I grew up watching American Idol for half it’s run. I watched as every week contestants took the stage looking for their dreams to come true as the next “American Idol.” Every week there was the infamous banter between Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell as they judged. I would watch as every season they announced different winners such as Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Scotty McCreery, and Phillip Phillips. I found myself cheering with the crowd when Trent Harmon would hit the high notes as he sang “Chandelier.” I found myself crying with La’Porsha Renae as she told America her story about how she was a former victim of domestic abuse, and how she had separated from her then husband and gone on to audition for American Idol in hopes of getting a better life for her daughter and herself. I booed along with the crowd when Mackenzie Bourg was eliminated from the competition. American Idol was more than just a regularly watched show to me growing up. It taught me what it meant to punch my fears in the face and go after my dreams- despite how terrified I was.
For those of you who don’t know what American Idol was, it was a singing competition that first got it’s start on June 11, 2002, and every week a contestant or two would get eliminated. It was loosely based off the show Pop Idol which was a British show created by Simon Fuller. He then brought that idea over to America, and they came up with the show American Idol. Simon Cowell was offered the position as show runner which meant that he would have been the executive producer of the show and known as the head writer. But turned down that position and instead, the job got offered to Nigel Lythgoe. Since it’s debut in 2002 the show grew widely and was successful for several years. However, in the most recent years’ viewership declined and in 2016 the show ended its 15-year run.
The day started out like any ordinary Wednesday morning. It was a school day and nothing eventful was suppose to happen. I was supposed to go to class, attend chapel, and then do homework after my busy Wednesday of three back to back classes. However, that Wednesday morning was nothing but ordinary. I got tickets to a TV show that had held my heart captive for the past 8 years. I was captivated by the characters, the structure of the show and its premise. It was like a good book that I couldn’t let go. That Wednesday of April 6th, 2016 I got the chance to participate as an audience member in my favorite TV show American Idol by getting the opportunity to be a seat filler. That meant that during an event a person typically fills an empty seat. Our older sister stopped by our college to come and pick us up and from there we made the drive over to the Dolby Theatre. From there we took the I-210 W towards Pasadena and continued on I-134 W. We took our exit following signs to Forest Lawn Drive. Shortly thereafter we took the streets and found ourselves making left and right turns. We entered the parking structure for the Dolby Theatre, parked our car, and went in search for the Lucky Strikes Bowling Alley which was were check in was going to happen. As my sisters and I ventured in search for the bowling alley we found ourselves walking through the Hollywood & Highland Mall.
After finding the place we got in line and waited for check in to start. People of all ages were in line- mothers with their pre-teen daughters, groups of teenage girls held signs that read, “You can help me out of this dress Mackenzie.” -in reference to Mackenzie Bourg’s song “Roses.” Older men donned tuxedos and some women wore dresses. On the other hand, ladies sported jeans or really nice shirts. The workers of On Camera Audiences (the company from whom I got the seat filler tickets from) were coming around collecting our tickets. As the workers came to us, they informed us that we were early and that it wasn’t our turn yet to be in line.
Following this, we went back to the mall, found a bench to sit and people watched until it was finally time for us to go in. As we were waiting, this lady approached us and asked us, if we were trying to get into the show. We told her that we got seat fillers and were waiting to be let in. The lady then took a seat beside us and proceeded to tell us about her life. She told us that she had seen the show American Idol, and lived in Los Angeles. She told us about one of her hobbies – painting and how she painted whenever she got the chance. As Norma recounted events from her life, I could tell that she was content in the state that she found herself in. As she was telling my sisters and me about her life, I couldn’t help but think that there’s so much about a person that we don’t know about until we actually take the time to talk with them. Or like in this case- until they tell us their stories. She continued talking to us and happily offered some of her strawberries to which we kindly declined. Since we left our phones in the car we didn’t know what time it was – with that we asked Norma for the time. We then told her that we had to go, but that it was a pleasure to talk with her. She wished us the best in our endeavors.
Soon after, we walked back down to the Lucky Strikes Bowling Alley, as we walked down I hadn’t noticed how many homeless people lined the sidewalk we walked on – something that I hadn’t seen before in the excitement of trying to get to the line earlier. Furthermore, there were men that donned superhero costumes such as Batman and Spiderman. As we approached, the line had dwindled not only in size but number, we were told that the seat fillers were not lining up here but in a different part of the mall. Our friend’s Desperation and Annoyance came along with us, as we went in search for another employee. My sisters and I were back on the second floor of this three-leveled mall and were told to head in the direction of the parking structure. We encountered our friend Relief and were happy to see that we had found all the other seat fillers alas.
The employers told all seat fillers to get in line and started handing out tickets to get into the Dolby Theatre. As we were in line I realized that the first several people in front of us, looked like they had walked out of a magazine cover. Every piece of hair was perfectly in place, their skins not only glowed but flawlessly tanned, and their dresses hugged every inch of their body. My sisters and I discussed this and realized that they had put them in line first due to their appearance. One thing to know about Hollywood – and if one has been a part of an audience member in these competition like shows is that they try to get the good looking people as they deem to their standards in front of the cameras. The rest of the average Joes and plain Janes remained in the back, whereas the Barbie’s and Kens most certainly got their spotlight.
At this time, they were beginning to let us into the Dolby Theatre, we went through security check and found ourselves in yet another line. This time we waited for fifteen minutes in the lobby giving us time to use the bathroom as there would be no bathroom breaks once the show started.
Background Information on the Dolby Theatre: The Dolby Theatre is an auditorium located on Hollywood Blvd. Since it’s opening on November 9th, 2001 it has held a vast number of award shows and live performances. The venue can accommodate a total of 3,332 people. The Dolby Theatre is best known for hosting the Oscars since 2002. As for the rest of the year, the Dolby Theatre is used for live concerts, award shows, and symphony performances. There has been a myriad of artists that have performed at the Dolby Theatre such as Adele, Celine Dion, Beyonce and the late Prince. Moreover, the Dolby Theatre has hosted the annual ESPY awards which honor those for excellent sports performance and has even hosted the Miss USA pageant twice in 2004 and 2007.
As we walked into the theater, my eyes beheld its grandeur. It was pleasing to the eye in all it’s beauty and truly something I had never seen before. There were a countless number of seats from the orchestra to the mezzanine. There was a sign just above that read “American Idol” – the famous American Idol sign. We were told where to sit by an employer and found ourselves surrounded by people that seemed important in the Hollywood industry. As they donned designer brand apparel. Suddenly my friend Insecurity came and sat by me and I felt so out of place.
As I sat in my seat they continued moving others around and I noticed that a lot of old contestants from previous seasons of American Idol walked into the theater such as Jason Castro amongst many others. I also saw executive producer, Mr. Nigel Lythgoe, as he donned a tuxedo and greeted those around him.
The show would start in 5 minutes and the season 15 judges were making their way to their seats – Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, and Harry Connick, Jr. Suddenly the lights dimmed and the show started. The show after it’s full course season was down to it’s Top 2 with contestants Trent Harmon and La’Porsha Renae. The show began with a performance with the Top 3 contestants, including Dalton Rapatotni as they sang the song “Stole the Show” a song by recorder producer Kygo. Then the show would interchange between Trent and La’Porsha as they would take turns taking the stage. From there Trent sang a song that he had co-written with Keith Urban titled “Falling.” Following this, La’Porsha sang her emotional ballad titled “Battles” which was about her life and the struggles that she had faced throughout. Her lyrics were an encouragement to many as she encouraged the crowd to continue on and get through their battles. At this time, we went straight to a commercial break, and my sister and I were moved to a different seat. Thereafter, Trent took the stage once again and sang Sia’s well-known song “Chandelier.” Following his performance, the crowd couldn’t help but give a standing ovation. Immediately after Trent, La’Porsha took the stage one last time for the evening and sang the song “Diamonds” by Rhianna.
The performance was a truly one that was overwhelming to see, as it brought tears to my eyes. Her performance brought about another standing ovation from the crowd, they chanted “La’Porsha.” That moment, seeing and hearing everyone scream La’Porsha’s name seemed as if she had won the competition. When Ryan Seacrest had come onto the stage to tell the audience to vote, I knew that time had struck a chord and was nearing the end. I found myself reliving the evening and commemorated a show that I grew up with. For some American Idol had died years ago – for me this was only it’s closing chapter.