Dream A Little Dream – Part One

On October 16th I auditioned to be the “Dating and Relationship Expert” on The Marilyn Denis Show (www.marilyn.ca), which airs beginning in January 2011.  It has proven to be a memorable , unique and exciting experience and one that I believe is worth sharing.

On Saturday, October 2nd my cousin, Cara, sent me a message suggesting that I audition to be the dating and relationship expert on the new Marilyn Denis show.  Given that this was the first I was hearing about it, my initial reaction, and response, went something like this:  “I’m a single divorcée, what the _____ do I know about dating and relationships???”.  To which Cara replied:  “Elana (Cara’s sister) and I think you’d be perfect for it”.  I thought to myself:  “Oh, well, ok, I guess that settles that!!!”. Ummmm…NOT.  

Later that evening, I went to the website which Cara had been kind enough to provide with her original suggestion.  Here is part of what I read:  “We’re assembling the most fun aficionados in lifestyle and beyond. Be it fashion or finance, dating and relationships, cooking, gardening, technology, fitness, health, or home décor, and are looking for people who make any one of these topics their passionate preoccupation, to appear regularly on the show.”  Hmmmmmm, passionate preoccupation?  Well, that was definitely one way of describing my interest in dating and relationships, and sounded much better than “obsession”.   This quote from the Executive Producer is what inspired me:  “We expect a combination of those with television experience and enthusiastic newcomers to show us their skills. In the end, anyone from your accountant to your aesthetician could make the cut.  We would love it if some fabulous elementary school teacher walked through our doors to reveal that they were a fierce fashionista and ended up making a name for themselves on the program.”  I thought to myself – “how much more dichotomous could you get than a corporate executive by day (on hiatus), dating and relationship expert by night?”.  OK…maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea after all…

Except, the whole thing seemed like a lot of work – headshots were expected.  I didn’t have any…lying around.  Seriously…I’d have to get headshots…which would require finding a photographer…who didn’t want to charge me hundreds of dollars for the full, studio experience.  I really just needed one picture.  I would also need to prepare a demo reel if I wanted to apply online.  How would I go about that?  Who could I call on to be my videographer?  What would I say?  I’d want to be creative, obviously.  My résumé would need to be printed.  There were online questions to script answers to.  Oh, and the stress of what to wear.  Maybe this was too much work?  Maybe I should just concentrate on my job search.  Or my business plan.  The more I thought about what would need to happen for me to feel prepared, the more the whole idea stressed me out.  It did, interestingly, energize me simultaneously.  More than anything had since I had stopped working.  And, if I say that I did NOT romanticize what this might lead to, what could happen, in the most dramatic of ways, I would be lying.

But should I audition in person or online?  There seemed to be pros and cons for both.  If I audition in person, what will happen?  How many people will I be auditioning for?  Will the other people auditioning be watching my audition?  Will they ask me questions or do I need to prepare a song and dance.  And, if the latter…literally?  Would I be asked to sing or dance?  If I opted for the online route…what would I do for my demo reel and would I have as good a chance of being considered?  I quickly realized that this was potentially a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a possible passageway into so many of the avenues I aspired to – launching my matchmaking business, ultimately dethroning Ms. Patti Stanger, the Millionaire Matchmaker (just kidding Patti, in case you’re Googling yourself…but you really should’ve answered my Facebook message! :-) ), popularizing www.gogoodguy.com and becoming a media personality.  OK, fine, I’ll do it.  I mean, I had to do it!!!  I didn’t really have any excuse not to.  After all, I wasn’t working.   So, I officially made the decision on October 6th that this was, in fact, a great idea.

This left me ten days to prepare.  I decided that auditioning in person was my best shot.  I didn’t think I’d be as natural in front of just a camera as I would be if I had a real, live human to interact with.  Not knowing what to expect and not wanting to discuss with too many people (I didn’t want to jinx anything), I called the number provided on the website and left a horrible, rambling message.  They never called me back and I prayed that they didn’t make note of my name.  :-)

Cara and I started working on concepts for a “business card” to leave behind with the requisite headshot and résumé.  She also put me in touch with a photographer friend of hers…Sari Slatter from Photographic Footprints.  Sari graciously fit me in under exceptionally short notice and we had a “photoshoot” in my home on Wednesday, October 13th.  Pictures are up on Facebook, if you’re interested.  The rest of the week was spent getting organized:  picking up headshots, printing résumés and business cards, creating a “marketing” package to leave behind with the producers (thanks to Sandra and Nicky at Paper Grafix), identifying wardrobe options and ultimately selecting the “perfect” outfit and accessories (special thanks to my friend Staci),  preparing and rehearsing answers to the online questionnaire, meditating, exercising and sleeping.

Fast-forward to Saturday, October 16th.  THE BIG DAY.  I went to Voulez Beauty Boutique at 8:30 a.m. to get “beautified”.  I was 60% excited, 30% nervous and 10% still sleeping.  I am NOT a morning person.  At 9:15 a.m. I was glamorous and ready to go.  Sweet Visnja (the salon owner and my close friend) had prepared a care package consisting of an apple, banana bread, granola bar and napkins and tried to wrap me in a bright-coloured pashmina (Visnja is typically my personal stylist but wasn’t available for the initial wardrobe consultation – thankfully my friend Staci was).  Visnja was so clearly overcompensating and  I so foolishly refused her offer (I don’t like wearing pashminas in the best of the times and was already wearing a cowl-neck dress – too much around the neck).  Little did I know I was about to freeze for the balance of the day….

So, I arrived at John and Richmond at 9:30 a.m.  There had been mixed opinions on when I should arrive.  I’m glad I didn’t listen to the people who suggested I go *later* in the day.  My instinct was to be there for 6:00 a.m., anticipating an American Idol turnout, however, I had been advised against it.  The eventual plan was to arrive for 10:00 a.m.  The website did say that auditions would run from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. so arriving *on time* seemed like a safe enough bet.  As I pulled into the parking lot, I observed an already well-formed line-up.  For those of you who know Toronto’s downtown core, the line-up started somewhere on Queen Street in front of the former MuchMusic building (now CTV’s property), extended west to John Street, south down John Street to Richmond Street and east on Richmond Street almost to Duncan Street.  That is where I joined the line.  It didn’t seem too intimidating and I was OK with my position in line.  I overheard someone of authority tell others in line that all those who showed up before 5:00 p.m. would be seen.  I also overheard the same said authority indicate that there was already – at 9:45 a.m. – a bigger turnout than the CTV crew had anticipated.  I immediately made friends with three lovely ladies – two in front of me and one behind me.  Liz, Roz and Sarah respectively.  Liz was there also for the “relationships” category but was more focused on the relationship we have with ourselves rather than on romantic relationships.  Phew!!!!  Roz was a “colour” expert and, therefore, fit somewhere in the “décor” category and Sarah was also auditioning for the “décor” category, specializing in children’s decor.  Turned out that Roz, Sarah and I are all Leos and, in true Leo form, loved that about each other.

Energy levels were high.  The sun was shining on Richmond Street and a fire truck had pulled up and parked alongside us (for protection?).  CTV security was in full effect, information sheets were being passed around, and so were bottles of water and hot chocolate.  The line kept growing.  While on Richmond Street, this is what I learned from Sarah – who DID get a call back from the show hotline (I wondered if her message was more articulate than mine???):

  • We would each have a five minute one-on-one with a producer
  • There would be no cameras
  • There would be call-backs

It had never occurred to me before this learning that today could be the beginning of a process.  I believe that I had been more focused on getting to the audition in one piece, with everything I needed, rather than on the audition itself and how it might all unfold.

Still on Richmond Street, this is what was learned from a CTV representative:

  • Everything Sarah had been told was true
  • There were four “tents” meaning that four auditions would be taking place at once.  **We didn’t realize yet that the tents were outside in the parking lot**
  • We all had to complete the online questionnaire, even if we were auditioning in person, which (obviously?) we were.  Oops…I hadn’t done that.
  • If you had completed the online questionnaire already (which Sarah had) and you didn’t have it with you (which Sarah didn’t), it would have to be filled out again.
  • CTV representatives would be coming around with questionnaires and release forms shortly.

At around 11:15 a.m. we turned our first corner and were now on John Street.  Mixed feelings.  Progress was good but uh oh…no more sun.  Damn, it was C-O-L-D!!!!  Oh Visnja, you were right!!!!!!  I should’ve listened to you.  Where was that pashmina now???  I was FREEZING, and this from the woman who NEVER gets cold and sleeps with her windows open all winter.  Shortly after, the questionnaires – each of which had a number assigned – were passed around.  Attached was the release form.  I remember it was long – maybe four pages – and am hoping that by blogging about this I am not in violation of any of the many terms outlined in the release form.  I did start to read the release form but it seemed more applicable to those with existing television experience and/or engagements, so I moved on.

More information was acquired:

  • Once we had a number assigned we could leave the line and come back.  I was assigned number 350.
  • We would not be seen by the producers if we did not complete the questionnaire.
  • We were encouraged to “just do point form” so that the producers had just enough information to guide their questions
  • We were told to hold on to our completed forms

With frozen fingers and blue lips, I rushed through the completion of my form.  I thought I was clever in my responses – giving enough information to be enticing but not elaborating too much, in order to force probing questions on the producer’s part.  For example, my answer to “What is the most creative thing you’ve ever conceptualized and executed and what made it creative?” was “My divorce.  Just kidding.  I facilitated a ‘one night stand’ for 17 strangers”.  Now, out of context that could have worked against me, however, with the opportunity to elaborate, it’s a relevant story…I helped a then-stranger, now-acquaintance (hi Hayley!) organize a charity event that brought together 17 “closet performers” who previously did not know each other, to perform comedy, singing and poetry readings.  The event was called One Night Stand.

The John Street stretch was the toughest.  Although I was smart enough not to wear my 5″ stilettos, I was still in a heel and I think that unless I was in Uggs or Fit Flops, it wouldn’t have made a difference.  My feet were killing.  My lower back was stiff.  My fingers were tingling and I hadn’t eaten yet.  I had been so afraid to eat up until that point for fear of having to run to the bathroom.  Sarah,  Roz and I spent a lot of time doing really bad math.  OK…four auditions going at once.  There are 350ish people ahead of us.  That means that there are about 90 “shifts” at 5 minutes each for a total of 450 minutes.  Which is about 7+ hours.  OK.  Great.  We should be seen by 5:00 p.m.  This realization was disheartening and comforting all at the same time.  Disheartening because that meant we still had more than five hours to go.  Comforting because it meant we could take bio, food and defrosting breaks with no fear of losing our place in line or missing our audition.  And that’s what we did.  We made more friends and our little group grew.  There was Kathryn from Waterloo (or Guelph?) who was also auditioning for “relationships” with a focus on being “40 and Fab”.  She was a riot.  Wish I had brought my camera.  There was Eryn-Faye, the young and hip sex therapist, a.k.a. Canada’s Passion Coach (trademarked and all).  There was Lea, the like, OMG, valley girl Interior Decorator from Mississauga.  A stunning, outgoing, bubbly ball of energy and SUCH A TRIP.  Loved that girl!!!

We turned the corner on to Queen Street around 2:45 p.m. I think.  I don’t remember exactly.  The home stretch.  I had broken the seal after deciding that hydration was necessary, so made my third trip to The Second Cup bathroom once I realized that just because we were on Queen Street didn’t mean we were being seen any time soon.  As I returned, I spotted this petite woman holding Liz’s questionnaire and “interviewing” her.  My heart started racing.  I had just finished telling Sarah and Roz that if I were the producers, I’d have someone in line pre-screening people because that’s what American Idol seemed to do (and for me, apparently, it’s all about the American Idol experience).  BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR.  When she was done with Liz I asked if she was speaking with everyone and she said yes.   I told her that I had been in the loo and that when she was ready, so was I.  B.S.  SO NERVOUS.  Not prepared!!!!  She spoke to two other women in front of me (who were both there for “relationships”.  Darn!  Where did all of these relationship people come from all of a sudden?!?!) and then turned to me, took my form and asked me what I was auditioning for and what made me an expert.  Whatever ended up coming out of my mouth felt natural and I loved how she (Michelle) was reacting to me.  She LOVED my website idea (www.gogoodguy.com).  She wrote the number “1″ under the number 350 on my form and moved on.  Lea, who had been listening, said she loved listening to me speak, from the moment I opened my mouth, and then everyone else started commenting on what a great job I did and how confident and articulate I sounded.  YAY!  I felt great.  Pumped!  Ready!  Let’s DO this!  And what did the # 1 mean?  Nobody else in my circle got a “1”…even those also there for “relationships”.  We couldn’t figure out the numbering system. We were later told that it referred to categories (which made no sense because Sarah and Roz, who were both “decor”, received different numbers) and we were also told it referred to the producer we would eventually see, which also made no sense because the numbers went up to nine and, to that point, there had only been four producers (or judges as I kept calling them.  I really think I secretly hoped that I would get to the tents and be escorted directly to Simon Cowell for a private audition).  Whatever.

Around 3:30 p.m., we learned the following:

  • They were not moving through the line fast enough and had just added two additional cameras
  • Oh yeah, there WERE cameras (SH*T!) in each tent and now two stand-alone cameras in blocked-off areas of the parking lot
  • We would only have one minute to say why we should be selected and what our ideas were for the segments we would do
  • They were stopping the line at 800 (they had about 1000 people show up in total).  Everyone up until # 800 WOULD be seen that day.
  • They received 1000 online applications

I was seen – finally – around 4:30 p.m. by John.  He asked me to stand on the “X” on the pavement and look into the camera, stating my name, my number (not my phone number, the number on my questionnaire) and that I was the dating expert.  I said: “Hi, I’m Stacie Ikka.  I’m number 350 and I’m the dating, relationship and love expert” (haha, makes me laugh every time I say it).  Then he asked me to look into the camera and not at him and say why they should pick me and what I would want the first segment to be.  I think I knocked it out of the park for the first 20 seconds.  I’m fairly confident that seconds 21-40 were a train wreck…I don’t even remember what I said but know I stuttered and fumbled…and seconds 41-60 were mediocre.  When I was done he asked me if I had any professional training.  In what????  Dating and relationships?  Ummmm, no but if you know of any courses I can take, tell me and I’ll sign up?!?  I said “no, not formally but I live it every day”.  He asked me why I want to start a matchmaking business and I gave the stupidest, lamest answer. I said “as cliché as it is, I’m in love with love.  It’s my passion in life”.  In hindsight, I could’ve said a million more intelligent, on-point things.  When I asked him how I did, he said I did “good” (Hmmm, that’s not really “good” enough for me.  Hello!!!  Over-achiever over here!).  He also said that I was very articulate.  Really?  I beg to differ….

And that was that.  Two weeks and seven hours of anticipation all “gone in 60 seconds”.  I was very emotional as I left, with Sarah.  If she hadn’t been there, I probably would’ve cried.  It felt similar to how I felt after crossing the finish line of my first 5km race.  A mixture of relief, exhilaration, disappointment, exhaustion and nervous energy dissipating.  They only contact those who they want to see again and he couldn’t tell me when those lucky people would be hearing back.  He did say it was going to take a long time to go through all of the applications.  The Monday after the audition – when I first wrote this blog in the form of an e-mail update to my friends – I said the following:  To be honest, at this point, I don’t care what happens.  Truthfully.  I thought I might, but I don’t.  I’m proud of myself for doing this and I feel that I did the best with the information that I had.  I am not expecting or hoping to hear back from them.  Whatever will be, will be.  I put my desire for this to happen out there in the universe.  I asked for it.  I believed it.  Now, my life goes on.  What this experience did do for me, for certain, was give me the confidence and push that I needed to go ahead with my matchmaking business.  :)

As of this writing (December 3rd) I have since had a phone interview with another producer, also named John, and a screen test at the CTV studios.  I seem to still be in the running and appear to have made it to the end.  I will blog about those two experiences once I know how this story ends.  :)

Inspiring a Love Movement …