Nerves caused a slight vibrato in her tone as she talked to the judges. Little giggles, here and there, to straighten it out. It revealed her excitement and fear.
This was her chance. Her few minutes to shine and tell her story through her song. Her few minutes to punch her verbal attackers straight in the face through the TV. Her few minutes to show them that they may have cracked her, but she was not broken. To show them her soul was stickier than Super Glue. To show them their actions made her stronger, so she could put the pieces back together, in a way that would make her unbreakable.
Reality TV gets a bad rap. I often watch it and wonder why I even flipped the channel. But, ultimately, as with everything else, there are the moments that teach. That educate our youth, and even us, on what it takes to shine and follow your dreams in the face of adversity.
I watched the X Factor late tonight. I had it recorded on the DVR, but never thought I would get to it. It wasn’t my first, second or even tenth number in priority. But, I felt tired. I needed a break from thinking, willing to be sucked into something simple. Watching someone else sing doesn’t expect much of my mental energy.
After 105 minutes of singers with a strong “no”, a few “yeses” and even four “okay, yes”, Jillian Jensen stepped on the stage. She wore leopard pants and a black tank top. It masked her age and her past experience.
There seemed to be something in her. Something in her facial expression, eyes and somewhat awkward movement that made her seem lovable and slightly insecure. She would shine, I thought, but I had no idea how much.
She shook as she held the microphone and when she smiled, I knew she was only maybe 15 years older than my own daughter. Time flies and that is only a small fraction of life. To me, a smile is the most revealing factor of a person’s age. It can reveal age, even if everything else is cloaked and hidden. You can see the innocence in a smile. As mothers, we sort of lose that innocent smile in a glorious way, only to find it in the faces of our children.
She revealed she had a tattoo with the words, “stay strong”, similar to a Demi Lovato tattoo and documentary. (For those who don’t watch the show, Demi Lovato is one of the judges). She wasn’t too familiar with Demi’s music and it was shear coincidence that she chose those words. They were scribed on her flesh for the same reason. She was bullied throughout Junior High and High School, just as Demi had been for being overweight.
And then the producers cut, perfectly, to Jillian’s backstory. She used to cry herself to sleep, living by the words and actions of her peers. They made fun of her for the exact reason she was there, for her music. They told her she would “never get anywhere”. They prank called her and played her music, like it was the perfect punch line.
Tears streamed down her face. They didn’t trickle. They flowed with no gaps between drops. She said, “I just really, really, really want to get through, you know? To just be able to say ‘I can do this and I am good enough. And, I’m gonna do well in the competition.’”
Then they cut to a backstage conversation with her mother. All the while, Demi Lovato’s Skyscraper was skimming the background. Perfect producing, but nothing to mask reality. I believe no smoke or mirrors could keep it from being real. Her mother’s tears matched those of her interview only seconds before. She told her mother, “I want to thank you for everything. I do love you. I know we fight sometimes. Thank you. I wouldn’t be here without you.”
I thought, this 19-year-old girl is well adjusted and her mother will be living in her moment with her. Her mother replied, “I love you and I believe in you, so do it. I can’t wait to see you do it.”
This is where my tears matched both the mother and daughter duo and then some. The Kleenex box sat snuggly on top of my blanket. She thanked Demi for her anti-bullying efforts. And L.A. Reid ended with, “So, Jillian, stay strong and do your thing.”
She sang Jesse J’s Who You Are. Even while crying during singing, her talent was revealed. Her passion was apparent. Her pain struck chords throughout every verse. She was living in the lyrics and I disappeared into my past. I disappeared into my own verses of a similar, bullying kind. Her performance had the power to bring me back.
When I woke from my own thoughts and watched the audience, mostly full of young, tween girls, I realized her message was echoing into their ears and hoped it stayed put. I hoped that if they had felt similar pain, they would feel covered in empathy. They could believe the pain would pass. And, that they should always “stay strong” and follow their dreams, no matter what.
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