Star Power: Part Eight
No one at Samson Studios could figure out why Lena was being so confident and lively during the rehearsals that week. She sang the asinine words of ‘Star Power’ a countless number of times and hit every note perfectly, just as she always had before her catastrophic show on Saturday. She even sang the final chorus an octave higher during Thursday’s rehearsal, much to the surprise of all of the other performers there. A Gelert that was supposed to sing on Friday night simply left the rehearsal and never returned, too afraid of being outshone by the charismatic charm in Lena’s voice.
On Friday afternoon, Lena calmly entered her dressing room fifteen minutes late.
“Where have you been, twinkletoes?” the pink makeup artist Kacheek asked bitterly.
“Just practicing my scales,” Lena said absentmindedly. She sat in her chair and inadvertently saw herself in the mirror, barely recognizing the happy face staring back at her.
“Yeah, well, the audience won’t care how your voice sounds if you look like a wreck.”
“But I don’t look like a wreck right now,” Lena said, swiveling around in the chair to look the Kacheek in the eye.
The makeup artist laughed in her face. “Oh, yes you do. Look at how uneven your complexion is. Well, it at least looks like you bathed this time.”
“Hey, at least the high point of my day isn’t when I get to insult my customers,” Lena said with a mocking laugh. This shut the Kacheek up for a while, and when she was finally finished with her job, Lena left the dressing room without even thanking her, for she felt awfully uncomfortable in her custom dress from the Lost Desert and the makeup seemed to add ten pounds to her face.
Before she could make a third step into the hallway, she bumped into a familiar figure, who clumsily tripped and fell over himself.
The shadow Lenny stood up and brushed himself off. “Hey,” he said a bit awkwardly, “I– I wanted to come back here to wish you luck tonight.”
“Thank you,” Lena said, equally as awkward. “You know, uh, I don’t know if Bethany told you or not, but–”
“Working for Samson Studios isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, I know.” Rodney smiled briefly. “So I don’t really get why you’re still here.”
“Let’s just say I’ve got some unfinished business,” Lena said, her eyes now gleaming. “I’m really glad you came though, because tonight, I’m going to make everything back up to you.”
Rodney had no idea what to say to this, so he simply nodded.
“Where are your sunglasses? I thought you couldn’t go anywhere without them,” Lena said after a short pause.
“Oh, uh, they broke.” He could have perhaps been lying.
Lena ran her paw along the pearls around her neck, then suddenly ripped them off and threw them to the floor. “Oh, look,” she said, a bizarre smile spreading across her face. “My pearls broke too!”
Rodney stared at her, completely bewildered, for a moment. “Don’t you need those for the show tonight?”
“No one needs pearls, Rodney,” she said, still grinning up at the Lenny, and before either of them could figure out what was going on, they were in a tight hug. Rodney pulled away first, then gave her the sort of look that says ‘I miss you, but please never put cucumbers in your ears, ever again.’ Lena seemed to understand the message perfectly, and a few seconds later they could both hear that the show had started, so Rodney hurried back to his seat.
As Lena rounded a corner to get backstage, she unzipped her dress from the Lost Desert and threw it in a trash can. Carefully stepping out of her high heeled shoes, she let them sit in the middle of the hallway for someone else to find, and she disposed of the silly bow on her head. She then proceeded to a nearby drinking fountain and let the stream of water douse her face, causing all of her makeup to drip off. After wiping the rest of her face off with her paws, she looked much like any ordinary Yurble, and more beautiful than ever.
She sat down against the wall backstage and peacefully awaited her turn to perform. When she saw the same violinist Usul leave the stage, crying slightly less this time, Lena knew that it was time to go on. During the blackout, she stepped on stage and tapped the microphone with her paw.
The lights went up, but before Lena’s musicians could play their first note, she began speaking into the microphone. “Hey everyone, I’m Lena,” she said, waving to the audience. Wealthy, bored looking pets stared back at her, as if waiting for her to do a trick. Bethany and Rodney were sitting close to the front of the stage, both of them shocked at Lena’s very average appearance. In a balcony towards the ceiling of the auditorium, she thought she could make out the silhouette of Samson sitting in between King Skarl and Captain Threelegs.
“Where’s the custom made dress?” Samson mumbled frantically to himself in his seat. He turned to Skarl, almost apologetically, and said, “She’s supposed to be wearing an expensive dress,” but the king ignored him and looked up to listen to Lena.
“I’m about to sing a song called Star Power, and this time, I really want you all to listen to me. I want each and every one of you to look inside yourself and figure out what exactly makes you who you are, ‘cause if you look close enough, you’ll know that it isn’t your jewelry or your custom dress from Kreludor. As a friend of mine once said, it’s not the icing on the cake that counts, it’s what’s underneath that tastes the best.” Lena’s amplified voice seemed to captivate almost every pet in the audience, who all had twisted looks upon their faces as if trying to literally look inside themselves. “Hit it!” she cried happily, and instantly the music started to play, reverberating across the auditorium.
Lena let her first note out smoothly, instantly capturing the attention of some of the more attentive audience members, and then sang the first verse of ‘Star Power’ with a devilish smile, staring right up at Samson’s balcony:
“I used to think that I would be an ugly mess
If I didn’t wear pearls and a sparkly new dress
But then a good friend taught me not to be snooty
And so I realized my own inner beauty!”
“Those aren’t the lyrics,” Samson whispered to himself, looking as if his entire world had just imploded. Skarl and Threelegs didn’t even pay attention to him, as both of them were beginning to hum to Lena’s song.
“I don’t need a diamond weighing down my finger
To show the world that I’m an amazing singer
I don’t have to be glamorous, pretty or thin
My star power comes from within!”
Lena sang boldly, making wild gesticulations whenever she could. Rodney and Bethany were laughing in excitement, wondering how Lena could have possibly mustered up the confidence to perform this in front of some of the wealthiest pets in Neopia.
“She’s not so pathetic now, is she?” Bethany said, watching the Yurble in amazement.
“Not at all,” Rodney whispered. “This is the Lena that we know and love.”
All around the auditorium, pets were standing up and clapping along with Lena’s singing. “What’s going on?” Samson asked, watching the phenomenon slowly but surely occur.
“I think all yer little rich friends are likin’ this tune,” Threelegs said. “It’s a nice message, ya know?”
“These people aren’t supposed to care about messages in songs. They usually don’t even listen to the performers!” Samson said.
Skarl gazed intently across the auditorium. “Ah, but she seems to have quite an effect on everyone. So much power in her voice...”
“So go ahead, everyone, just listen to me
What you hear is more important than what you see
A performer with no makeup may seem alarming
But if you get to know me I can be so charming
Everyone here tonight, get up out of your seat
Wipe your makeup off and we’ll go dance in the street
It’s time to cast your pearls and your high heels aside
Your star power’s on the inside!”
A peculiar, unstoppable sensation had swept the audience members, causing them all to stand up and dance with each other. Even an obese Tuskaninny that could barely move rose from his seat and swayed to the music as a group of normally very haughty Aishas all stepped out of their high heeled shoes and grooved to the beat. King Skarl let out a booming, giddy cheer and hurled his golden crown off of the balcony, letting it land with a dull clang.
“What are you doing? Sit back down!” Samson said, frenetically trying to calm Skarl and Threelegs.
“Even if I could sit back down, I wouldn’t want to. In fact, I have this uncontrollable urge to dance,” Skarl said as a tingly feeling ran through his veins.
Bethany, astonished and elated, continued to gaze at all of the wealthy pets around her throwing their reservations to the wind, taking off their diamond rings and golden necklaces and dancing in the aisles of the auditorium. For a moment, she swore that she saw Lena glowing on stage. “How is this even happening?” she asked.
“Lena’s using her star power,” Rodney answered, watching as the Yurble’s song coerced everyone to caper about like children.
“You’ve been a great audience, I must admit
And by the way, Samson, I quit!”
Lena sang this final verse with such vigor that Samson nearly dropped dead in his seat; it felt as if all his loyal subjects had revolted and overthrown him in one fell swoop. He now understood why Lena had been so nonchalant in the office the other day; she hadn’t even been planning to perform after tonight! His infuriated bickering, however, was drowned out by the uproar of the audience and the acclamations from Skarl and Threelegs. Since no one paid any more attention to him, he slugged out of his seat and left the Eyrie’s Wing without saying a word to anyone.
Nearly all of the pets in the auditorium had thrown off their cumbersome jewelry and were now applauding Lena, louder than they would at any old M*Y*N*C*I concert, doing all that they could to add to the celebration.
“I did it,” Lena whispered to herself, panting. “I’m free.”
Without even taking a bow, she hopped off the stage and ran over to Rodney and Bethany, tackling both of them in an immense hug.
“You were right, Lena, that was worth every neopoint,” Bethany said.
“Did you write that all by yourself?” Rodney asked, still gasping for air from the hug.
“I just rewrote a few of the lyrics, nothing special.”
Out of nowhere, a blue Aisha, possibly one of the ones Lena had met before (it still wasn’t very clear), joined the hug and held all three of them tightly as if they were her long lost siblings.
“Have we met?” Lena asked.
“No, but I think you may have met some of my friends – they’re all blue Aishas too!” the Aisha squealed as seven other blue Aishas joined her. “We’re all like sisters; isn’t that so adorable you just wanna drown?”
“Anyway, we just all wanted to say that we love your voice, and we think that maybe you should become like a singer or something,” the blue Aisha said, twirling one of her ears.
“Yeah, that’s kind of the plan,” Rodney said with a stifled laugh.
“Who are you?” another one of the blue Aishas asked Rodney.
“He’s my agent,” Lena declared proudly, patting the Lenny on the back, “and he always will be.”
“Glad that’s settled,” Bethany said, relieved that she wouldn’t have to deal with another foolish dispute between Rodney and Lena for a while. “Well, should we head on over to the lobby for the reception party?”
“Yeah, we should,” Lena replied, “and if Samson bothers to show up, I’ll tear up my contract with Samson Studios right in his face!”
“That’s my girl,” Rodney said with a laugh.
And together, the three friends made their way through the crowd of pets rushing to congratulate Lena. There was a certain brightness to the Eyrie’s Wing that night; it looked as though the sun had finally risen on a place usually so dark and chilly, and that all of the difficulties Lena usually faced had melted away into a broken mirror somewhere, never to be dealt with again.