[Spoiler alert: this story contains the identity of the eliminated contestant on Wednesday night’s The Masked Singer.]
After an epic run on the show in which he outlasted a Destiny’s Child (Michelle Williams), an iconic R&B diva (Patti LaBelle), not to mention Kelly Osbourne, Ana Gasteyer and Raven-Symoné, the journey finally came to an end on Wednesday night’s (Dec. 11) The Masked Singer when Thingamajig got bounced. The towering whatsit of R&B power turned out to be a sidelined NBA star whose ruptured quad has kept him off the court this year, but in viewers’ hearts through the show’s semifinal episode.
His run was especially impressive because Majig’s pro-level vocals on covers of Michael Bublé‘s “Haven’t Met You Yet,” Kacey Musgrave‘s “Rainbow,” The Commodores‘ “Easy” and Usher‘s “Caught Up” were topped by a reggae-splashed run through “Winter Wonderland” that had some of the judges locking in their sure-thing guesses. Judge Ken Jeong, as usual, was absolutely certain he knew who it was, picking up on clues about a knee brace, immigrant parents, some Indiana Jones gear and a year full of adversity to guess that it was injured Indiana Pacers shooting guard, and well-known round-ball crooner, Victor Oladipo.
Fellow judge Joel McHale wasn’t having it, though, arguing that the vocals were just too smooth from the nearly 7-foot-tall song slayer, guessing that it was 6’8″ R&B big man Montell Jordan. He was right about the height being a clue, but he should have listened to Jeong, who finally got it right for once by tagging the 6-foot-4 baller as the only possible answer.
Billboard spoke to Oladipo before the reveal to find out how he kept his off-court activities a secret from his teammates and why you’ll always find him singing in the locker room.
So you managed to outlast a member of Destiny’s Child and the Patti LaBelle. Were you expecting that?
No, not at all. I didn’t really know what to expect starting out the show and you don’t know who’s who. I was honestly just going out there and having a good time and doing something different and singing the songs as best I can.
Are you known as a guy who sings in the locker room?
Oh definitely. I am that guy for sure. I’m definitely going to sing in the locker room. … I’m pretty much singing all the time. I tell everybody this is the only way I can practice. It’s amazing because I feel like there’s a song for everything in every moment.
Do you have a go-to for karaoke?
Not necessarily a go-to. I just sing whatever comes to heart or whatever somebody might want me to sing. It just depends on the situation.
You seem so polished. Are there other singers in your family?
I would say so. My uncle sings, my mom sings. I would say I’m the best one for sure. [Laughs] My family has singers and definitely members who think they can sing.
And now you can definitively tell them “I’m the one.”
[Laughs] Yes, sir.
Were you a fan of the show in the first season? How did you end up signing on for this one?
Yeah, I saw the first season and it’s funny because one of my close friends was like, “You should be on this show.” And a year and a half later, I ended up being on the show, so it’s kind of cool how life takes its course. It was definitely a great time and I had a great experience and met a lot of great people.
Your NBA season ended in January when you were injured. Did that have anything to do with extra downtime?
It’s not even that. I just felt like at the end of the day, the opportunity presented itself and it was all about doing something different. I obviously couldn’t do too much as far as movement-wise on the stage because I was hurt. Obviously I wasn’t practicing or working out the way I wanted to because I was hurt, but I thought the opportunity would be beneficial to me. I felt like it would be a great experience.
As a 6-foot-4 NBA player, you move in a certain way. Were you conscious of changing your posture and flow to not give it away?
I tried. It was kind of difficult, but I tried my best to not make things so obvious, and it worked out for me pretty well. I made it this far, and like I said before, I honestly just had such a good time being onstage and hearing the judges’ remarks and doing something different.
Ken said he knew for sure it was you, but Robin Thicke said, “No, he’s too good a singer, it’s gotta be Montell Jordan.” What did you think of the judges’ guesses?
For them to guess certain people was definitely mind-blowing to me. Like when he said Montell Jordan and different artists in the industry. For the most part, it was funny seeing their reactions and hearing their guesses and knowing inside it’s not anything that they’re saying or being anywhere close to what their guesses are.
You definitely had a lane you were in as far as the songs you were singing, which were mostly in the blues/R&B ballad zone — The Temptations, Commodores, Usher. Is that where you’re most comfortable?
Definitely, I guess you could say that’s what I specialize in. I’ve got two albums out now [2018’s V.O. and 2017’s Songs for You], which are R&B albums. But I think my voice could venture out as well at the same time, but I think that’s where I’m strong at: ballads and R&B. I just like to sing.
You convinced first-season champ T-Pain, who said you sounded like John Legend on stilts. You’re already a tall guy, but how tall was that costume?
I think over 6-foot-9. I’m 6-4 … the head was really tall.
Sometimes if you break your nose in the NBA you have one of those clear masks, but how hard was it to perform with that enormous hairy costume head?
It was definitely a little tough because you can’t really see too well and also you can’t really breathe too well. But after a while, you get used to it and the costume starts becoming who you are, becoming you, and you get immersed in the role and the costume and everything else just relaxes and you can just sing because you’re so used to it by then. But definitely moving because of my [injured] quad and moving at the same time was a little difficult, but after a while, I got the hang of it.
When you think about beating out Michelle from Destiny’s Child, Patti LaBelle and all these other singers, you have to be pretty proud that you were able to last this far into the show, right?
It’s kind of unreal to even be on the show with people like that and go head-up with people like that and have an opportunity to actually win. It’s a blessing and I’m definitely appreciative and thankful for the opportunity. Hopefully now this will give everyone the opportunity to check out my music and see how serious I am about singing and hopefully take a chance to see how good I am even though I’m an athlete.
Are you hoping to parlay this into a major-label recording contract?
That would be nice, I would love that. I would definitely want this to catapult my music career if it can to maybe signing with a label. But I think the biggest thing is just having the world listen to it and sharing it with the world. At the end of the day, I was always taught that if you have a gift and you don’t share it, then what good is the gift?
Was there anybody who figured it out, any of your teammates or family?
A lot of them say they do, but I’m in full denial so they can guess as much as they want, but until it’s revealed I’m not saying nothing. For sure my teammates thought they knew. They’d be like, “you ain’t got to say it, but I know it’s you.”
You’re an NBA All-Star in a game known for being super physical. How does this compare, difficulty-wise and stamina-wise?
It’s a little different obviously just going out there and making sure you know your steps, making sure you know the words to the song, making sure that you practice and do everything that was done in practice. It’s kind of similar to the NBA in that aspect that you have to put in practice and come back and perform when the lights is on and the stage is set. It’s similar to it, so after a while you get really competitive because I’m a competitor at heart. I tried to go out there and make sure I was prepared and I did my best.
Who are you most likely to talk to after they reveal your face tonight?
To tell? Honestly, the whole world and to apologize for lying. That’s the thing, just telling the world, “I had to, I’m sorry, but yeah, y’all were right.”
You didn’t even tell your parents?
I didn’t tell my parents, but they think it’s me. My mom says, “I know my son, so you don’t have to tell me.”
[Another spoiler alert: Leopard was also eliminated. You might know him as the ‘Crazy’ singer. Yes, it was Seal]