It’s December 10th. St Aidens School, Wishaw, Lanarkshire. X Factor finalist Nicholas McDonald is greeted by hordes of screaming fans. It’s the week before the big TV final, and he is getting an early and intoxicating taste of life as a celebrity.
Cue his return to Glasgow Airport, the Sunday after finals night. There are no fans at the airport to greet him. No screaming. No adulation. Nothing. The fame machine has been switched off.
You would have to be very grounded, prepared and realistic to be able to handle the stark contrast. From adulation to apathy in the space of five days.
When a Roman army returned home after a victorious sortie on foreign soil, alongside the campaign commander, would walk a ‘whisperer’. His job was to keep reminding the commander, as the adoring crowds feted him, by whispering in his ear, ‘you are not a god. You are human’.
It’s the kind of thing that a losing X Factor finalist might find useful to hear. For after the hysteria, what happens next?
You have tasted fame for a few moments. If the experience does not make you needy and desperate for more of this type of attention, then you can place it in context and move on. It may be a relief to live a normal life again. See the exposure as great publicity, that allows you to then slowly build your reputation.
However on the other hand, this acceleration in your popularity may be out of synch with your talent. Thus you end up thinking that you are better than you really are, or expectant that further immediate surges of popularity will be forthcoming.
If receive say, 8/10 levels of adoration on 5/10 talent, then an adoration/talent gap is formed. When that gap is created, it’s easy to lose a sense of who are you, as the seduction of adoration grips you.
You lose sight of the fact that the adoration is a reaction to you as a temporary TV celebrity, rather than your special talent that moves and touches their lives beyond the norm. Knowing in advance that this might happen is important. Being ready for the ‘adoration gap’, means the transition is not such a shock.
Thus having a firm grip on the reality is critical. Coming second on X Factor gurantees nothing. Except that it gives you something to carefully build a career on.
But that might not be so easy. You can suddenly think that you are ‘someone’. And then you wonder where all the support has gone. Support that was there when you were on the show. And this can fuel your bitterness and sense of resentment. Then depression can hold sway, as you fear never touching that kind of special intoxicating feeling again. And of course, you have no idea how to re-create it.
The key of course, is to write about it. Turn the experience into music. Songs about rejection; adoration; loss; disappointment. Universal themes. Whether, as a seventeen year old, you have the emotional development to translate those feelings into themes, is a another matter. But if the critics are expecting you to be a here today gone tomorrow minor celebrity, then its the best way to prove them wrong.