I gingerly placed my left foot in front of my right, ‘this is my chance.’ My eyes surrendered to the beams of light that focused on my face. Between the instructions of the production team, the sound of hustled sniggers from the distant audience felt like poison entering my ear drums. Down but far from beaten, I jitterly proceeded to the large cross that occupied the middle of the stage.
Sitting back with my arms folded, the lady with the leopard print dress and metallic boots nervously proceeded across the stage before my eyes. “Here we go again,” I whispered to my fellow judge – keeping in mind that the cameras surrounding me broadcasted my actions to the nation – I decided to keep my comments to myself from there on. “Hello, what is your name and where do you see yourself in five years?” The outcome was of something that I had LEAST expected: “H-H-Hello. My name is Sue Parkin and in 5 years I would like to be the next M-Mariah Carey.” Dumbfound, my mouth dropped and a slightly unfair smirk possessed my face - similar to the other thousand people in the arena.
And there I was, my face still a little flushed red after my Mariah Carey confession. Stood with my legs unsteady, in front of my audience for the next ninety seconds – “This is what I want to do in life, I am 48, going grey and not getting any younger!” I blurted. The laughter that was once directed at me seemed to transform into laughter with me. At that point, I managed to take a deep breath and tuck my hair behind my ears. ‘This was my chance after all’.
To be honest, I held little hope for Sue (now christened ‘metallic boot lady’ by the girls on row 5). She had compiled the courage to sing a Whitney Houston classic at her first audition, and for that she had my admiration. But whether she could replicate Whitney’s pitch-perfect high notes was another story. Nonetheless, we had to give her the chance like everybody else. She nodded uneasily towards the side of the stage and the backing track to ‘I Will Always Love You’ began to ring through my ears. Her body trembled as she lifted up her microphone and held it closely to her mouth. I was struck with envy of her talent from her first verse – utterly encapsulating every judgemental soul in the arena (including myself) with her faultless tone; honestly, something of a revelation. My eyes were fixed on her. Everybody’s eyes were fixed on her.
‘Oh wow!’ I welled up at the sight of every person in the room on their feet – applauding me! Those that once laughed at me when I first stepped onto the stage, would be in awe of me when I departed it. They didn’t care about my dress sense, my ageing face or my ridiculously curly bob – they liked me for me, and that really meant something special. “Well, I wasn’t expecting that kind of response!” I said.
What a talent that stood before me, in fact more than a talent - a star. After the deafening noise that lifted the arena’s roof in response to that flawless performance, I sat back in my chair, folded my arms and said to my fellow judge, “We have discovered a real artist here.”