A Hillsborough Community College Student Publication since 1978.
By Alannah Castor
All parents tell their kids they can be anything they want to be, but I wonder if that’s really true. Yes, you can be what you want, as long as you meet the prerequisites. “Sure, Sweetie, you can be a model,” (but only if you’re tall, skinny, and gorgeous). “Of course you can be a lawyer, Son,” (as long as you score high on your SATs, go to a good law school, and pass the Bar exam). My parents were no different. They told me I could be anything I wanted to be if I wanted it badly enough. Maybe I still believe that, but now I know that in order to be whatever it is you want, you have to conform yourself to that career’s ideals. Sometimes I wonder, is that a price that I am willing to pay? All my life, I have always dreamed of being a singer. As far back as I can remember (and there are videotapes to prove this), I would dress up in my finest Pepto-Bismol pink dress with magenta lace and sequins, pull out my coordinating pink microphone and belt out Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.” It was clear to me that I was born to bask in the limelight. This never changed as I grew older. The singers and music styles changed, and in time I abandoned the pink dress up clothes, but I still loved to turn on my boom box and sing my heart out to the crowd of fluffy, stuffed animals perched on my bed. I just knew that somehow, someday I would become a famous singer. It had to be true- it was in my blood. Singing was not just something I loved to do; I also happened to be good at it. When I was about 10 years old, my mother started taking me to family karaoke night with her. I rocked the small stage with Madonna, LeAnn Rimes, or the occasional Whitney Houston song. I soon learned the thrill of people applauding for me and the odd sensation of strangers approaching me in the bathroom to tell me, “You were great!” Everyone welcomes praise, and I am no exception. Maybe I’d let it go to my head because before long, I came to think of myself as a pretty good singer. In high school, I joined concert choir and relished every opportunity to try out for solos. Singing in front of my classmates was a lot scarier than singing in front of total strangers. Not only because these were the people I ate lunch and learned algebra with, but also because I had a reputation for being a nerd. If you happen to be familiar with the Harry Potter books, imagine me as Hermione. You know the one kid in class who always reminded the teacher when he forgot to check the homework or give a quiz? Yeah — that was me. I hoped and prayed that singing would not be another notch in my nerd belt. To my surprise, it wasn’t. I garnered a bit of respect my junior year when I had a few solos in choir and even one in the school play, “The Sound of Music.” I was a nun and had a minuscule solo in the song “Maria.” Of course, our Maria stole the show and people hardly noticed my solo. But that was also soon to change. I’ll never forget the first time I really felt like singing might be something I could make a career out of. It was homecoming, my senior year. I had a large solo in a song the choir was performing at the banquet. I had picked my black evening dress very carefully and my mom pulled my hair back into the cleanest French twist. A picture of elegance, I took the stage with the choir and stepped in front for my solo. My legs felt like jelly in my 4-inches heels, but I tried to remain calm as I gave my best in front of a couple hundred people. The song ended and I peered out into the crowd to ascertain their reaction. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a table of my classmates. They were giving me a standing ovation! I tried my best not to trip on the way back to my table and found it full with smiling faces. “We didn’t know you could sing like that!” and similar phrases were thrown out at me and my cheeks flushed the pink of my long-forgotten play dress. Only this was a real crowd, not stuffed animals. And they liked me; they really liked me. One guy, the closest person I had to an arch nemesis, even suggested we play hooky the following day and drag me to the Miami “American Idol” auditions. I had considered this myself but found that I had neither the funds or transportation to make the trip. Also, I couldn’t miss school. My chance came the following summer. I had already graduated high school and I was still undecided about where I wanted to attend college. While surfi ng the Net one day, I came across information about “American Idol” season 3 auditions. The nearest city holding tryouts was Atlanta, at least an 8-hour drive. The little girl with the pink microphone inside me was awakened once more. I talked it over with my mom and somehow convinced my dad to let us borrow his SUV to make the trip. I booked a hotel online and it was settled. I, along with thousands of others, intended to make myself the next “American Idol.” Little did I know what was about to come. The trek there was exciting, to say the least. I have always been a fan of road trips and the anticipation alone made this one a trip to remember. Tryouts were being held at the Georgia Dome and I joined the nearly 10,000 other hopefuls in line around the outside of the building. It felts like months, but mere hours later we were inside the dome. There were two days left until the auditions. Those two days were two of the most colorful days of my life. I showered in the handicap stall’s sink. I listened to a guy play “Slide” by the Goo Goo Dolls on his guitar while perched against a wall with signs directing football fans to their seats. I slept on a concrete fl oor next to 50 other strangers. I smelled the mingling scent of nervousness and ambition that created a thick blanket over the mass of would-be superstars. Finally, it was the night before auditions. I hardly slept a wink and assured myself that I’d at least make it through the fi rst round. After that, only three people named Simon, Paula, and Randy would stand between me and my dreams of becoming a singing sensation. Auditions began at 8 a.m. I watched as the fi rst group of potential “idols” was ushered down onto the football fi eld of the stadium like cows corralled for the slaughter. The fi rst girl in line was a bouncy brunette with what looked like way too much energy. She didn’t make it. There were 12 tables lined up on the fi eld that sat 3 judges each. A row of 3 people lined up in front of each table to sing. As people came down to the fi eld, a rather large, surly sort of man spoke to each one and pointed to a table. Before long, a pattern emerged. Pretty girls with exotic features were pointed towards the fi rst few tables, guys were pointed to the higher numbers. A lot of girls of different ethnicities were getting through. Fewer blonds and girl-next-door types made it. Even fewer guys were led on. I grew more nervous as I watched. At 1 p.m. I reached the Astroturf. I was pointed to table 2. The two girls on either side of me were pretty- and a lot thinner than I was. I tried not to think about that, but rather that I was a good singer. My classmates couldn’t have been wrong, right? The other two girls and I approached the table. One judge was eating. They all looked bored to tears. I heard a rather loud voice rising from the table beside ours. A statuesque, blond all-American girl was belting out “River Deep, Mountain High.” She was good. She got axed. Gulp. The girl to my left sang first. Her voice cracked, and I knew it was the end for her. The girl to my right, named Donice, went next. She sang “House of the Rising Sun” and did a beautiful job. I was sure she’d make it. Then it was my turn. I took a deep breath and began the first few bars of Jody McBrayer’s “Love Can Break Your Fall.” I started in the wrong key. NOOOO! I winced inwardly as I waited for the judges to speak. Maybe they thought the tone in my voice was good enough to make it through the first round. The one who had been eating looked at us collectively and droned, “You all have good voices, but you’re just not what we’re looking for.” Wait, what? After all this, and we’re “just not what you’re looking for?!?” I had no comeback. When they cut my wristband off, they might as well have been cutting my dreams in half. The three of us consoled each other on the way out of the Georgia Dome. Tears, hugs and phone numbers were exchanged. I never called. Neither did they. My world was shattered that day as I realized that my parents were wrong. You can’t be whatever you want. Or maybe they just weren’t telling the whole truth. You can be what you want, as long as you meet the requirements. Apparently for “American Idol” that season, that meant slender and exotic. I was neither. I didn’t sing for a good while after that. What is it they say? “Time heals all wounds.” Well, I can‘t say I fully agree, but I do know now that “American Idol” is not the final word on singing. Life goes on. And while I may not ever become a professional singer, I will never give up on the song in my heart…. or the little girl with the pink microphone and glimmer of hope in her eye.