Ep8 | That Voice: A Monologue

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When I was eighteen years old, I auditioned for the second season of Australian Idol.

It seemed like the new, exciting and somewhat natural pathway for an aspiring young singer, as reality television soared into popularity in the early 2000’s.

Watching Guy Sebastian’s inaugural win in 2003 lit a fire inside of me; I too so longed to share my voice with the world, to be on stage receiving the applause of adoring fans. On some level, this was what I was used to and was expected of me.

The first ever singing competition that I joined was held at a community church hall. Mum must have seen it advertised in the local paper and encouraged my sister and I to enter. We never shied away from opportunities to perform and entertain through our love for music.

I had already been studying singing for a few years, was an active member of the school choir and put my name down or auditioned for every school musical, concert and soiree that came up. Singing was a huge part of my adolescent identity – I was praised for it, criticised for it, but I loved music so much that I relished every chance I had to sing. I believed in my talent and was incredibly fortunate to have others around me who believed in me too.

And so, I won that competition. Call it beginner’s luck, or perhaps my well-rehearsed rendition of Christina Aguilera’s ‘Reflection’ was worthy of the top prize that day. Either way, the accolade was a huge confidence boost. It showered me with the courage to pursue a singing career.

But, it didn’t prepare me for one.

Australian Idol premiered on television at the pivotal time of me graduating high school. I’ve always had many creative interests and back then, I was also exploring journalism and filmmaking as possible professional career pathways.

Still I couldn’t shake my desire to be a singer and musician – a famous one. Following Guy Sebastian’s journey into stardom was inspiring to me, as I’m sure it was for millions of young people around the country with a similar dream. That is the power of TV; appealing to our desires and presenting a false reality that such desires can be attained quickly and easily.

I thought that all it would take to make it was my voice, and to audition for the show. So I did.

I don’t necessarily regret having to stand in line for hours, be surrounded by other aspiring hopefuls and sing in front of apathetic TV‌ producers. But I also don’t necessarily recommend it. Not if your goal is to truly build a meaningful and sustainable singing career. Such avenues are indeed a quick ride to fame and they work for certain kinds of people.

I’ve learned that I’m not one of them.

Being rejected in that moment, for someone who was praised for my singing voice all throughout my youth, was disheartening and confusing. How could it be that someone who played lead roles in school productions and won local singing contests wasn’t good enough for Australian Idol? Not even good enough to get through to the judges’ round of auditions, which actually airs on TV?

What did this mean for my future as a singer? For my desire for fame and recognition through my musical talents?

I find it quite humorous to reflect on this, now that it happened over half my lifetime ago. I was so young and idealistic, which in many ways is a beautiful thing. That I had the courage to just go for it, but that I‌ was also lucky to have people believe in me.

Yet despite having a supportive family, teachers and friends, I was a highly sensitive and insecure teenager. I struggled with perfectionism on a daily basis, I still often do. Even if I would receive compliments after a performance, I would ruminate on what didn’t go well – the notes that I didn’t quite hit, the one person in the audience who was yawning during my song, the discomfort I felt in the outfit I chose to wear on stage. I was often plagued by these negative thoughts, which contribute greatly to the overall creative struggle.

I’ve come to realise that much of my concerns relate to the creative process; my feelings during performance. Perhaps I didn’t practice enough to reach that high note with confidence, I‌ couldn’t control how others reacted to my performance and I didn’t choose something more comfortable to wear. No matter how many people told me how beautifully I sang, I in myself, was not content.

And not just in my performance, but in my identity.

Everyone in my life knew me as a singer. A young woman with a great love for music and a great voice. I explored this passion for singing everywhere I could, performing at school assemblies, at my local church, community festivals, karaoke parties, at home in my bedroom.

When I was eighteen, people told me that voice could make me famous someday.

People believed in me, and I believed them.

The thing about being surrounded by supportive people however, is that they don’t necessarily understand your dreams nor tell you the truth all the time. Of course, they are important encouragers and cheerleaders in tough moments, but having true confidence is an inside job.

We all desire fame and notoriety in some way, but was being a famous singer the right goal for me to have at that time, if it ever is?

I had somehow learned to value my love for music through the lens of public fame – thanks to reality television and celebrity culture in general. My family and friends, the same; all of us as consumers of entertainment look to success as being as tangible as getting on TV, on the radio or in the newspaper (maybe, more so back in the day). We all look for some kind of proof that we’ve ‘made it’.

The problem with having lofty goals such as ‘becoming famous’ is that your confidence is dependent on other people granting you validation. It’s external. And it’s subjective.

The ‘fame machine’ as colloquially referred to in the business, is just that – a ‘machine’. It’s about operations, manufacturing and production. It’s a pre-defined process that uses specific tools to create a product.

Being part of the ‘fame machine’ can guaranteer you validation and success, but as others have defined it. You’re at the mercy of other peoples’ visions. Sometimes good, sometimes bad.

As a media and entertainment enthusiast, I say these things not to be cynical, but to highlight the realities of such industries as I have experienced and observed. I say these things to share how it has affected me as I’ve navigated my creative ambitions and worked to build my career.

How it has impacted how I value, harness and share my voice.

What I’ve discovered through pursuing music is that this notion of ‘fame’ whilst often an innate desire, should never be the goal.

Fame is only a feature or even a symptom of telling your story, using your gifts and giving generously to the world in ways that the world can see.

It’s too easy to lose focus on the mission when ‘fame’ is the priority – so our purpose must therefore be anchored in something much more meaningful and timeless.

That voice deep within us, the one we’re already sharing or have yet to grow confident in, that is a voice so unique, so powerful and given to each of us for a specific purpose.

Maybe you are meant to wield that power through your musical talents, or use that knowledge to invent and discover or harness that skill to create change, to help and inspire.

That voice you have is one that deserves nurturing; regardless of what others may say about it.

We must believe in that voice, not just for attention and accolades, but for the unique purpose for which it was gifted to us.

It takes courage to sing on a stage, to speak your mind, to stand up for truth.

But we all have that voice inside us so longing to be heard, so longing to make a difference – may we find the courage to use it.

Ep8 | That Voice: A Monologue
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