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.”
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.