Make sure to catch Star Shine: Part 1 https://susiefinkbeiner.wordpress.com/2011/07/25/star-shine-short-story-part-1/
The first thing they did was to dye my hair. I went from chestnut brown to golden, caramel blonde.
“The kids love a blonde,” my mom said, schmoozing the producer.
Next, was my name.
“There’s already a singer named Fiona,” the producer told us. “And she doesn’t have the clean reputation that we need for our network.”
“I’m not changing my name,” I said. “Screw that.”
“Well. That’s some pretty adult language for a 12 year old, isn’t it?” The producer laughed nervously. “That’s not something that you’re going to say out in public. It’s in your contract to keep up a good image in your personal life.”
“Trust me, I’ll make sure she’s squeaky clean. You don’t need to worry about that. ” my mom said. “What should we change her name to?”
My professional name was changed to Birdie Leigh.
“Get it? Like a Song Bird.” The producer smiled. I could tell he had those teeth whitened. So white they were almost blue. “It’ll be great. The kids will love it.”
And so, I changed from Fiona Bern to Birdie Leigh. I went from sweatshirts and jeans to all pink, all the time. They even went so far as to get blue contacts to cover the green of my irises.
The show was an instant success. Think Saturday Night Live for the preteen crowd. Sketch comedy, guest performances, me singing and dancing and charming the socks off America. They loved me. And I, in turn, began hating them. It was for them, the fans, that I had to live this life. I couldn’t go anywhere without being mobbed by screaming kids or flashing cameras.
But my mom couldn’t get enough of the money. So I kept playing the blonde haired, blue eyed circus monkey.
It was too fast a life. Photo shoots, promotional engagements, filming of episodes, recording songs, mall appearances. Sleep in the hair and make-up chair. Sleep in the dressing room. Catch a nap on the bus or the plane. And there were no summers off. Summer was when movies were made. Birdie Leigh did a movie a year. Sometimes two.
Live performances, awards shows, talk shows.
“Flirt it up with them hosts on the late shows,” my mom said. “But not so much they think you’re loose. Naw. Just enough to flatter them. Make they think you got a school-girl crush on them. At least pretend to be innocent.”
I made it six years on “The Birdie Leigh Show”. Only 10 shows to film. Then I’d be free. The ad spots for the finale were ridiculous. “We watched her grow up. Now we have to let her fly into adulthood.”
I’m not kidding you. That was the producer’s idea. You should have seen the tears in his eyes when he told us about it. It made me want to kick him in the face.
“Isn’t that beautiful?” he asked.
“I can’t wait for this show to die,” I said. “Then I can just go on with my life. I want to be Fiona again.”
“But, Birdie,” my mom said. Even she couldn’t remember who I was before. “America don’t know you as Fiona. We gotta keep up this image or else you ain’t gonna get work around here.”
All I could think of was how to dye my hair back to dark brown, throw out the stupid contacts and return to being Fiona. Oh. And sleep. The thought of sleep depressed me. How long since I’d slept in my bed? I couldn’t remember.
We finished filming the show. The finale was huge. An hour of me pretending that I was heartbroken. They showed clips from the 6 years. I was supposed to tear up. It was actually written into the script. I seriously considered vomiting when the rest of the cast saying “Wind Beneath My Wings” to me.
“Fly, fly, fly, Birdie! We’ll watch you fly so high!” they sang. Awful.
The after party was packed with celebrities. And, of course, everything was pink. No alcohol, but there sure was a lot of pink lemonade. The CD I released a month before blasted through the sound system. It was one of the worst collections of music ever made. A mish mash of styles, none of which I liked to sing. Music mass produced just to sell, sell, sell. And it did.
Everyone at the party was falling over themselves to talk to me. Tell me how great I was. How much they’d miss my show.
A man approached me. He had a suit even nicer than the producer’s. His teeth, somehow whiter.
“We’d like to make you an offer,” he said into my ear, pushing his card into my hand. “We can take Birdie Leigh to new heights. Call me.”
Then a woman came to me. “You’re going to need some serious representation,” she said. “I’ll fight for more money, more fame for Birdie Leigh.”
The room got really hot, started spinning a little. Agents and producers and directors came to me, one by one. But, no, not to me. To Birdie Leigh. Nobody wanted Fiona Bern, that brooding girl with the pretty voice. They only wanted Birdie Leigh, that bubbly girl with the winning smile.
I realized talent had nothing to do with it. How did it take that long for me to realize it?
The last person to approach me was a girl, about a year or two older than me. I recognized her from somewhere. But couldn’t put my finger on it.
“Hey,” she said. “I know what you’re going through. Seriously.”
“Yeah?” I said. “What would you know about it?”
“Remember Ramona Rae?”
“Oh, yeah. Sure I do. The tap dancing show, right?”
“Yup. That was me.”
“Hey, nice to meet you, Ramona. I miss watching your show.”
She smiled. But it wasn’t a happy or kind smile. More of a sneering smile. “Yeah. It got cancelled. Something about my public image being ruined when I got a tattoo.”
“That’s too bad.” But was it bad? She was still around, going to parties.
“Listen, I know it’s hard to live out here. Why don’t you come with me and my friends after this party cools off. We’ll have some real fun.”
“I’ll have to ask…”
“You don’t have to ask anybody, Fiona.”
She used my real name. I would have followed her anywhere.
“Just meet us outside in half an hour. We’ve got a party bus.” She slipped a small bag into my hand. “Until then, this’ll help you get through the rest of this.”
“What is it?”
“Just a little hyper pill. Don’t worry, it’s totally safe. Take it with a little lemonade. It’ll make the rest of this party go faster.”
She was right. I giggled and tripped my way through the rest of the party. Half an hour later I walked out and into a bus full of people. All around my age. They passed around drinks. They passed around a joint. I didn’t refuse.
And someone flashed pictures all evening long.
I didn’t know what I was doing. Still couldn’t tell you what happened that night. There are fuzzy bits of memory.
But I woke up at home the next morning, still in my clothes, with a bloody knee and throbbing head.
The phone rang. It was the producer.
“Birdie, what did you do?” he asked. No, yelled.
“Chill out. Seriously.”
“All that we worked for, Birdie. It’s all gone.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Get to my office. I’ll send a car.”
“I just woke up.”
“Oh, I’m sure. You didn’t happen to check Facebook yet, did you?”
“We have a problem.”
(to be continued)