When Reality TV Almost Becomes Reality

Mine is the cutie on the right!

The Kardashians, real housewives, toddlers in tiaras, the Jersey shore crew…this is just the tip of the iceberg of reality TV stars we love to hate.  I have joined in heaping scorn on them on more than one occasion.   That makes it doubly hard to explain how disappointed I am that my daughter is not going to join their ranks.

Gwen is a 19-year-old sophomore in college.  Among other talents, she’s a great drummer, who has been playing for about 12 years.  That she can sing, however, we didn’t find out until she was a senior in high school.  She announced that she was going to do a number in the school talent show.  My hubby and I said all the supportive things parents should say, lined up tickets for the event and only exchanged that “look” behind her back.  The “look” that means “Sing? You?  Since when?”  She was always in the band, never the choir.

It turned out she was good.  Really, pretty damn good.  Right after the show I ran up to her and gushed: “So how come you never open your mouth to sing in church?”

Fast-forward 2 years.

Unless you live under a rock, you are aware that there is a television show on Fox called Glee.  What you may not be aware of is that there is a reality show on their sister channel, Oxygen, called The Glee Project.  It’s a talent show that ran last year (and maybe the year before.)   It’s kind of like American Idol with the prize being that the winner lands a role on Glee

I didn’t know about any of this until a couple of months ago when Gwen announced that The Glee Project was having auditions in Chicago in November, and she wanted to try out.  Oh.  Okay.  She’s never tried out for anything besides a school play, and we are definitely not the stage-parent type.  But we said if this was important to her then we would do what we could to help.

My hubby went to get her at school that weekend.  Dark and early one Sunday morning last month (4:00 am, which although technically morning, my body recognizes as night) she and I set out for Chicago.  We brought winter coats, lawn chairs, blankets and a backpack full of textbooks for what we assumed would be a long wait out in the cold.  I dropped her off out front of the McCormick Place about 6:00 am and by the time I parked the car, she texted that they had let those already in line into the building, so I wouldn’t need to wait around.

I spent the day getting to know Chicago while Gwen pursued the American Dream.

I took in early Mass at the cathedral, a brisk walk up Michigan Avenue and breakfast in a coffee shop.  I was soaking up the sun and watching the idiot, er, I mean, dedicated bikers and runners on the Lake Michigan beach when the first text came:  “I made it through the first round of auditions.”

Whoo hoo! 

I dropped my heavy coat back at the car, fed the parking meter and ventured into the shops on Michigan Ave., which had finally opened up for the day.  I was trying to decide between a couple of  $500 sweaters at Saks (yeah, right) when the next text came in:  “omg, omg, omg.  I passed the second audition.”

Wait, what?  Whoo hoo plus!

Back to the car to put in more money for parking, I sat there dozing for a while before heading back out for some power window-shopping.  Around 2:00 pm I had wandered into The Gap and was contemplating getting a late lunch when my cell phone rang.  A very quiet, subdued little Gwen voice said, “Mom, can you come and get me?”

Hurting for her, I immediately sprang into Mommy-kiss-make-all-better mode while heading out of the store and toward my car.  “Oh honey, you did your best.  Don’t be disappointed.  We’re just so proud of you for trying. And getting through 2 levels is major. I would never have the nerve to…”

She cut me off, “What makes you think it’s bad news?”

I stopped stock still on the sidewalk, causing an irate shopper to have to swerve around me.  “You mean it isn’t bad news?”

No, it wasn’t.

My little girl made it through all three of the auditions, and ended up singing for Robert Ulrich, the casting director of Glee.  He warmly complimented her.  When she left the final audition she was given the Glee Project equivalent of a golden ticket – a notice that she was being considered for a callback.  In the immortal words of Oklahoma, She’d Gone About As Fur As She Could Go.

For half of the drive back to school, I made Gwen recount every detail of the day.  The stomach-heaving nerves; the sense of camaraderie with the other contestants; what it felt like to sing, in the last round, with professional lights, mics and cameras for a real-live TV director. 

Gwen wouldn’t know if she had made the final cut for several weeks.  The producers said if she was going to go on to LA, they would call by December 7.

She finally dropped off to sleep for the rest of the trip after explaining that the entire process was confidential.  We couldn’t tell anyone.

This last part was probably the toughest.  I was bursting with pride, but couldn’t say a word.  Then I got to thinking about the logistics.  If she got the call, she would need to immediately head to California, right in the middle of finals.  And what about next semester?  Should she sign up for classes?  Would she drop out of school?  What if she got to LA but was eliminated from the competition early?  She’d be a semester behind, at least.

It has been tough on Gwen, not being able to share her excitement, her hopes and anticipation, and having to go on with classes and studying while she waits for news.

Me being me, in the last few weeks I’ve built elaborate fantasies involving fame and fortune for my little chickee, including what I’d wear for her first Grammy award.  Me being even more me, I’ve already planned how I’d get her into rehab when she had her young-star-in-trouble-ala-Lindsey-Lohan meltdown.

Last Friday, the Glee Project posted on Facebook that the final determinations had been made.  “Thanks to all the talented people who tried out, tough to choose, blah blah blah.”  Gwen wasn’t one of those called back.

It’s a bitter pill for her to swallow.  But as I reminded her, she should hold her head up high.  We heard that approximately 1400 auditioned that day in Chicago, and maybe 20-30 made it through.  It’s a tremendous honor that she got as far as she did. 

To my dear little Gwennie I say: you’ll always be #1 to your dad and me.  We are so, so proud of you.  Keep reaching for the stars!  Keep chasing your dreams! And keep your nose to the grindstone – you have finals this week.


About pegoleg

R-A-M-B-L-I-N-G-S, Ram...Blin!
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69 Responses to When Reality TV Almost Becomes Reality

  1. Chrystal says:

    Good for her for pursuing her dream! I am sure it was a great experience, end result not withstanding.


  2. egills says:

    Wow, that’s amazing!!!!


  3. Jackie says:

    That is so hard. Really. But she should absolutely be thrilled to have made it that far and should be extra confident when they have another round (or even a similar call for a similar show). How FANTASTIC for her to make it so far! I always consider a callback a win. And yes, it’s a very bitter pill indeed to not go all the way, but remind her that there are many, many factors that go into casting. And a lot of times, once you get that far in the game, they have little to do with you. Grats to your gal and her proud mom.


    • pegoleg says:

      Thanks for the advice and kind comments, Jackie. She’s never done anything like this before, so I guess she’ll need to toughen up if she really wants to pursue it. After college, of course 🙂


  4. Incredible! I am so impressed!! She must be very talented to go that far. A big congrats to her (and to you, for keeping it all in) You must be bursting with pride.


    • pegoleg says:

      Well, I’m kind of bursting with anti-climax right now. It was so exciting the day of the auditions, but now the bottom line is that she lost. But I decided to write this to give her props for effort and achievement.


  5. notquiteold says:

    I don’t usually watch reality shows, and I don’t watch “Glee” either… but for some reason I was fascinated last season by “The Glee Project”. It amazed me every week at the talent that got left behind. I bet your daughter is every bit as good as some of the talented kids that show DIDN’T choose.


  6. Janu says:

    How very exciting!
    Gwen is a huge talent, with an even bigger heart. I am really excited that she got so far in the process. Not only is she talented and smart, she is just a really cool person. I am so proud to be her Auntie!


  7. misswhiplash says:

    How disappointed she must have been. Unfortunately this is all part of life’s learning curve….If Gwen has real talent and really wants to go on the stage or whatever ..then she will do it! If she has the Willpower and Determination she will do it.

    Best of Luck Gwen, whatever you choose to do


  8. Wow, good for her for having the guts to audition, sing so many times for intimidating people, and get so far! As a singer for 20+ years, I can honestly say I don’t think I could do it. I think being an artist who’s “out there” is tremendously difficult. I applaud Gwen for having the gumption, and you and her dad for supporting her so unequivocally! That means a lot. If she continues with her efforts, that audition series will look great for her. It’s really about who you know just as much as it is about talent; she presumably knew no one and got that far on talent alone. That’s fantastic.

    As for why people who can sing never sing at Mass, this is frustrated me for all the years I’ve been a cantor. 🙂


  9. boy oh boy, what a ride.


  10. Seasweetie says:

    Great job, Gwen – congratulations for going for it. And this means you can go for it AGAIN!


  11. Lenore Diane says:

    She went. She sang. She conquered Chicago.
    That’s a ‘win’ in my book. Congrats, Gwen!

    Nicely written, Mom! (smile)


  12. Big Al says:

    An incredible experience for a young lady. While it’s hard to say anything that will assuage her disappointment after getting so far, those of us who have been around know that the experience is almost as important as the prize. She now knows she can do anything she puts her mind to. This is also a testimonial to good parenting. Way to go!


  13. WOW!! Congratulations to your daughter for her dreams and her drive to achieve. When I have suffered this type of disappointment at dreams unrealized, even though I wanted it so-o-o-o bad, I have later, in retrospect, realized that it wasn’t the right opportunity at the right time. Those will come. All things happen as they are supposed to… the opportunity that is right for her at the right time and place will present itself. Because of what she learned and gained from this situation she will be an outstanding success when it really matters!


  14. gojulesgo says:

    Peg! This is so flippin’ cool! The Glee Project RULES! And I always wonder how people can keep mum before the show airs. Your daughter sounds very talented; I’m sure we’ll be hearing her soon (if she has any YouTube videos, I’d LOVE to see them)!


  15. Tar-Buns says:

    So THAT’s why you were in Chicago bopping around when you texted me. It must have been horrible not being able to tell anyone when you were bursting at the seams!

    Gwen is so talented. More opportunities will come her way. Kudos to her!


    • pegoleg says:

      Yup. It was hard to keep my mouth shut, as you no doubt know. 🙂

      Hey, check out Big Al’s blog. He posted about being at the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor with his father-in-law – very moving. Weren’t you at the 50th with your father-in-law?


      • Tar-Buns says:

        Just got back to see added comments. No, Pat and I went with his parents for the last big bash, the 65th anniversary. Today is again Dec. 7th and Pat’s Dad was in the paper yesterday and today, and now is being featured on 9&10 News TV at 6pm, about 15 minutes from now. It was quite the experience and 70 years ago. Wow!


  16. WOWZA! That really is impressive – even to me (and believe me, I live WAY under that rock).
    Or, maybe I should say especially to me, because I. Can’t. Sing. At. All. Seriously, I’m ‘that guy’ who sets up Simon Cowell for all his snide remarks. It is Simon Cowell, right (see previous rock comment). Seriously, my congratulations to your very talented daughter – she should be very, very proud!


  17. Wow, I wasn’t prepared to get all choked up at the end.


  18. Hurray for Gwen! She’s got talent and courage. And how old is she? She did what I dreamed of doing but never would or could. Bravo! Bravo! 🙂


  19. It’s amazing how our kids surprise us with such amazing and awesome surprises. Parenting is the only roller coaster I have ridden on and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. “The cutie on the right” is very cute indeed. There’s a lot more in store for her. Congratulations!!!


    • pegoleg says:

      That’s so true – parenting is a crazy roller coaster. I have always said, borrowing an old commercial for the US Marines, that parenting is the toughest job you’ll ever love.


  20. Beckyo says:

    I was captivated with this post! Gwen continues to inspire us all. It is no surprise that she went far in the competition with her talent and likable genuine nature. Kudos to Gwen! And to you and Bro Bill for supporting Gwen in pursuing her dreams.


  21. pattisj says:

    At 19, I would never have had the nerve to try anything like that, so I’m really glad for Gwen that she decided to try it. That young lady is going to go far.


  22. Congratulations, Gwen! This is not a failure, it is the first step on the road to success! Never quit trying!


  23. Laura says:

    Congrats to Gwen for making it so far.


  24. Barb says:

    So amazing. No voice lessons. No hysterics. And Oh How far she went. (that was supposed to be Dr. Seuss, but the verbs didn’t work). You’re quite a woman, Gwen. The first tightrope walk of many more. (And you’re a wonderful mom. Convincing me I should go pick up my Jr. as soon as finals are over instead of making him wait a day to catch the train. Thanks.


    • pegoleg says:

      Oh Barb, I can’t believe we always go to get her. I keep saying she should take the bus like I did when I was in college. It builds character to have those life experiences, so keep up the train route.


  25. Mary Kay says:

    What a fantastic life experience. I am SO PROUD of Gwen for trying out. I am also VERY PROUD of you for not telling anyone anything! I thought it odd that you went to Chicago shopping when all your clothes come from Goodwill but never did I dream that you were ferrying the next singing sensation! I’m thinking positive thoughts directed to Gwen as she finishes finals. Tough spot to be in.Go Gwen, GO. Love-Aunt MK


    • pegoleg says:

      Hey, hey – I do NOT get all my clothes from Goodwill. Sometimes I get my Alfred Dunner creations from the Salvation Army Boutique. Thanks on Gwen’s behalf, Miss Aunt MK.


  26. That Praise Dude says:

    Congratulations Gwen! As someone who regularly gets up in front of a large crowd of folks and sings, I can tell you that it is the most vulnerable of personal auditions musically. Hey, if they don’t like your violin solo or drum chops, you can blame your instrument, technique, etc. etc. However, your voice is YOUR OWN and to be rejected is to be told YOU aren’t good enough, on some level. I have auditioned for musicals and felt the disappointment of not getting the part I wanted (I’m still in therapy for not getting the part of Tony in West Side Story at MSU, but with counseling and drugs I’m able to lead a normal life), but this audition transcends all those. Also congratulations, Mama Rose, for encouraging Gwen to reach high! Must have been a sacrifice to shop all day — JUST to encourage your child. Way to go!


  27. Congrats to Gwen! My 13-year-old, Hope, also has aspirations to become a singer. She tried out for our local “Idol” contest at 12 (she didn’t advance). I do all I can to encourage her, because singing is one of the things she’s good at!



  28. Ha! Love your last line. And I think it’s phenomenal that your daughter made it so far through the ranks on her first audition. She should be very proud of herself. Your post, as always, delivered the laughs all the way through. Especially with this, “4:00 am, which although technically morning, my body recognizes as night.” Yes. Agreed.

    Sounds like quite the adventure for your family, and I have no doubt many more lie in your future.


  29. sukanya says:

    AWESOME!!! wow, forget about you, I am proud of her!!! I hope she doesnt give up and lets this rejection fuel her determination and ultimately success.


    • pegoleg says:

      What do you mean, forget about me? Who got out of a warm, cozy bed at 3am, prepared to camp out on the cold, mean streets of Chicago all day if necessary to secure my baby’s success? (I’m setting the ground work for getting a full 1/2 of her earnings in the future when she becomes a big star.)


      • sukanya says:

        i hear ya…you deserve this and much more. what i meant was i am proud of Gwen too….and i dont even know her. i feel your pride just the same.
        you gotta start the negotiations right away, seal a deal before she heads off to Celebrityland.


  30. Coming East says:

    Fabulous! Gwen needs to keep going for it. Since she is new to singing, she just needs more practice. I am so totally impressed!


    • pegoleg says:

      That’s what I told her. I emailed her the other day and said to check out the pictures on Facebook of the kids who did get a callback to see if she recognized any, and she replied that was the last thing in the world she wants to do. She doesn’t want to think about it, and she doesn’t want to talk about it anymore. O-kay.


  31. tiendAdulto says:

    I’m impressed too.


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