The Ambition of Reality TV
It was a rainy Saturday afternoon. Amber had just woken up, and was filled with a sense of determination. Today was her day. Today was the day when she would not be told no; when she would show all the naysayers exactly who she was. She rose out of bed and grabbed her satin robe. It was pink, with the initials A.L on the cuffs. The collar was laced with feathers from at least 3 different birds, all of which, she though, must come from Africa.
As she walked out of her bedroom, she caught a glimpse of something sparkling in the mirror. It was her eyes. Not even she could resist her own eyes. They were like blue, piercing crystals, and many people remarked they had never seen eyes so blue. She believed them, considering she'd had color contacts for 4 years. Most had forgotten what color her eyes really were. The same could be said about her hair. She had long platinum blond hair that almost seemed to shine in the light. As she looked in the mirror she posed, pouting her full lips as if a thousand photographers were on the other side, all watching her. It was time for her to show off her lips anyways, she thought. It had been almost 2 weeks since she had her first collagen treatment, and there had been a considerable amount of swelling. She had done well to keep this concealed from her parents because she knew they would not approve. Though she was worried they might suspect something when her dad asked what was wrong with her lips, she knew she had played it off well. She smiled as best she could, and avoided them as if they carried a plague.
She checked the mirror for one last inspection before heading downstairs and noticed she'd forgotten something. Her necklace. It was a silver pendant chain, and the charm was an 'A' encrusted with crystals. She checked herself one last time, and deeming herself acceptable for the breakfast table, headed downstairs.
"Mom have you checked the mail yet," Amber asked, pouring herself a glass of fat-free orange juice.
"No Sara, we just got back from your brother's baseball game. He was just---great," her mother said, her face beaming with pride. "He caught two foul balls and even knocked one right out of the park."
"Well do you think you can get the mail? I'm expecting something important. And please mother, my name is Amber."
"As long as you're living in this house I will call you by the name I gave you. And it wouldn't kill you to show a little interest in somebody else for a change."
Just as her mother was gearing up for an extended lecture, her father walked in. Her father was a short, portly man, with glasses that seemed to magically hang on his nose. The dark reddish hair on his head appeared to be just graying, though it was a well known family secret he had been dying it for years. His children always remarked he would have been much more at home in 19th century England than America 2009, and part of him felt the same.
"Daddy did you get the mail," Amber said, finishing the last of her orange juice.
"Yes Sa"er, Amber. You got the usual, a People, an Us, and an OK, you also got a few letters from somebody called Pie Town productions.'
Amber leaped up from her seat, snatching the mail from her father's hand. One by one she opened the letters, and a look of disappointment overtook her face.
"I'm sorry sweetie," her mother said, reaching out to comfort her. "Maybe you should think about something else."
"No," Amber pulled her arm back from her mother. "They didn't pick me because of my tits."
"Amber," her mother snapped, 'your father is present."
"I don't care he watches TV as much as anyone; I didn't get on the show because of my tits. Nobody on reality TV has little tits.
"Amber," her mother said, "they were fine."
"No they weren't," Amber said, "but I don't have to worry about that now because I've corrected the problem," Amber said, taking a moment to admire Dr. Garcia's handiwork. "Daddy could you please drop these off in the mail on your way out?'
"I will Amber," her father said, "but first your mother and I would like to have a talk with you."
Amber's heart sank, as she knew it would be at least 15 minutes before she would be able go to her nail appointment.
"Amber," her father said, in the most solemn of tones possible, "Amber, your mother and I don't approve of this 'lifestyle' you've taken on. The bi-weekly hair and nail appointments were one thing but now.... All the diets and surgeries are getting a little out of hand and we know that you did something to your lips."
"I've only had two surgeries Daddy and they were both needed," Amber said. "Amber I've heard your argument about the breast thing, and while I don't approve of it, you did save for that surgery for months. In one sense I admire your determination, but the eyelash thing?"
As she looked at her father, she was sure that she got her eyelash disorder from him. "Daddy I have a defect in the way my eyelashes grow and I needed that surgery. It's my money, I worked for it, and I'll do what I want."
At this her father rose. "Look," he said sternly, "it's your money but we are still your parents, and we're not going to tolerate you wasting your life away for reality TV of all things. You're 21 now and you're not getting any younger. You either need to go back to school or it's time to move out."
"Fine, you want me out, then I'm gone. But when I make it big you'll be sorry. I'll be bigger than New York and the Bachelor combined and you'll be sorry you doubted me."
Amber ran out of the house. The fight with her parents might have discouraged some people but not her. She knew she could not afford her lifestyle and bills, so the only option was to double down on her audition tapes. Obviously they hadn't picked her before because of her small breast and grossly disfigured eyelashes. But now her eyelashes were long and perfect, and she had breasts that would make Pam Anderson jealous. It had to have been those two things because Amber knew she had everything else. Personality, attitude, looks. The first of which she honed through years of watching countless reality TV shows, the last was a mix between god-given beauty and technology. She knew she was going to make it big and finally, her family would be proud.
Amber crept in through the front door, hoping to avoid her parents. She knew they probably wouldn't make her move or go back to school, but it was still best to avoid them for a few days. 'Out of sight, out of mind," she thought. She walked into her room and saw her sister sitting at her make up desk. "What are you doing in here?"
"There's a party tonight and I ran out eyeliner." Devon was 3 years younger than Amber, though at one point people confused them for twins. She had brownish red hair, the same color that Amber's might have been. She had a slender frame similar to Amber's but it was obvious Amber put much more time into herself.
"What are you doing home anyways; I figured a TV star such as your self would have plenty to do on Friday night."
"I'm picking up the late shift tonight at work, something which you know nothing about."
"You do work hard," Devon said, a mischievous smile forming at her lips. "I've never seen a woman work so hard for a pair of tits."
"You're just jealous." "Not only do I look amazing, but I'm sure I'll have producers knocking on my door in no time. You don't have a body like this and not get on TV. So just pop off."
"Pop off," Devon said, "Pop off? What does that even mean?"
"It means pop off," Amber said.
"I'm just messing with you Devon," Amber said. "But do you see what I'm going for? I need a catch phrase like that, something that really defines my character."
"If you're so concerned with characters why don't you go back to school and study acting."
"Acting is for losers Devon. Everybody knows that reality TV is the new acting." "That's ridiculous."
"It's true. Anybody who's anybody gets their start in reality TV."
"Name one person," said Devon.
'Oh, I can name quite a few people. The gay guy from Amazing Race, well he's dating the guy from N Sync. Tila Tequila is bigger than ever, Trischelle is getting work, and of course, there's always my girl New York. Upon saying this, Amber looked affectionately at her poster of New York, the star of Flavor of Love and the spinoff I Love New York. "My girl be doing mad things. Now when you going to move out of my chair?"
"In a minute," Devon said. "Isn't one of those girls in porn now? Is that really what you want to be, a Flavor of Love girl?"
"At lest she's working," Amber said. "Times are tough and a job's a job. And regardless of what you think everybody knows that once you've been on one show you'll get at least 5 more years of work. They all have jobs on a lot of different television shows so what's wrong with that?"
"What's wrong with that," Devon asked, "What's wrong with it?" What's wrong is they're stupid bitches. What's wrong is that they're playing a character, what's wrong is they are being exploited for their stupidity. Trust me; no director is watching reality TV for the plethora of talent on there."
"Which pants go better with this shirt," Amber asked, holding up a Wal-Greens smock against a white and red shirt.
"You're impossible," Devon said. "I think they should do a reality TV show about people who love themselves as much as you." And with that she was gone.
"Jealous," Amber thought to herself, "everybody is jealous."
Over the next several weeks, Amber intensified her efforts to win a spot on a reality TV. She tripled her workouts, going from four, 1 hour workouts, to six, 2 hour workouts each week. Day after day she checked the casting call. Some wanted contestants willing to do or eat anything; others wanted women with anger-management issues, and other wanted 16 year old girls who were pregnant. Amber applied to them all, and the thought of eating a bull's penis did not faze her.
"Have you considered getting pregnant," her sister asked one day.
"Don't be silly, Devon," she replied. "I'm too old for that show and if I did get pregnant I would want a Jon and Kate thing."
It was a lazy Saturday afternoon. Fall had officially started 2 weeks ago, and all of the remaining leaves were vivid shades of orange, red, and brown and the air had a crisp smell to it. Amber had just finished updating her Facebook status. She had begun using the name Amber Lynn about two years ago, feeling it was a more appropriate name than Sara Jenkins. However she now felt it needed more kick, something to better define her personality. That is the moment she became Amber Lynn Swagger. She envisioned herself on reality TV and wondered if she had the guts to do what it took. Would she be able to spit on somebody if they needed to be spit on? Would she have the guts to ingest boiled penises from an assortment of animals? She identified with these people because they were like her, they were the true entrepreneurs, she thought. These were people who staked out their own destiny, and she would do the same. As she was envisioning herself spitting on some random girl, there was a knock at her bedroom door.
"Amber," her father said, 'you have some mail."
Amber's initial reaction was to snatch the mail out of his hands, but she decided that another rejection letter could wait as it had been awhile since she had last spoken to her father. "Oh thank you Daddy," Amber said, can you just set it on the dresser?"
"Do you mean on top of the things on top of the dresser," her father asked. As he set the mail on top of a Saxs Fifth Avenue bag, he took a moment to look at her room. It had been quite some time since he'd been his daughter's room and it had changed immensely. Gone were the days of boy band posters and sleepovers. What existed now were clothes, clothes everywhere. However there were still posters, two large posters of scantily clad women he had never seen before, and cutouts of other woman plastered all over the walls. His eyes darted past clothes on hangers, clothes in bags, and hair care products to what appeared to be a large collage of sorts. "Amber," her father asked, "what's this?"
"Oh that's noses. Whenever I see a nose I like I cut it out so I'll have something to go by when I get mine done."
"What's wrong with your nose, we always said you had your grandmother's nose," her father said.
"My nostrils are to far apart Daddy, and also I need a little bit shaved off of the top. Look at this nose," and with that Amber pulled a nose from the wall and showed it to her father for closer inspection. "Don't you think it's a nice nose Daddy?"
"Well I guess it's a fine nose," her father said, putting the nose back on the wall. "Don't you think--."
Amber cut him off mid-sentence. "It's Lady Gaga's nose Dad, and this is the one I'm getting."
Her father spotted a cushion that best resembled a chair and carefully sat down. "Amber," her father said, "your mother and I worry about you." We're worried that all this focus on your external looks is going to ruin you inside."
"My insides," Amber said. She was somewhat taken back by this. "It's my personality I plan to sell. Who wouldn't want to see me on TV with all this," Amber said, calling attention to her body. "All of this is just a shell. The real me is on the inside, but nobody cares about the inside unless you get them interested in the outside." Don't worry Daddy," she said, "the real me is who I plan to sell."
After her father left, Amber checked her mail. Bill, bill, but then there was something else. Her heart began to pound, it was MTV. "MTV never sends rejection letters," she thought. Her stomach dropped and she felt sweat beginning to form on her forehead. Her mind was racing as she ripped open that plain white letter that could decide her fate.
Dear Ms. Swagger,
After careful review of your submissions, the casting producers felt that you didn't quite fit the role for many of our upcoming shows. However, after seeing the determination of several people just like yourself, we felt that a reality series should be focused around you. That is why we have chosen you to be the focus of our new Made documentary, Made: I Want to be a Reality TV Star.
She tried to keep reading but couldn't. Tears began to swell in her eyes and her knees felt so weak she had to sit down. She had done it, now was her time.