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My Oprah Casting Call (Part 4)

Suddenly, groups start getting taken by “casting agents” who are, at most, 25 years old. I watch as they cram 15 people and the casting agent into a tent, and then each person stands up and gives his or her pitch.  

I see Kellie’s group go and send out some good vibes that she will do well.

Eunice, the woman in curlers and a scarf, continues to look nervous. “My friend went to get something I need,” she says, “What if they don’t let her back in?”  

I assure her that they will, not really knowing if that is the case, but hoping it is. 

Sure enough, moments later, her friend shows up with a painting in her hands. I look at it and see an artist’s rendering of Eunice in the middle, two strapping African-American guys on each side of her, a listing of a bunch of TV networks at the bottom, and - perhaps most startling - Oprah above, with big, angel wings sticking out of her back. 

“It’s my vision,” she says, smiling.

It’s something, I think to myself. It reminds me of a graffiti artist’s version of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper.

The group in front of us gets taken, and my nerves are feeling totally rattled now. Del and Dwayne are continuing to prattle on at each other and at me, and I cannot, for the life of me, get a moment to think.

As we move up, I run into a blond girl who had brazenly jumped the line several times to get to the front now crouched down trying to complete her application. I am dumbfounded - who goes to the trouble of possibly getting beaten by other competitors by blatantly jumping the line, but comes to the competition without her application finished?

She looks up and says to go ahead of her - she’s still not done.

An unnaturally skinny “casting agent” who is maybe 25 years old comes to get our group, and we head to our “Tent of Fate.” She instructs us to sit down in a chair and I end up beside a beautiful African-American lady so full-figured that I have perhaps half a chair to sit on. I squeeze in and try to collect myself and get ready.

Our casting agent tells us that we will each have “no more than 45 seconds” - and that she has a timer and, “to be fair, will stop us at exactly that time.” 

“And really, guys,” she says with authority, “If you can’t explain your show idea in 45 seconds, it’s not a good show idea.”

Of course, we are not just pitching the show, we must also tell her about ourselves and convince her that we are the right candidate in that time, but from that moment on, all I can think about is that I want to make my best impression and not have her have to stop me, which I am now figuring is the kiss of death. 

She also tells us in a very dismissive way that if we have brought any “chotchkies” with us that we must give them to her with our application. I glance down at my carefully prepared media kit. The little voice says, “You see? They do not even care if you have documentation to show that you have any experience - it’s all a bunch of chotchkies to them.”

I glance around and realize that they are not taping the auditions at all, and I begin to wonder how in the world they are going to remember who is who.

Del is first up and pitches a show he is calling, “The Adventures of the Semi-Impossible.” Honestly, it is a pretty darn good idea, but he immediately tells the casting agent about how many reality shows he has tried out for and I see her shut down. He’s not making the cut.

Dwayne stands up with his video camera, and a tall, distinguished African-American woman on the other side of the tent suddenly speaks up in a freaked-out voice, “You know he has to have permission to video tape us!” 

I sigh and look at her. Oh, jeez. Seriously? Do you know what I have been through for the last two hours, lady? I think you can put up with 5 minutes. 

The casting agent looks exasperated and tells him to put the video camera away.

He does and then launches into a pitch on how he wants to do a show to help the children of the world. It is, in fact, a decent pitch - and shocks me, especially as he SAID he had no pitch at all. 

The lady next to me stands up and pitches - saying something about wanting to be the next Oprah and just have a talk show “because she likes to talk.” 

It’s my turn. I stand up, take a deep breath, and hand the “casting agent” my application. Now, it should be said that I printed off the answers that I had to fill out online for the video application - all typed out neatly - and attached them to the “Casting Call Application,” which, by the way, is the exact same application. I then went through the casting call application and made sure everything was synched up properly, signed everything that I was supposed to sign, and put them together.

“Oh, I can’t take that.” She says as she looks at the typed answers. 

“I’m sorry?” I say, a bit flustered.

“I can’t take the typed answers.” She says as she points at them and hands them back to me.

“No, they are the same application. I just typed the answers, that’s all.” I hand them back to her.

She looks at me like she is going to challenge me again, and finally says - pausing for effect between each word, “Oh. Okay. Fine.” She looks and sounds annoyed and I haven’t even started my pitch.

Let me take a moment to tell you that nowhere does it say that you cannot type your answers out - AND - that I followed every rule to the letter, when others have not and no one has called them on it. For instance, it specifically says “no logos, branding, or anything else identifiable as your brand in the videos.” So, I did not mention the name of my company, my book, or anything else. However, dozens of videos have done just that and are not being disqualified by the OWN team.

And now, I am being challenged because I typed my answers? Sigh.

So, now completely flustered, I manage to spit out 45 seconds about myself, my experience, and my idea, cutting myself off to make sure I don’t go over my time.

I sit down and almost burst out in tears. This entire morning - and all of this preparation - came down to 45 seconds with one 25-year-old “casting agent” who never asked a single question to find out more? I also have the absolute, certain knowledge that I am not getting a call back - not because I didn’t do well, but because nothing about this process is set up to find experts - they are looking for dramatic reality-show personalities, not people with a resume and a heart that wants to help people.

This certainty is confirmed with what happens next. The African-American guy sitting next to me stands up and starts his very energetic pitch. He’s dressed quite nicely in a blue button-down shirt and tie, when suddenly, he rips it off. Now, when I say “rips it off” I mean Chippendales-style, button-flies-past-my-nose rips it off. This effort reveals a workout shirt. He talks for a few more seconds and rips that off, revealing a tank top. He throws on oven mitts with a flourish and yells that his show will also include healthy cooking.

With all this disrobing he has definitely gone over time, but no one has stopped him. I look at the “casting agent” and see her write, “yes” on his form. The stripper is getting a call back.

The distinguished black woman stands up and pitches - she’s a medical doctor and dry as a late season Chardonnay. I see the “casting agent” write “No” on hers.

The fritzed-out Pink Lady gets up and speaks about breaking her toe and having had cancer, and that she wants to do a show with all the questions that you scream at the TV wishing someone asked. “You know those questions?” She says, “I will ask them.” How she is going to know those questions, I am not sure, but hey, semantics. She finishes by saying that she “knows all the answers to everything and is happy to tell anyone about it.” She has rambled on for at least 2 erratic minutes without anyone stopping her.

I am getting more and more annoyed. So, here I have an actual resume and a track record of helping people with what I do and get 45 seconds, but an unhinged woman with absolutely no experience gets 2 minutes? This competition is getting more insane by the second. My little voice says, “I told you so.” 

A pretty African-American girl in a beautiful cocktail dress stands up and says she wants to do a show about living on a budget (she made her dress) and then shows us a move that is supposed to “firm your booty” but looks more like something you would do going down the line on Soul Train. She’s gone on for a good minute and a half. She gets a “yes” from the “casting agent.”

A full-figured, impeccably dressed African-American woman gets up and says she is “fat and fabulous” and is the next Star Jones. She gets a “yes.” 

Next: Part 5, The howling of "Shy Girl"