Britain’s Got Talent! Long running TV talent show where acts get slated ahem judged by Simon Cowell and various other famous folks. The prize is to perform at the Royal Variety Show for the Queen. Every year, thousands of hopefuls queue up around the country for the chance to audition for the show, and anyone can audition.
What they don’t make massively public is that there are teams of people on BGT whose job it is to solicit acts outside of the audition process that you see on the show. These people contact hundreds of existing performers and invite them to audition, often giving them “special” privileges like no waiting time and even providing their props for them. Why do they do this, you ask? Well, it is because they need to make sure that there are certain types of acts on the show that will make it interesting. Anyone who has ever worked in TV will tell you that nothing is left to chance, and the acts that get shown on BGT are no exception. They want funny, sexy, controversial, potential winners. They want the ones that will get mocked by the public for being awful, they want the ones that the judges can be really mean to. That is what makes good TV, apparently.
How do I know this? Because for a few years they have been head hunting me, and many of my performer colleagues, to go on the show. Last year and this year in particular, I have been heavily encouraged to take part. They wanted me to do my Giant Trampoline Striptease, I would not have had to wait around, and they were going to provide the trampoline for me, so I didn’t have to lug it around.
So am I going to do it? I was really in two minds for a while, and my thought processes went as follows:
– Its a random and possibly fun thing to do
-It offers exposure to a wider audience
– You never know what doors could be opened by taking an opportunity
Cons to consider
– WHY have they head-hunted you? What role will you fill (person people will love/hate/mock/be offended by?)
– Even if you get through, where can it really go from there?
– No matter how popular you might be, you WILL get slated by the public, online and probably elsewhere. Can you handle this?
– The show is not held in high regard within the actual performance world; will you actually be lowering your credibility by going on it?
– Why should you hold yourself up for judgement to a guy who enjoys acting like a tosser (Cowell or similar bad guy character) who knows little about what you do?
– The contract they make you sign is immense, they totally own you, and it really got my back up when I read it. Like signing away your soul, it was!
So there are more cons than pros, but that doesn’t mean the cons necessarily outweigh the pros. If it went well, it could be great. I spoke to other burlesque ladies who had been on the show and did not find anyone who did not experience a reasonable amount of negativity because of it (as well as some positives), or a burlesque lady who wasn’t attacked for the way she looked, and her general worth (cos strippers be bad, yo, and confident women? They deserve to be torn a new one online).Here are some comments I found about a singer on BGT- NOT a burlesque performer!
“This is plain disgusting, bad singing and she’s fat. This girl looked like a prostitute/stripper instead of a sexy entertainer.”
“What a slut”
“i want to stick my cock in her anus”
“she is prostitute.if she is not she will not do that”
Brilliant, right? And even when I have seen women complimented for being hot, its been in an annoying slightly pervy “we validate your hotness, you are deemed worthy” kind of way.
The girl from the show wanted to reassure me about this kind of thing, and whilst she was very nice, she was SOOOO positive, SOOOO flattering, SOOOOO adamant about how much they wanted me for the show because I am brilliant and they love me and I am unique…. To be honest, all this made me more suspicious. Obviously somewhere they have learned that creative folks and wannabes crave adulation and praise (don’t know where they got that idea ho ho ho) so they pile it on. But I don’t like that shit, it makes me uncomfortable, and I have a pretty darn realistic idea of how fabulous and unique and brilliant I am- and am not. So why are they so OTT? Why do they really want me on the show?
Yes, this sounds a bit paranoid, but does it really? Maybe they saw something in me that I don’t, maybe they did think I would be great etc, but realistically, I don’t think so. The show has a history of humiliating people for entertainment value, so maybe its not paranoid, but wise to consider this stuff, if you are not particularly thick-skinned (which I am not). And even if it did go well and the intentions were good, the show can’t control the public and the inevitable unpleasantness.
Anyway, after much pondering, I decided not to do it. These are my reasons.
1.I won’t trade dignity for fame, and I think this is clearly a risk with BGT, in fact it seems to thrive on it.
2.I don’t have any family friendly acts beyond the trampoline so it couldn’t go anywhere anyway.
3.As much as I would love to do the Royal Variety Show, I don’t feel its likely, because I am not good enough.
3. I am soft and couldn’t handle the degree of slating and fat/ginger shaming I would no doubt incur from the wonderful British public. And also I don’t need to invite that crap into my life.
4. I don’t believe in competitions that confer short lived and often ill-founded status. I want to succeed because I am damn good and have worked hard at it.
5.I object morally and ethically to the way some people are treated on that show.
6. Simon Cowell and that ilk actively decide to humiliate others for their own gain. Not cool.
7.I don’t think burlesque translates well in that environment; the audience probably wont “get it” and it loses its impact.
So looking at all those reasons I am not sure why I pondered so long about it. I know that others have been on it and done well, got something out of it. I suppose I believe in grasping opportunity when it is offered, but in this case I just had to realise that this opportunity was probably actually a trojan-horse filled with rich TV execs looking to exploit people for TV ratings.
Obligatory Anti-the Hump Disclaimer:
In this blog I am not talking about anyone else’s choices but my own, because everyone is different in terms of goals and outlook. The burlesquers I know who have already been on BGT handled themselves brilliantly. It takes a lot of balls to do something like that show. If you want to go on BGT, have at it.