Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Day I Talk About Star-Making Reality TV Shows & The Reality of The Entertainment Business

I've been asked this countless times recently, so I'll just state my stand here clearly today:

I did not join Singapore Idol because I don't want to receive exposure on such a large scale. At least not for now. I've taken part in Campus Superstar last year and was eliminated in the second round due to my "mature" look (yes, remember those little kids who affectionately call me "Uncle"? Apparently, even the adults think so too.)

Reality TV shows that pose as superstardom platforms are all in the rage in Singapore, thanks to the wildly successful first season of our local spinoff of the Idol franchise. It spun out overnight superstars Taufik Batisah, Sylvester Sim, Olinda Cho and the ever loving Maia Lee. It was also the show that jump-started the incubated desire within young people everywhere for instant fame. Thus, other shows similar to the Idol format, like Star Idol, Project Superstar, Campus Superstar, Superhost, Superband, Anugerah, Vassantham Star, which pay tribute to the whole vote-for-your-favourites-if-you-want-them-to-win sure-sell format.

I admit, there was a period of time when I was caught up in the whole quest for fame thing, that's why I joined Campus, but I was thrown back into the reality of the world when I got the boot. You see, in shows like these, there can only be one winner. And the contestants that the public gets to vote for are all handpicked by the judges beforehand, be it that they have talent or not. In this pragmatic world, looks IS everything. Sadly, it was what I lacked. But hey, at least I was given the reality check.


The one thing that many people who join these shows forget is that the fame that comes instantly can also dissipate as quickly. Look at the season one finalists of Idol, for example. Taufik is not-that-hot in Singapore now (but I hear he's quite popular across the Straits and in Brunei) even though he was the first Singapore Idol; Sly has almost completely disappeared into obscurity, and was hardly ever heard of since his mother's run-in with the law; Olinda can be seen in the occasional advertorial spreads in the broadsheet for some slimming centre (but you gotta admit, she did slim down); Maia's debut album was an in-your-face flop. The only person who does seem to have somewhat of a career is Daphne, who's hosting some online subscription-based show about the latest season of Singapore Idol. But that's nothing to shout about. Really.

Here's a quote I got off somewhere on the net about American Idol from Andrew Wallenstein, senior TV reporter for The Hollywood Reporter:

"Pop culture has a short-term memory, and as much as we embrace these people who are great contestants year in and year out, for some reason we forget them two weeks after the show ends. And I think the problem is there is only so much room in our hearts for these big winners."

In Singapore Idol's case, it's even worse cos the winners (aka Final Two) don't even seem to have a place in our hearts anymore. Sad as it may seem, it is the reality of fame gained by reality tv shows.

In the field of reality television, with each new season, new contestants gain their fifteen minutes of fame, while the participants of the previous seasons take a back-seat and in worse cases, disappear back into obscurity.

So Weilian, Kelly, Junyang, Sihuey (all four are alums and finalists of Channel U's Project Superstar with record deals), better make your kill fast and furious because when the next season comes, it's most likely"we love you" to the new "superstars" and "ta-ta!" to you.


For those who yearn fame and the supposed fortune of celebrityhood, these shows are surely platforms for a career in the industry. However, nothing comes without sacrifices, so before you take your first step in taking part in such "competitions", ask yourself some questions:

  • Is it really worth it to sacrifice your privacy and the privacy of your family (supposing you have one) for the glitter of fame?
  • Are you doing it for the love of your expertise/delusion or just plainly for the sake of becoming famous?
  • Do you have a/an contingency plan should you be unable to make it in the competition?
  • Can you take criticism?
  • Can you accept failure?
If you can't answer yes to all the above questions, then perhaps you're not ready yet.

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