I was just reading AmazingPhil's blog post where he mentioned in passing auditioning for Big Brother, and it reminded me! I haven't blogged or posted a video about my experience of auditioning last year! And so, I shall now.
For those unfamiliar with Big Brother, it's a yearly TV event, in which a bunch of strangers are put in a fancy house full of cameras for a few months and broadcast all the time to the nation. I don't know how well it really did in other countries but in the UK it is HUGE.
Well. I usually watch the show, and last year, someone emailed me from the production team and said that they wanted me to come to the second round of auditions! It was with no pushing from my end- I had no idea the auditions were even happening (it was around about this time last year). So I went down to the Emirates Arsenal Stadium (*puke*) on a rainy afternoon in my shoddy work clothes (jeans and a tshirt or something equally unexciting).
The Emirates stadium is HUGE and rather wonderful really, despite being for such an evil football team. After walking around it's eerily empty surroundings, I found the entrance (which was right next to the place I had originally walked up to but subsequently went the entire opposite way round the massive oval building before finding the door which was inconspicuously marked with an A4 piece of paper), and I went in. I told the friendly bouncer security guy that I was asked to come here, rather than having auditioned the previous day and gotten through (I felt pretty smug, obviously), I was on a different list! and I was ushered up an escalator to a canteen type of area full of people milling around, some with earpieces and clipboards who clearly worked for the company that makes the show.
The people were exciting to me, as I wanted most to see or meet someone who would finally be on the actual show (up to this point, I'd not really entertained the idea of being on the show myself, and was only going to see what happened). The people I saw were so precisely the kind of people you expect to be on Big Brother. There were the overly made up women with high heels (it was mid afternoon on a soggy Tuesday if I recall). There were the 'beautiful people'- men and women who you suspect of belonging to modelling agencies (and who later turned out to actually belong to them)- all fake tan and muscles. There were fake boobs galore! Fake hair, fake nails.. There were lots of supergay guys- squeaky annoying highpitched ones were the most noticeable, guys with makeup, quite a few fashion gays, wearing 'their own creations' (one assumes) that made no sense and looked pretty awful (a skirt made from a ragged black piece of fabric held together with buttons and safety pins is one thing I recall, a long haired fake fur jacket was another).
The producer/researcher people (it seems that anyone employed by a TV company in a random role is called a researcher?) were all marked by their tired, uninspired faces- they looked SO bored, and I felt quite sorry for them. It must be so tiring. I used to work summers enrolling students into a college, many of them non-english speaking- it was very exhausting, and I can imagine tending to so many wannabe divas must be even more so.
I joined a queue at a table where stickers with numbers were being given to people, was given my sticker and a massive form to fill out, then sent to fill out my form. I think there were about 3 forms in all that I filled out, full of all sorts of questions, many of them kind of too personal, I felt. Things like 'what age did you lose your virginity' and 'how many sexual partners have you had', amongst things like 'name your three favourite kinds of food!!', 'whats your favourite colour?!'.
I was sitting at a table filling out my form, and people had no real idea how much we were supposed to be talking to one another- whispered conversations were had between people- some people had been going off to other rooms, escorted by researchers, and we wondered where it was and what happened- some of them came back, but none were at my table and so we didn't know. I unfortunately don't remember the exact people at my table- I did write/record my account of this day after it happened, which would be in much more detail, but I don't know what happened to it, and I was under contract to not talk about what happened at the audition for the few months after it happened. It was really only Phil's post which made me remember it again.
At one point in all this, I realised how, compared to the huge effort that all the other people there had clearly made, I, in my jeans and tshirt and vans or whatever it was I had on (ie, little to no effort made) looked so out of place. The feeling of inadequacy that I felt in school seeped back into me, and I felt like I oughtn't to be there. It was compounded by a male model type (who was an actual male model, it turned out) looking me up and down before not allowing me to move up in the chair queue we were sitting in. He then struck up conversation with a beautiful asian woman (who he did allow to sit next to him). Suddenly I was hit with the strangest image in my mind, that of all the other people there in all their hair and tan and makeup and high heels being turds encrusted with jewels, whereas I, whilst looking like a turd, was actually a chrysalis, that was a butterfly inside. It sounds soooooo cheesy I know, but I had this image in my head right then. I felt amazing all of a sudden, like 'Fuck you, you beautiful asshole!! I'm AMAZING!'. And for that alone, the experience was worth it. I felt like I was pretty special, being ASKED to be there, compared to all these rubes who'd actively tried.
Anyway, one person I DO recall was a nice lady who I sat next to at one moment in the day, and struck up a conversation with (we were in that room for hours upon hours). She, like me, had been invited to participate in the second round of auditions, which was the only reason we were there. the reason she'd been picked was because she'd been in a lot of tabloid papers due to being both a town councillor and a strip-o-gram! She was a really nice person, and it was interesting to talk to her.
At some point, I eventually got called to go to another room. I was taken upstairs to one of a series of rooms that was decorated with thick black curtains. A camera pointed at me as I walked in, I sat in a plastic chair infront of it, and then a mysterious voice talked to me. It was a producer in a chair behind the curtain who I'd seen enter the room moments before. They asked me a lot of questions related to the ones in the questionnaire, some of which made me uncomfortable. There were a few which were clearly asked in such a way as to try to antagonise me, like 'why do you make videos on the internet?? are you trying to get famous?' which on the face of it doesn't sound that bad, but it was worse the way they asked it.
After the 3 or 5 minutes, I left the room and went back downstairs. I was greeted by some sort of head producer who took me aside and said 'congratulations Bryony, you've got through to the next round of auditions!' (side note!! A trick beloved by car salesmen and their ilk is to use your first name to make you feel more familiar and trusting, but because my name is so hard (apparently) for most people to pronounce after only reading it, it makes me SO suspicious, and kind of freaks me out a little bit). I said how I didn't see that I should really be congratulated, as I had done nothing but be myself, which wasn't exactly a stretch. He disagreed and said it was more than that but didn't digress further.
Anyway, the day was over, and after about 6 hours or something stupid (I was told it would take no more than about 1hr 45 mins or so) I went home, feeling pretty weird.
I think it was the following day that the next audition was, which I now felt obliged to go to. It was at the same place (I went the right way around the stadium this time), and I turned up and again had to wait ages after my allotted time was up. I didn't mind all that much though. My friend from the day before wasn't there, and this time I kept mostly to myself. The main crux of the day was a group interview/chat thing. After a few hours of milling around in the same cafeteria type place, I was called into a large room where seats were arranged in a circle, with about 6 or so people sitting in them. At one end of the circle there were two producers (one of them was the 'congratulations' guy from the day before) lounging at a table taking notes and feeding conversation topics to the group.
So we sat there and talked about all sorts of stuff. Most of the people talked at one point or another. People were called away at various points and other people came and went. By the time I left the group had swelled to over 20 people, and we were running out of chairs. A few people who remain in my memory are a woman who used to be a policewoman, another male model, a woman who I really thought was a transvestite but wasn't, and who had a tattoo going from the front of her crotch to her bum, which was of a star, and she said it was 'a twinkle on my twinkle!'. She was, incidentally, the only person who I ever saw on the show, in the very first episode in which they flashed through a bunch of audition footage, and she flashed her boobs to the camera (thats how I know they're fake!). Also there was a 'psychic' guy, I think there was a goth girl of some kind, there was a cool black guy.... I cant remember any more.
Eventually I was called away, and I can't totally recall if I was taken to another black curtain interview or just was taken to the side and told I'd gotten through again. Either way, I had gotten through, and was told Id be contacted in the next few months if I'd got through even further.
After the whole audition process, I really had a kind of crisis- I felt like if I got in, I'd HAVE to go in and be on the show. All my friends (of course I told everyone about it despite being told to not talk about it) wanted me to go on it because they'd have fun watching me in there (and I would have loved it if I'd been them and they me). But I knew I didn't want to go on there- the feeling I got from the audition of being sized up and watched really creeped me out. I went over and over my answers to the tricky questions that came up in my interview, thinking how weird and awkward it would be to have so much of my life out of my control in terms of how I'd be edited and the things that would come out about me. The thought of being an ex-big brother housemate was pretty disgusting to me. Eventually, after lots of thinking it over, I emailed the people at Endemol and told them I wasn't interested and didn't want to be further considered as a potential housemate. Once I did, I felt an immense weight had lifted off me.
And so, I'll never know if I was 'good enough' to be in the big brother house. I'm glad I don't know, though I guess the sadist in me would like to know if I'd been considered down to the last howevermany, and yet I'd turned THEM down. But it's just as well I don't I suppose.