With some reluctance I spent this holiday going down and back to New York for an audition, splitting the trip between the car and a train and a night at my parents’ house. This morning I got into the city with enough time to warm up, and I hustled uptown to the practice room I’d reserved in order to wake up my voice (my audition was before noon) and get myself settled a bit.
I tend to use warm-up rooms as dressing rooms as well, running some scales while I’m layering on more mascara, and sometimes even perching on a piano bench to hoist on some hose. The room I was in today was a little dark, so it is possible I put on way too much makeup, but there was a nice mirror taking up one entire wall that I used to make sure I was presentable.
After sprucing up and warming up, I started running my arias. I took advantage of the mirror, which I don’t always have in my practice spaces, to examine posture, tension, gestures, and the like. I stood across from myself in an expensive dress, fashionable sweater, cute heels, with my hair all fluffy and my face coated in paint. Even as I was singing I heard a voice speak in my ear so clearly that I was surprised not to see my own self saying it in the mirror. It was my own voice in my mind’s ear, and it was looking in the mirror and saying “Who is that?”
My reflection was everything it is supposed to be: pretty, chic, pulled together. I was more than presentable, and yet I’d never felt like more of an imposter in my whole life? I’m wild and spastic and out of touch. I wake up with unimaginably large hair. My clothes are covered with spills and full of tears. I don’t cut an impressive figure. Who was I trying to fool?
Which one of those is the myth? The sloppy spaz who always dressed and acted like a tomboy? The polished performer who has finally figured out how to use eye-makeup? Are neither of them myths? Can I be both?
I’ve written before how easy it is to feel out of place when trying to pass in professional music circles, and what a challenge it is to stay authentic while being your own brand. My guess is this is a challenge for everyone, not just singers or artists – how do we mature without losing who we were?
Is it somehow inauthentic to grow up? How much of a façade can I put up before I lose myself? Why does success make me feel like I am betraying someone?
There’s a photo I keep on my fridge because it reminds me of who I am – silly and wild and intense and honest, with a little food on my face. I need to remember that’s who I always am.