As a long-time viewer of Design Star and an interviewer of their weekly castoffs the past two seasons, don’t think it doesn’t occur to me from time to time to try out for the show myself. In fact, I did apply for Season 3, but since then have been content to watch the proceedings unfold in the comfortable environment of my living room. And then Season 5 finalist Trent Hultgren comes on the scene and puts a wrench in the chain of that plan.
When I interview Trent back in June, his whole raison d’etre is inspiring people to take risks, “get out of the boat,” and live life to the fullest. At the risk of sounding like a total cornball, I am in tears after I get off the phone with him. I realize I’ve been holding myself back from a myriad of opportunities out of fear of embarrassment, fears of public speaking, etc. and I am tired of living my life half-assed. Right then and there, I decide I will do whatever it takes to become the next Design Star.
That is called throwing down the gauntlet, my friends.
Over the following twelve weeks, I commit myself to participate in every networking opportunity, every chance to practice public speaking, every little thing that will help me beat these fears…as if I am on my own episode of MTV’s Made. Normally, I keep something like this to myself in case I fail, so no one will know. But since that attitude is fear-based, I resolve to do the opposite. Sort of. I tell everyone I come in contact with that I am going to try out for Design Star, just in case they have any suggestions for me…but I ask them to keep it quiet. It is uncanny, all of the gears that shift into place to pave my way:
1. The first person I tell (besides Jeb, my BFF Karen, and my parents) is Faye, a client-turned-friend. Would you believe her husband, Jason, has a master’s degree in broadcast journalism, and has helped colleagues become comfortable on camera? Jason gives me tons of tips and agrees to critique my audition video.
2. Trent visits Austin while preparing for some work he’s doing in San Antonio and challenges me to do some sort of public speaking exercise before his next visit to Texas. This gives me a deadline to shoot for and helps me focus on getting it done.
3. A few days later, another client updates her Facebook status to announce a new series she’s offering, called Speak Tank Austin: A Women’s Communication and Leadership Forum. Donna’s mission is to provide women the opportunity to develop and enhance their public speaking and leadership skills in a supportive, relaxed, and fun environment. Perfect, no? So I click over to her Meetup page and lo, and behold, she practically has a photo of me as her Speak Tank avatar:
Is she talking to me or what?? I cannot say enough about how great Donna’s forum is. Unlike Toastmasters, which seems at times to churn out robotic all-business all-the-time public speakers, Donna’s approach is to help women craft a more approachable speaking image…one that engages with the audience on a personal level in order to increase sales and marketing efforts. If you are a woman interested in fine-tuning your own speaking skills and live in the Austin area, I highly recommend joining our Speak Tank group!
3. Amy, another client, sends me an email invite to lunch, out of the blue. Aside from being Facebook friends, Amy and I haven’t seen or spoken with each other over the past few years since I helped her pick out a paint palette for her house. I adore Amy, so I am happy to meet her for lunch, but the point I want to make here is that this is left-field, out-of-the-norm kind of stuff. The instant I sit down at our table at Bess, Amy launches into a diatribe about how talented I am, how I have a gawd-given gift, how important that is to the world, yadda, yadda, yadda. This is no ordinary compliment, y’all. This is not, hey, we haven’t seen each other in a while so here’s a little nicety I can say to get our convo rolling. This is an eight-minute unsolicited monologue about what a great designer I am. She is so sincere and her speech is so heartfelt, it makes me cry right there at the table. It is such a moving experience that writing about it two months later makes me tear up. Do I not have the best damn clients in the whole universe?
4. Epiphany #1: I am tired of hating myself because I’m fat. As a reader with access to a mere head shot of me to go by, you might not be aware of the fact that I am beyond overweight. I have danced the Oprah Shuffle with my scale for the past twenty years and it is damned hard to be a social butterfly when on any given day, this is what you hear inside your head: I hate this gut! Geez, look at my butt. Nothing fits, I’m such a cow. I hate my clothes…all of them. Fat girl clothes suck! Geebus, I have cankles. I have a shelf for an ass. Everyone’s noticing that I’m so crammed into this restaurant booth that my boobs are resting on the damn table. Everyone’s watching and criticizing the fat girl’s food order (or grocery cart). That girl is so tiny and trim, she must not have any problems. Why can’t you stick with this diet? Why are you such a failure when it comes to food? One night I dream that I’m looking in the mirror and tell myself, “Enough. You can’t take this any more, it’s destroying you,” and from then on, I decide I will embrace my big-girl body. I know, cheeseball. But the effect it has on me is so liberating. There is a such a physical sensation that a literal weight has been lifted off of me that my posture is affected. I actually feel myself standing taller.
5. Epiphany #2: When it comes down to it, I am holding myself back because I am afraid of my appearance being judged harshly by whom? Approximately ten people? That is WHACK. If you appear on national television, chances are pretty good that someone might see you, and in the case of a fat girl who didn’t grow up being fat, you think your worst nightmare is for some people from high school or a few bitter Design Star contestants whose work was criticized on this blog, to see you and think, “Dang. She big.” Or worse yet, to have an ex of yours see your big ol’ bod on their teevee and say, “Geebus, she sure blew up! I dodged a bullet with that one, yuk-yuk!” It’s time to let that go0000000.
6. Epiphany #3: This could actually be the year of the fat girl! Maura Kelly spews fat hate on a Marie Claire blog when she criticizes the CBS sitcom Mike & Molly. The show, based on a couple who meet at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting, inspires Kelly to write, “I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room.” I know firsthand how cruel people can be when it comes to their views about overweight and obese people, and in a world where T-shirts and bumper stickers freely proclaim, “NO FAT CHICKS,” I assume her viewpoint is in the majority. Instead, a public outcry is unleashed and suddenly Mike & Molly is the #1 new comedy on TV, which will undoubtedly spur copycat shows on other networks and make it easier for this fat chick to land on HGTV.
7. My apprentice designer, Claire, forwards a Groupon to me for an improv class at ColdTowne Theater. “Damn you!” I respond. “You know I’ve committed to doing anything put in my path that will help me get over my public speaking issues, so now I have to do it!” I think I’m reminding her of my quest, but no, she’s fully aware of what she’s doing. “I know, hee-hee-hee!” she replies. So I sign up.
8. I receive a press release from HGTV announcing several open casting calls in various cities, including one in Dallas. Which means I have to get my rear in gear and accelerate my on-camera practice. In order to break through to on-camera comfort in the shortest amount of time, I know I have to put myself right smack in worst-nightmare territory: doing this in public with as many camera operators as possible. Not only do I have to face the fear of strangers thinking I’m some kind of weirdo, but I also can’t get too comfortable performing in front of any one person. Before I can talk myself out of it, I email a few friends and ask them to meet me in various home stores and videotape me. Lynn meets me at our new Home Goods, Teri arrives at a Target, and Karen and I meet up at Uptown Modern. This exercise is a crash course in on-camera improvement and surprisingly, I AM NOT NERVOUS AT ALL. Wha? You mean this thing I have avoided like the plague is actually NOT GOING TO KILL ME? I feel such a rush!
9. Not only do my DS finalist buddies Matt Locke, Jason Champion, Trent Hultgren and Tera Hampton NOT think I’m crazy, but they cheer me on. Did I just utter a double-negative? No…that’s a quadruple positive!
10. A friend of a friend is a makeup artist, so I ask her for wardrobe stylist recommendations. I will admit I have gotten a little too casual with my look over the past few years, blaming it on various things. Fat clothes suck! I have to walk around construction zones without notice! My ass looks revolting in anything other than jeans! If I’m going to project my design authority, I need to amp up ye olde wardrobe. Enter Lee, an Austin stylist in the TV and film industry, who offers amazing ideas I’ve never thought of before for creating more professional-looking outfits that still reflect my casual personality and my business brand. Best of all, she starts our shopping trip at Burlington Coat Factory, so I know she’s not going to get me caught up in some kind of spending madness. Lee puts me on the right track and like Stacy and Clinton from What Not to Wear, she turns me loose in the world with some direction on colors and styles. I think to myself, how funny…this is exactly what I do for my own clients! (Thanks also to my client Tracy at Lane Bryant, who helped me select a slammin’ outfit I would never have picked out myself to try on.)
11. My friend-of-a-friend, Tracy the makeup artist, gives my cosmetics routine a redo too. She updates my eyes and lips and tells me exactly what products to buy and how to apply them. Some of this crap is expensive, but would you believe my lips stay glossy and perfect ALL DAMN DAY? If you are a redheaded peaches-and-cream kind of gal, go out and buy yourself some MAC Lipglass in Purr. It is worth every penny.
So if you’ve noticed how infrequently I’ve been posting recently, you now know what I’ve been up to. Regardless of what happens with Design Star, I am approaching all of this as need-to-anyway. I will continue to work on busting through fears because it has been DAMN FUN.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post…I’ll dish on yesterday’s audition in Dallas!