So here it is…the official Oprah OWN Show Update. I must say I am resisting doing this update as I have put this experience well behind me however – I owe it to all of my fans and supporters who have followed me from the start of this, a well deserved explanation.
There are many lessons learned from this journey and I have had ample time now to sift through them all and now feel well prepared to share. It is always my goal to make the best out of everything and put my experiences out there in hopes that others can glean small tidbits of wisdom from them – so here it goes!
First of all, making the almost 10 hour trek in one day on Friday the 25th to Atlanta was a small feat unto itself. Who knew it was possible to drive that far and long surviving on very little food and only stopping for 4 minutes to refill on gas. I guess you could say Cliff and I were on a mission and we were not going to stop until we accomplished task number one – getting there! We arrived in Atlanta around 4pm that night and headed straight to Kohl’s to see what type of “inside” scoop we could get. Lucky for us, Emily filled us in on all the details and told us that security would be letting people into the parking lot at 4am. Needless to say, I quickly made it my goal to arrive at 3am. No sooner did I grab that tidbit of info, did my long lost friend Tara Meyer-Robson walk into Kohl’s also on a mission to gather her own set of clues. I hadn’t seen Tara in over ten years and although we were both bruised and battered from the long ride to Atlanta from Florida, we were ecstatic to see one another. Out in the parking lot, an eavesdropper overheard us talking and came over to ask us if WE had any scoop. Me being the game player that I am hesitated on sharing my newly coveted inside secrets where Tara blurted them right out! How cute is she! I figured the moment I arrived in Atlanta the games began and therefore so did my initial strategy – play dumb! During that conversation it came up that the 16 pages of questions that all of us completed online, needed to also be brought with us to the live audition! Sh**! It took me an entire painstaking day to formulate my answers and of course – I never printed them out! Now what was to be a relaxing night prepping mentally for the next day (that was to begin at 2am), quilckly transitioned into going back to my room and sitting on the bedrock couch to do my paperwork all over again! I was not a happy camper! On top of it all, I was hoping to catch Dateline and 20/20 and watch the coverage of the Michael Jackson anniversary and now that went out the window too! As I sifted through the countless questions again, I was pleasantly surprised to get a call from one of my special friends Lisa who gave me one more pep talk before bed. That was just the calming reassurance I needed in that moment and so at 12:30am I completed my paperwork, fell asleep at 1am and set the alarm for 2am.
2am – June 26th – The alarm goes off and I jump out of bed, into the shower and into my long pink flowing (gorgeous) dress. Determined to make myself stand out, I dressed as though I was heading down the red carpet for the Grammy awards! I was out the door in a jiffy and arrived at an already packed parking lot of campers who had spent the night. There were lots of tailgaters, characters dressed in costumes and a whole host of other interesting humans that Cliff fondly referred to as a combination of Professor Clumps, Rasbushas and Madeas! Thank goodness I had my bodyguard in tow because the moment I stepped out of my car the looks and comments came a flying! Security informed us that within the hour they would be walking us across the street to get in line for auditions and so I found one tiny little piece of concrete next to the edge of the street where I could plant my chair ready to make the mad dash at 4am. Well that was all it took for the characters who spent the (entire night there) to come out of their cars and circle around me. In that very moment I had a flashback to 7th grade when the girls used to circle around me wanting to beat me up because I had a new pair of sneakers on. I didn’t drive 10 hours, spend loads of money and time on this mission for nothing. I had come this far, all I needed to do now was avoid getting my behind beat and get across the street! I firmly held my portfolio of pictures and accomplishments along with my application and DVD set under my arm and at 3:55am the signal was given and the herd of cattle began to run. Chairs, shoes, keys, purses and MY DVD set all went flying into the air. I look down and see my DVDs rolling around the street and getting trampled over and in that moment I had to make the quick decision to stop and collect (at the risk of getting killed) or to keep running. I kept running. Now I went from being #1 in line to #87 but that was ok, I was still in the first line. At the time of the cattle call, there were about 500 people waiting and by the time 5:00am arrived there were about 2,500 in line. Boy was I glad to find out that the first line would be seen right at 6am. However it was the next announcement that made me question everything I had done to prepare until that point.
One of the producers announced that rather than just see the first 500 people that were given wristbands (as was advertised) they would see everyone and that we would be seen in groups of 16. Ugh – 16 at a time, I thought? After my moment of veclemptness I thought, OK I can handle this, I know I can outshine my competition. And then he announced that we would have 45 seconds each to pitch ourselves, our show concept and why we would make a good host! What? All of this preparation for it all to boil down to 45 seconds? OK – Branding Expert, put your business hat on now and think how you would teach your clients to stand out from the herd. I immediately began rethinking my approach, what I would say and most importantly – HOW I would say it. There were people in line with me dressed in full drag queen attire, there were Dennis Rodman look a-likes, there was a woman with two Rottweilers and then there was me, in my little pink darling dress. Although it became very evident that there were about 2% of the people that had the actual skills to move forward in a competition such as this, it also became clearer that this was more of a casting call for “unique” people not unique talent. As I moved ahead further in line I began to see that all of the producers interviewing were in their young twenties. I also noticed that the focus was not so much on the content of the pitch but more or less getting the Kohl’s coupons in the hands of the cattle and making sure each of us signed all 10 waivers in our packet of paperwork. In the seconds before I got called I saw this entire ordeal along with parts of my life passing through my eyes as I had decided that I would NOT compromise my authentic self. That putting forth my show idea and who I was would be good enough and if they producer didn’t like it or I didn’t stand out enough – then this was not the right opportunity for me.
6:00am – My group is next up. We sit down, get a few minor instructions and the cows begin to moo. And then it’s my turn. I hand in my beautifully crafted portfolio, my crumpled DVD set with one missing (that Cliff went and fetched out of the street) and my application and I gave it my best! I knew I nailed it! But now, the questions began to emerge in my mind – were expertise, skill and show concept really what these producers were looking for? Or was this a ploy to bring patrons and traffic to Kohl’s or was Mark Burnett (producer for Survivor, Apprentice, and this competition) truly looking for skilled talent or folks that made for a good TV show. You see, most people didn’t know that the 20,000 people competing in the video and live casting calls are competing for a reality show that Mark Burnett is producing where 10 people will play a game out on TV where they will fight their way to earn their own show. One thing I know for sure – I am not about compromising myself at the expense of others to prove I am worthy.
6:15am – I gather my belongings and head back to the car and it almost felt like I had been hit by a car. I couldn’t help but look back and wonder, what the heck just happened! All of this preparation boiled down to 45 seconds and now it’s over? I felt robbed in strange soft of way. I knew with every fiber in my body that I deserved a callback but I must honestly say, after talking it through with Cliff (who was watching everything unfold from a spectators view) and Tara, we all came to the same conclusion. This was no a true and honest talent search for the best of the best. There is no possible way to weed through 2,500 people in a few hours and find true talent. So I got back to my hotel, put my pajamas on and slept the nightmare away.
After waking up at lunchtime I called Tara and the three of us headed out for the afternoon the catch up and recap the day’s events. We laughed for hours. What a wonderful time we had and later that evening, we caught up with a mutual Facebook friend Gina, who didn’t live too far from where we were staying. Several more hours of laughing and waiting for the phone to ring with a call back. At about 11pm, we turned in and slept the night away only to wake up in the morning to a phone that had never rang. Now what? I worked so hard to get to this point and now what. I quickly gathered my belongings, grabbed a bagel and hit the road at 8am. Still processing it all, somewhat bummed, I looked down and saw that Tara had called so I called her back and in her sweet, calming and nurturing way, she made it all better. We assured one another that we were clearly not cut out for a search such as this and we decided to hold each other accountable in moving forward with our visions. We are both holding out hope that our videos (which are a completely separate casting search, will be seen by the right people at the right time and we will move forward.) Many lessons learned from this trip and here are a few I have to share with you:
1. Set a goal and know that the world IS watching. Your parents, your kids, your friends and your clients are watching. It is one thing to quit on yourself but don’t quit on others. I held this dream alive because it was my dream but I got others to buy into my dream so I could create leverage for myself to keep me in the game when times got tough.
2. Begin with the end in mind. I live by this principle. I had my eye on the prize from day one and nothing nor was anyone going to keep me from that goal. I could have easily just submitted a video and hoped for the best but I went the extra mile and to win this competition by showing up to the live casting call. When reaching for a goal, exhaust every possible opportunity to make it a reality.
3. I realized that I have truly become the resilient woman I have claimed to be for the past several years. Each challenge met reaffirms this major hurdle that I have overcome. This was a true test of my ability to see something I wanted but went it didn’t happen, I had the fortitude to move forward quickly and find the gifts without getting eaten up by the guilt and what ifs.
4. I got a chance to see that when you have a message that touches people’s hearts as my Cancer message did, people will come out of the woodwork to rally in your honor. This was amazing. Your message is just as important as the person delivering it.
5. I also got to see which people in my life were truly in my corner. The phone calls, emails and messages throughout the past several weeks will never be forgotten. Thank you to Nancy Olliver, Elinor Robin, Lisa Guarini and Sharon Mayers for your unwavering support and your last minutes texts and phone call picker uppers. Lynda Perry and Camille Re, two friends on Facebook that I didn’t even know prior to this that supported my voting daily, thank you. Aaron Friedman (whom I haven’t known that long) for putting your social media expertise to work to ensure the viral visibility of my video. Tara Meyer-Robson, thank you for being the epitome of support and friendship and for having that amazing intuitive ability to know how to lift someone up with all the right words and advice. My entire Green Team for supporting this mission as if it was your own! All of my kids for voting endlessly when you could have been outside playing and lastly, Cliff. Without you, nothing wonderful that gets accomplished in my life would be possible. You are the glue that holds it all together for me and I love you for that! To my friends Evie Hernandez and Kristin Hoke who lost their battles with cancer, your stories and families helped keep me going and continue to be my inspiration. And to all of the rest of you that supported my cause with your facebook posts, voting and encouraging words. I will NEVER forget that parts you all played in making this happen and for that I am forever grateful!
Before bed on Saturday night I get yet one more wonderful message from my friend Cathy Mussman which read this:
You are AMAZING!! You don’t just talk the talk – you walk the walk!! So, so proud of you!! You truly inspire others!! Thank you!! The LOVE and LIGHT you radiate through not only your words but your actions warm my heart. I KNOW you can and will achieve any goal and or dream you set forth.
Cheers to the small town girl making it BIG!!
That letter made everything I worked so hard for, all worth the effort and heartache! Thank you Cathy! I Love you like a sister and this letter will be in my heart forever.
6. Sometimes in life you will only get your 45 minutes of fame, how will you spend it? How will you make a lasting impression?
7. I learned many valuable business lessons as well. From the way in which the sole sponsor Kohl’s was positioned throughout the entire competition to the 20,000 new show ideas that Oprah now owns and to the ways that Oprah created a viral movement with one little contest. Even looking at the top videos and analyzing them with my students and the elements of each caused them to go viral. I continue to look for all of the valuable lessons that this experience will continue to bring to my business and make me a better coach for a very long time to come.
Overall, I am completely at peace with this journey and I believe strongly that the lessons learned here will go on to inspire others and myself for a very long time. YOU have everything you need inside of you to be the great person God set out for you to be. Don’t let the mean girls take that away from you, don’t let the dumb little voice in your head tell you that you can’t have it and most of all, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER QUIT!!! The world is watching.
See you at the top!