This was it. Today was the day. I was gonna GET FAMOUS!!!! (Imagine me singing that last line in an operatic voice and clicking my heels together at the end.)
After years of poking and prodding from friends and family, I had finally made the decision to audition for the X-Factor. (Not to be confused with Fear Factor, the show where people eat 100 year old cheese and bathe in tubs of tarantulas) No, this was the show where people risked almost certain public humiliation by singing in front of a panel of judges headed by Simon Cowell. Like most shows of this sort, the winner receives an obscene sum of money and a record deal. Unlike most shows of this sort, the winner is granted the opportunity to perform in the official “Pepsi” commercial for the Super Bowl. (Remember this, it will be important later.)
So I located the closest audition site, recruited my mom as the driver, practiced my best singing face in the front of the mirror, and belted out vocal exercises for two solid hours on the way there. (My poor mother)
I remember the shaky, sweet feeling of excitement as we exited the car and began wandering around the maze-like campus where the auditions were being held. I smiled broadly and most likely stupidly at anyone we passed in case they were someone important. (Couldn’t hurt) When we finally located the mobile studio, a giant RV plastered with Pepsi logos and X-factor insignias, I rolled back my shoulders, took a deep breath, and tried to look confident.
A nice looking young girl was hanging out near the front of the van, and I continued with my dumb smiling and waving routine.
She smiled and waved back, seemingly relieved to find someone to talk to. “Where are you from?” she asked. After exchanging the basic introductory banter she surprised me by instructing, “Now Rick’s gonna wanna know you’re here, so go introduce yourself and he’ll tell you what to do.”
Rick, who was Rick? I tried not to let my smile falter under the weight of my confusion.
“Ok…where can I find him?” I fumbled.
“The director Rick, he’s back with the crew. Just ask around until you find him,” she seemed so sweet and so sincere, I thanked her and walked away, pretending like I knew exactly what was going on.
Maybe they want everybody who is auditioning to check in with this Rick dude? ..I thought. That seems a little time consuming
My confusion only increased as I rounded the front of the studio and noted a handful of people, obviously here to audition, scattered about the park area. A giant of a man, dressed in an all-white tuxedo and matching fedora, was leaning over a picnic table and singing to himself.
I felt increasingly certain that the girl had made a mistake but after some encouragement from my mother, I cautiously approached the activity near the front of the van. A cluster of men, dressed in black, bustled hurriedly about with clipboards and AV equipment.
I cleared my throat and tried to act like I belonged, “I’m looking for Rick?”
A tall man sporting an important looking headset, turned and came towards me. “I’m supposed to tell you that I’m here,” I offered weakly.
He reached out to shake my hand warmly, “I’m Rich.”
My cheeks flushed with embarrassment. Great, I called him the wrong name.
Luckily, he didn’t seem to notice and continued with growing enthusiasm, “I’m so glad you’re here! I’ll show you your outfit!”
My outfit? …What was going on here!?!
Not wanting to look uncooperative, I nodded numbly and followed him around the back of the van to a collection of blue, plastic, tubs.
“Now, all you need to do is look through and find one of each that’s in your size,” he instructed, pointing out the contents of the various containers. “We used to have more accessories, but they’ve gotten lost along the way. Just make sure you get a shirt, pants, and shoes.”
“Great!” I gave him my best enthusiastic grin and nodded like I understood precisely what he was saying.
“Oh, and you can either change in the van or in the restrooms inside. It’s a little cramped in the van though,” he explained.
“I’ll change inside,” I answered quickly, terrified at the prospect of trying to change near all the “techie” people.
I waited until he had walked away before rifling through the tubs for myself. The first contained blue t-shirts emblazoned with the Pepsi symbol, the next contained white skinny jeans, another contained shoes, and a final one contained various accessories like belts, and sunglasses.
WHAT WAS GOING ON HERE!? My mind reeled with the possibilities.
Maybe they must make everybody who auditions wear a Pepsi outfit as some kind of an agreement with the company for sponsoring their show!?..I mused.
If so, why didn’t they say that on the website!?…I worked so hard picking out the outfit I had on!
I held up my skinny jeans and peered around the front of the van to look at giant, tuxedo man. Yeah, there was no way he was fitting in these. …Maybe they’re only for the women?
I shrugged off my doubts and selected one of each item in my size. Daggonit, if they want me to wear this Pepsi outfit, I will wear it! I will wear it like no one has ever worn it before!
I walked determinedly into the building and found the nice girl in the bathroom. She already had on her Pepsi outfit and was preening herself in front of the mirror. “Don’t worry,” she said as I walked in, “They said it’s gonna be super chill. All we have to do is pass out the Pepsi.”
Wait…WHAT? Pass out the Pepsi?! What is she TALKING about?
I was more beffudled than ever.
I tried to test the waters gingerly, so as not to look like a complete idiot, “So, did they say anything about the singing part?”
“Singing?” she wrinkled her brow in confusion, “They didn’t say anything about singing. Didn’t you read the email?”
Email!? What email?!
“Um, no….I don’t think so,” I was beginning to panic now. Maybe I had missed some crucial information about how this audition worked. “What did it say?”
“Strange,” she mused, “Everybody gets an email.”
Great!!! Now everyone but me was going to have a foot up because they got this amazing, mysterious, insider email. Hmmmmmm……I tried to piece together the bits of information in my mind. I vaguely remembered the website mentioning something about a tasting contest for a new kind of Pepsi….Maybe part of the audition was to try and make a sales jingle for Pepsi products?
No, that didn’t make any sense.
When the girl left to go back outside, I began chuckling softly, half in despair, and half in amusement. Maybe I had misinterpreted the entire purpose of this event. This was just some sort of Pepsi tasting convention.
I put on the outfit anyway and sighed, “Well, if this Rich guy needs helps passing out Pepsi, I’ll give him a hand.” I just felt foolish for driving all this way for nothing.
I decided to be honest and marched back outside, fitted in my little Pepsi outfit, to find Rich.
“Excuse me,” I said, “I am completely willing to help pass out Pepsi if you need help…but I am just a little bit confused. I thought this was a singing audition.”
He didn’t say anything for a solid second, studying me closely. “You mean,” he paused, “You’re not from the modeling agency?”
My mind exploded with realization.
“No!” I blurted.
Rich immediately burst into a fit of howling laughter. He doubled over, slapping his knees, tears pooling in his eyes. “Come here everybody!” he cried out, wheezing, struggling to breathe,“Come look at this girl!” He pointed at me as the other members of the crew began to materialize.
“I told her to put on a Pepsi outfit and she did! But she’s not from the modeling agency!” Others joined in the laughter and I began giggling as well, overwhelmed by the ridiculousness of the situation.
“This is the funniest thing that has ever happened on this show!!” Rich said, wiping away tears, “This is going on the outtakes!”
I wasn’t quite sure whether to be flattered, humiliated, or amused. I quickly decided that this was one of the coolest things that had ever happened to me and thanked God for such an awesome morning. Little did I know that the coolest part of my day had yet to happen.
After the laughter died down, I politely declined their offer to become a model (I think they were blind) and went to change back into my original outfit. The “real” models had begun to arrive by now and I instructed them on what they needed to do. (It’s kind of neat to be a model instructor if I do say so myself)
I found my mom and we shared a good chuckle as we sat and waited for the auditions to officially begin. Before long, however, one of the directors approached us and asked if he could have a seat. We said sure and he plopped on top of the picnic table beside us, legs crossed, almost like a little boy.
He introduced himself and expressed his appreciation for my air-headed antics that morning, and we all laughed again.
Then the craziest thing happened…he started talking. Like really talking.
Not about sports, or politics, or show biz…he started pouring out his soul. I won’t go into detail, but he began telling us about his fears for his failing marriage, his quest for spiritual truth, intimate details about his background, and his ongoing struggle with depression. Every one in a while, he would stop and shake his head, confessing, “I have no idea why I’m telling you all this!” It was as if God had cracked open a pent-up dam of emotion somewhere deep within him, and he couldn’t help but spill it with us, a couple of complete strangers.
We did our best to listen as he talked for 3 solid hours while we waited. We were able to share the Gospel with him, and God’s ability to redeem any marriage. He was completely attentive and receptive as we explained God’s life-giving hope and the stability and forgiveness he could find in Christ. Though to our knowledge he did not accept Christ on the spot, he truly appreciated our input and thanked us over and over again, promising to think about everything we had discussed. When I finally got up for my turn in the audition booth, he ordered a James Dobson book that my mom had recommended off of Amazon. It was truly an incredible experience.
God had used my silly mistake to bring His light, and hopefully healing, to a wounded soul.
All because I was dumb enough to put on a Pepsi outfit…
You may be wondering what happened during my actual audition. This again, is another demonstration of my air-headed nature. The traveling studio did not host a live judge panel. Instead, there was a small room where you recorded yourself for judges to evaluate later. Heart pounding, I stepped into the tiny cubicle and tapped the screen to begin. A recording of Simon Cowell appeared, telling me that I had one minute to impress him. If I was done before the allotted time, I simply had to push the big red button, signaling the end of the recording.
I got this, I breathed. Introduce myself, sing, push the big, red button.
The introduction and singing part actually went pretty well as far as I could tell. The problem came when I was done and had to push the red button.
I couldn’t find it. Anywhere.
I began searching frantically around the room, trying not to look too distraught in front of the camera’s ever watching eye.
Button, button…HOW HARD CAN IT BE TO FIND A GIANT RED BUTTON!?
I ran my hands along the wall, desperate, trying to keep as much eye contact with the camera as possible.
WHERE ARE YOU BUTTON!?
Finally I focused on the crimson circle that was hanging a mere foot from my face and slammed it with my palm, breathing heavy.
I just stood there for a moment afterwards, stunned and humiliated that I had been outwitted by the easiest part of the entire audition. There was no way a judge would select a candidate who had bumbled around the recording booth, looking completely lost.
I slowly exited, taking one step at a time, and confirmed my email address with the attendant. They assured me that my file had been uploaded…much to my chagrin.
As I trudged back to tell my mother the news, I was hit with a realization. Even though my original intentions for the day could not have been met with a more absolute failure, the day as a whole could not have been more of a smashing success!
I had set out with the intention of making something of myself…but God had to step in and remind me what real success looks like.
Real success looks like making much of Jesus. Always.
God is not concerned with how many people know our name. He is concerned with how many people know HIS name because of us. God’s value system is not based on Facebook likes, twitter followers, or celebrity status.
PEOPLE themselves are His prize. Not just admirers, or members of His fan club, but people who have chosen to exchange the very fabric of their being for His life-giving power.
God measures success in souls added to His kingdom, not in numbers added to His Facebook group. God is after people who are after His own heart.
In our work, and in our ministries, we must be careful not to confuse popularity with true prosperity, and attention with true achievement. It’s possible that the two can coincide, but we can never settle for simply having the approval of a large audience.
Fame in itself does not do God any good.
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10, ESV
I may not have become a rock star that day, but I got to share Jesus with someone that God gave His life for. Maybe my “X-Factor Disaster” wasn’t so disastrous after all…
Even one ransomed soul is worth more than all the likes and retweets in the world.
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 ESV
P.S. When someone tells you the location of a red button, PAY ATTENTION. It could either save your life or rescue you from public humiliation. Thank you!
*As always, PLEASE feel free to comment on and share this story if it was encouraging to you!*