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Who is Wilma? What it's like to be a college mascot

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Madeleine Viceconte | The Daily Wildcat

Wilma the Wildcat cheers on the Arizona football team during the game against ASU in 2018.

Wilbur and Wilma are the heart of the University of Arizona! We wanted to get to know a little bit about what it’s like to be the beloved Wilma the Wildcat. From the interview tryout process to a typical week, here is what Wilma has got to say if you’re thinking about trying out to be a part of the mascot magic.*

An important part about being a mascot is keeping the individual’s identity a secret, but that didn’t stop Wilma from sharing her experiences to inspire and inform the next generation of Wilburs and Wilmas. 

According to Wilma, the process for becoming a mascot starts with a week-long tryout process. This includes general information about a student and what else they are involved in, because being a mascot takes serious commitment. After the application process, an applicant could move into an interview portion where they get asked scenario-based questions while remaining in character. The tryout process ends with an in-suit audition. They have just “seven real-time minutes ... to show what they can do,” Wilma said. While it is an intense process, the mascot shares that being the face of the university is a worthwhile experience!

Daily Wildcat: What inspired you to try out to be Wilma?

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Wilma T. Wildcat: There are a lot of people from my hometown who were a part of the mascot program. They had actually messaged me asking if I would be interested because they knew I made costumes. I wouldn’t say it’s a hometown tradition ... but it kinda is. There have been a lot of people from Yuma, Arizona who are or were on the mascot team. 

DW: What do you think was the hardest part while you were trying out?

WW: The most intimidating part was definitely having to get in-suit and only having seven minutes to show what you can do. It sounds like a long time, but when you’re trying to interact with everyone, trying to be funny, and trying to take pictures, it’s so intimidating. You want to prove your point and show what you can do, but it’s not a lot of time. 

DW: What would you say a week now looks like? 

WW: A typical week now honestly is around 15 hours of work. We workout with cheer, and we usually have 6 a.m. practices in [McKale Center]. But we do a lot of appearances and not just around the school but also in the Tucson community. Sometimes we even have to go to Phoenix. 

Right after class, I’ve had to drive to Phoenix and go to a Diamondbacks game, or I’ve actually had to go back to Yuma for a wedding. We get invited everywhere! 

You, of course, have game days, and the Football season is crazy because we get to the stadium around 3 p.m. and are there until 11 p.m. or midnight ... 

It’s worse when we have volleyball. Because as Wilma, I could have a volleyball game on Friday, football on Saturday, and volleyball again on Sunday, and that’s not including other appearances we may do. 

DW: How do you balance your academics and a social life with your mascot priorities?

WW: It's a huge adjustment for sure, and as a [first-generation] college student, I felt like I couldn’t ask anyone for guidance ... Now I have found a good balance, and this is my third year doing it. It's definitely a job I don’t get paid for that does take up a lot of my time, but they emphasize that school definitely comes first. If I have a game, I want to be in the zone before the game, so I have to wait until after the game to do my work, so there are a lot of late nights, but usually weekends are my free time.

DW: What’s your favorite part about being Wilma?

WW: Getting to do things outside of the university, because you get to see a lot of kids who may have never interacted with a mascot before ... For example, I had participated in an All in for Autism drive-in movie and it’s just amazing to get to interact with all these kids who have never really seen us before. It’s a learning experience for me with each new person I interact with ... It’s great to get out there and be with the public and not just students. In a way, we’re not just the face of the university, we’re the face of Tucson.

DW: Your identity remains a secret. Why is that and who is allowed to know your true identity? Do you enjoy the secret?

WW: The identity is a secret because we are trying to keep the integrity of the characters. It’s all about the magic! People are curious, but it’s up to the individual of who they want to share the secret with. And I do and don’t love the secret. There’s a lot of weird people out there. I’ve been stalked or harassed by people who found out not by my choice. It’s pretty creepy. It’s a hard secret to keep though. Sometimes things slip, and you have to play it off. I don’t want to say I’ve become a good liar, but I have. Friends ask “Why haven’t I seen you at games before?” and I have to come up with a story on the spot. It’s kinda insane!

DW: Any advice you can offer to students who may be considering trying out to be mascot?

WW: Do your research because you will be asked history questions about Wilma and Wilbur! Watch a lot of videos. I took the time to watch videos to understand how Wilbur and Wilma interact, how Wilma walks, how Wilma interacts with the president of the university versus a student versus a kid, because they’re all different interactions. Definitely, take the time to know your stuff. 

Does Wilma's identity ever get revealed?

Though Wilma’s secret is a mystery now, eventually the secret will get out. “It’s usually at the last home basketball game during halftime. [The reveal is] something we all look forward to,” she said. “I’m the 33rd Wilma ... ever! [Taking on this character is] the most amazing college experience I could ask for!” 


*Editor's Note: After verifying her identity before publishing, the Daily Wildcat chose to keep Wilma's identity anonymous to uphold this University of Arizona tradition.


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