Some Kind of Superstar: Part Eight
Mere weeks later, everybody seems to know me as I walk down the street with Seth. She’s used to this; signing autographs, having her picture taken, waving at ecstatic fans, but I’m not. It’s all very new for me. People seem to spring out of nowhere and shout, ‘You’re Kristen! You’re on Caulfield Lane! Can I please, please, get a picture with you? I so love your character! You’re awesome!’ It’s a bit overwhelming at first, but slowly I get used to it. And I start liking it. I enjoy signing the autographs, dropping sneaky hints about how good the next episodes are going to be, having my picture taken with other pets. It really makes me feel like the superstar I’ve always wanted to be.
Seth and I have lunch with Caulfield Lane’s ‘publicity agent’, an Orange Krawk, Sean. He’s the guy who takes care of official photo shoots, magazine interviews, the lot. Sitting in Pizzaroo, we scan down our menus, trying to decide what to order. I’ll willingly take any pizza. The food in the studios is okay, but pizzas aren’t in the offering. I finally make up my mind and ask for a large pepperoni pizza, extra everything.
“That’s not such a good idea,” says Sean sternly. “There’s a reporter over there – don’t look – and he’s bound to be watching us. Do you want every magazine up here to be saying how much you eat? How fat you must be getting? That’s not good for your image.” I splutter indignantly, but Sean calls the waiter over anyway. “One round of garlic bread, two salads and one small ham-and-cheese, please.”
“What? What did you order for me?” I demand angrily after the waiter is out of earshot.
“You heard. Two salads. One yours, one Seth’s.”
“I’m really hungry! I am not just eating a salad!” I look around for another waiter.
“There’s garlic bread too,” Sean says in a smooth, oily voice. He sounds like he’s trying to calm down an angry baby, like he’s bribing me. It makes me even angrier than I was before. I wave another waiter over, but before I can order what I want, Sean breaks in.
“Sorry, we forgot drinks,” he says with a false smile. “Just a large pitcher of water, please.” I slam my hand onto the table and I’m about to start yelling at Sean, but he ignores me and starts reading the back of his menu.
And when the garlic bread finally arrives, he stops me from eating more than one slice.
“Don’t you have any idea how fattening this stuff is?” he snaps, glaring at me like I’m some kind of idiot and snatching away the plate.
“I’m hungry,” I protest.
“Listen, kid, do any of the shows on Neovision have really fat pets on them? No. I’ve personally got nothing against fatness, and I’d willingly cast a fat actor, but that’s not what people want to see in actors. Fact of life: all the big-name actors are like sticks. If you want to stay as thin as you are now, or get thinner, you won’t do that by stuffing your face every chance you get! People won’t want to watch our show if they think it’s got fat people on it!”
“What’s wrong with you?” I say after a while of thinking over what he’s said. “If I want to eat, I’ll eat!” I reach for the bread again and this time Sean doesn’t stop me, but he throws another volley of words.
“And if you want to be a superstar, you won’t.”
I hesitate. I consider. My hand hangs in the air over the plate.
And then I put the bread back.
Back in my trailer I fume angrily over what happened at lunch. How come I let him manipulate me like that? Why did I allow him to make me stop eating? I can’t believe it’s somehow wrong to eat when you’re an actor. But in one thing, Sean’s right. All the really famous superstars are stick-thin. They’re practically two-dimensional. They don’t even cast a shadow; the sun just goes straight past them. I think I need to go back outside. The air in the cavern is always stale and I could really use a breather. I pull on a baseball cap and head out of the trailer.
“Hey, where do you think you’re going?” demands Sean at the entrance to the maze leading outside.
“I’m going to take a walk. Outside. Alone,” I say witheringly.
“Dressed like that?” Sean looks like he’s about to explode. “You absolutely cannot go outside wearing that! It’s the height of unfashionable at the moment!”
“What do I care what’s fashionable?” I snap right back. “It’s comfortable. It’s good for walking in.” I’m wearing a pair of jeans, battered trainers and a plain grey T-shirt. What I wear all the time. I don’t see what’s so unfashionable about it. It doesn’t make me look ridiculously flashy, like some of the other stars. Honestly, you look at the things they wear and you wonder why they don’t keel over from the weight.
“It doesn’t say ‘I am a star’,” Sean snaps, gesturing at my clothing. “It says ‘I am an ordinary person’. Let’s get back in here and I’ll find you something to wear.” He pushes me back inside the trailer.
“Listen, matey,” I snap. “I don’t care what you want me to wear, or who you want me to be. If I’m not good enough for you, find someone else. I won’t go outside looking like some freak.”
“You’ll look like a freak if you’re not dressed up,” says Sean, shaking his head. “But I can’t force you.”
“Too right,” I snarl, but he’s not finished.
“You’re to talk to me before you go outside, any time you do. I’ll check you over and make sure you’re presenting the right image. If you’re not, no outside. And we’ve scheduled a news crew to come down tomorrow and interview you.”
“You did what?” I squeal. Suddenly hating myself for sounding like that, like an over-excited three-year-old, I swallow and try again. “Without asking me first? I don’t think I really want an interview.”
“Bad luck,” he says with a smug smirk. “I’m in charge of your publicity, and when I say you have an interview, you do it. Here are the questions they’re going to ask you, and your responses,” he says, handing over a few sheets of paper. “Try and stick as close to them as you can.”
“But...” I stammer, leafing through the pages. “None of this is true! I don’t have any of this stuff! My owner isn’t rich! I don’t even like this clothing label!” I throw the pages down onto the table. “Why can’t I answer truthfully?” I demand.
“Okay, then,” Sean says craftily, picking up the paper and reading one of the questions, assuming a ridiculous Neovision interviewer’s voice. “So, what do you think about fashion? What makes you choose a piece of clothing?”
“Comfort,” I reply instantly, with no thought involved. “Fashion goes straight out the window if it’s not comfortable. If tight tops are fashionable, then fashion isn’t consulted. I prefer loose things because I don’t feel like I’m wearing a straightjacket. And if loose tops aren’t fashionable, then it’s a loss to the fashion freaks.”
“That’s nothing like a superstar,” Sean spits venomously, tossing the pages back at me. “Superstars are completely obsessed by fashion. They set fashion. You can’t say you don’t event think about it! See that you answer according to that script. Just pretend that it’s part of Caulfield Lane.”
I sit back in my chair, somewhat stunned. This is insane. It’s just stupid. But I want this interview, and I guess that I can just answer what I want to. They can’t force me to say these things.
I pick nervously at the bottom of my shoes as I sit on the couch, waiting for the interviewer to be ready. She’s adding a last (seventh) layer of glitter to her eyelashes. I’ve refused everything except the most basic foundation so I don’t look washed out. I glare over at the Pink Usul. She’s got one of Sean’s scripts in her hand, and I can just tell she’s going to stick to the questions. Well, I’m not sticking to the answers.
“So, Kristen,” she says smarmily, sitting down on the couch opposite mine. “Tell us about yourself.”
“I’m just an ordinary Shoyru, really,” I say, already breaking from the set lines. Behind the camera, Sean drops his mug in shock. “I just happen to be good in front of a camera.”
“Exactly,” says the Usul, trying to get back to the script. “So you can’t just be ordinary. I’m sure you’re a very special person indeed.”
“No, not really,” I deny wholeheartedly. “I go to the bathroom, trip over my shoelaces and laugh weirdly, just like millions of other pets around the world.” I turn away from the Usul and look directly into the camera. “I don’t want you to think of me as some perfect, beautiful, stuck-up actor. I’m really just ordinary, and that’s how I want you to think of me.”
“CUT!” screams a livid voice, and with a shock, I realize it’s Sean. He comes storming over to me and stops just inches from my face. “What do you think you’re playing at?” he bellows. I can feel my hair rush backwards from the force of his voice. “I told you to stick to the script! Don’t you understand, you stupid little girl, this is serious! I’m looking out for you here! Do you really think anybody will hire some nobody who says she’s just an ordinary person? That is a great way to never get a job in the business again!” He thunders away like an orange hurricane. I sit there in shock, stunned, my ears barely functioning. Is he right? Can it be that I’ll only get another job if I lie about myself?
To be continued...