song: “Drops of Jupiter,” by Train
Strength: “Calm under pressure.”
Likes: “Fast food.”
Voice-over: “I grew up in a small, small town that was surrounded by cows. Most people in the town didn’t really go anywhere, but I had bigger dreams. So I left and I traveled around the entire world looking for my destiny: To be the greatest of all time. The doors I knocked on simply didn’t open. I heard ‘no’ again and again and again. But I didn’t give up. I became my own boss and eventually Hollywood and even Forbes took notice. There’s so much more for me to prove. And I want to do that here.”
Panel guesses: Hunter Hayes, Lance Bass, Brian Littrell, Sisqo, Dwayne Johnson