Some Kind of Superstar: Part Nine
Somehow I make my way back to my trailer, numbly navigating on autopilot. I can’t believe the realization that I’ve come to, that somehow I have to act unlike myself. I can’t be a superstar and me at the same time.
That interview was a disaster. It’s never going to be broadcast and if it was, it would completely cripple my career. Sean’s right; I’m just behaving like a stupid spoilt girl. I need to knuckle down and start acting like the superstar I’m meant to be. If I want to be a star, I have to act like one. He’s right; no stars are fat, no stars are ‘ordinary’, no stars are unfashionable. But something in me still doesn’t want to. There’s a part – a large part – that demands I tell Sean that I’ve had enough, that I’m out of here.
I decide I need a walk. I’m still under Sean’s rule that I can’t go outside without his approval. I dress up in new jeans and jacket and add the smallest amount of makeup I can get away with, but even that amount feels ridiculous. I pull on the stylish boots and make my way to Sean’s trailer.
“I’m glad you see it my way,” he says. Just that sentence makes me want to shove my hand down his throat and rip all his organs out of him. Very slowly. Smug git. “Alright, you can go outside, just make sure you act like a superstar.” He narrows his eyes at me like he’s watching me through a bush or something.
“I’m an actor,” I say, as coldly as I can. “I’m good at pretending to be people I’m not.” I don’t wait to hear whatever he says. Instead I fling the door open and head across the cavern to the outside, as quickly as I can.
Straight into a nest of reporters. I barely have time to take a breath of the surface air before flashes are going off and microphones are shoved at my face. There’s got to be at least a dozen of them.
“Kristen, can you tell us anything about your latest episode?”
“Do you think the studios will give you another job?”
“Kristen, will you be staying on Caulfield Lane for a long time?”
“Love the jeans, Kristen, where’d you get them?”
Suddenly I feel immensely claustrophobic, and I’m usually okay, even in the tight rock maze between the studios and the Arts Centre. But having so many lights and voices and bodies pressing against me, and it’s driving me crazy. I used to lap up every bit of attention reporters paid me, but not today. Today it’s not an exotic delight; it’s just something else that I can’t stand about being a superstar.
“Please, just leave me alone!” I cry out. “I’m just trying to have a nice, quiet afternoon. Alone.” Waste of effort.
“Yes, of course, but could you just answer one question first?”
“Kristen, over here, what did you think of your performance in last night’s episode?”
“Six episodes and you’re already immensely popular. Do you think it will last?”
“Just get away from me!” I scream, breaking my cool. The reporters don’t stop their yelling or their questions. I start shoving through them, but it’s like fighting against concrete. I edge past one, then two. But they’re like an army, working together to keep me from getting away. The ones I get past run around behind the others, forming another layer of resistance. I turn around and try to go back, but again they outmanoeuvre me, shifting to block my passage with cameras and screaming voices. I close my eyes and wish that everything would just go away, that the ground would open and swallow me and I could keep falling forever into infinite nothingness, because it would be easier than getting away from the reporters.
“Kristen, tell us about your family!”
“Where are you going?”
“What do you think about the part opening up on Whiteforest? Will you go for that?”
“Get out of my way!” I bellow shrilly, as loud and as authoritatively as I can. I shove, kick, punch and squeeze past the reporters, and then it hits me. I’m so stupid. I open my wings and kick off, higher and faster than I’ve ever gone. I can feel the skin on my face rippling, my eyes streaming. But I’m free. I’ve gotten away. They don’t think about flying after me.
But I’m terrified by what will be in the magazines about me. They’ll report every word I said, every single thing I did. I can imagine the magazines tomorrow: "New Actress Can’t Take It! Is She Not Up To It?" Then it hits me and I almost fall out of the sky in shock. I’m just like that. When people crowd me, I do whatever it takes to get out. Now I’m worried about what people will think of my behaviour! I can’t behave naturally either anymore.
Back in the cavern, I stride straight up to Sean.
“Listen, you’re probably not going to be very happy about this, but I want you to get me a legal order that says I can sue any reporter who tries to shove themselves in my face,” I demand. And I’m just warming up to this. I’ve got much more that I want.
“Not going to happen,” Sean warns. “No reporters, no publicity. No publicity, no jobs. And by the way, we want you to get a tail operation.”
“You...” Shock prevents me from understanding what he said until I run it over in my head again. Tail operation? “Why?” My jaw’s dropped so low it’s on the ground. “What the... what for? Why should I do that?”
“Long tails are very fashionable and popular,” Sean explains as though it’s a perfectly rational request. “All the big-name superstars have them. And the studio loves you, Kristen; they reckon you’re going straight to the top. And the long tail will help enormously, and there are so many other people wanting to be big. You need all the help you can get. It’s a simple operation, you’re gassed out and they just elongate your tail. All perfectly legal, and it’s a stunning effect.” He grins at me broadly. He’s actually happy about this. But I don’t want to in a trillion years. I’ll change what I wear; where I go; what I eat; but I won’t have surgery to be a bit more popular. That’s a line that will never be crossed. That’s way too much to sacrifice. And it’s not only my personal feelings; I’ve seen in magazines, ‘Operations Gone Wrong’ kind of things, and I won’t take the chance of looking like that. Sean says I’m a great actress; so does Stanley, the director, and everybody who works with me on Caulfield Lane. But being skilled isn’t good enough. If you don’t look right, you’re out. I overheard a few pets talking about an audition they were judging. Everyone agreed that someone called Sasha was the best actress they’d ever seen; the part could have been written just for her. But she wasn’t as pretty as the other girls. Sasha was just ordinary-looking. And the character wasn’t meant to be particularly beautiful. I won’t be part of a system that approves of this kind of thing. A place that values beauty over talent, beauty over everything else. It’s not worth it. Being a superstar is taking everything away from me. I’ve lost so much, and for what? Fame? That’s just reporters screaming at you, fans demanding autographs and photos, your bosses ordering you to get surgery. I want my life back.
I am getting out.
“You can’t just quit!” shouts Stanley furiously, spraying spittle. I try not to flinch from the volume of his voice. I stare at the director, just as furious as he is.
“Yes, I can, and there’s nothing you can do to make me stay,” I declare. “Your ‘publicity agent’ is controlling every single aspect of my life. I can’t even breathe without his permission! He wants me to get a massive operation just so my tail is longer!”
“We have to think of the show first,” Stanley says as though this is perfectly reasonable. “We can’t have it looking like Caulfield Lane has nobodies on it. We need the best and biggest stars, and the best and biggest have to act like it. Just as you have to.” We glare at each other over his desk; him, standing up in his immaculate suit; me, also standing, surrounded by my packed bags.
“I do not have to act like this. I will not act like this.” I pick up my bags and walk through the door.
And I don’t look back.
“Kristen, meet Nancy,” says Stanley, five days after I quit. We’re in Seth’s trailer. Seth and Nancy’s trailer, now. “She’s going to be taking over from you, since you can’t handle a little pressure.” He sneers at me patronizingly and I have to restrain myself from punching his lights out. “Get her ready to step into the character. Tell her everything she needs.” He walks away without even looking at me. I’ve really had enough of him. I’m glad I got out now, because even if being a star was everything I thought it would be, I wouldn’t want to be if it meant working for a guy like him; a dirty, manipulating scumbag.
“Okay,” I say to Nancy bitterly. “Here’s what you need to know; nobody here cares about you. He doesn’t, the other actors don’t, the company doesn’t. They’re going to use you as advertising for the show. I know, because they did it to me. I couldn’t eat in public, in case people thought there were fat pets on the show. I couldn’t go out without makeup, in case people thought there were plain pets on the show. They’ll try and control you this way. You can’t let them.” I pick up my bags and walk out. Just like that.
“What is wrong with you?” Nancy demands, leaning out of the trailer after me. “This is show business! It’s everything I’ve ever wanted! How come you gave it up? How come you can’t be a superstar?”
I keep walking. I don’t look back at what was my home for several weeks. I don’t look back at my nightmarish dream. I walk through the trailers and only want to live as far away from them as possible. I don’t look over at the set where Adrienne and James are filming right now. I walk away from it all, because it’s the only thing I can do. Nancy’s words are the only thing that stays with me.
What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I be a superstar?
I’m too ordinary.
Which is fine. In fact, it’s everything I want.
Thanks for reading! I hope it gave you something to look forward to every week it was published.