Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

You Go Girl

Maybe it’s because I’m mentally ill myself that I find the behavior of “American Idol’s” contestants perfectly normal. Even if the early audition crowd does suck–if they are “humiliations set to music” (according to a “Washington Post” article)–more power to them for going after their dreams.

“I don’t want to patronize you, but it’s never gonna work for you, darling,” a meanie Simon Cowell told wanna-be singer Jessica Rhodes, bringing her to tears.


Some say she asked for it by showing up. But my imbalanced brain thinks differently.

“Success is 99 percent perspiration and one percent talent,” my business-savvy father told me back when I was unloading Thin Mints as a Brownie Girl Scout. “The only thing that separates the winners from the losers is perseverance.”

Dr. Seuss received 27 rejections before “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” was published; a skinny 5’11” Michael Jordan was cut from his varsity basketball team; Colonel Sanders drove from restaurant to restaurant with his pressure cooker and famous recipe of 11 herbs and spices before he made history with KFC; and didn’t some opinioned jerk tell Katie Couric in her early days that she didn’t have a face for TV?


I sure as heck wasn’t born with the ability to write.

My eighth grade English teacher, Mrs. Kracus, read aloud my essay as an example of how NOT to write. My SAT scores were so low (especially verbal) that I lied about them for 18 years. Any aptitude test I took suggested I pursue a career in math or science. The profile of a writer fit me about as well as Dolly Parton’s bra: an intellectual permanently glued to a book, ready to discuss any classic, from Plato to Hemingway. (God showed mercy on me the day CliffsNotes went to press.)

Oh yes, and my “American Idol” moment, when I asked a professor in grad school to write a letter of recommendation for me. (I was applying for a job as an editor of a Catholic magazine.)


This man of the cloth (a priest), much like cocky Cowell, took me outside in the hall to drop the bomb.

“I’m sorry,” he said, squinting his small brown eyes that shot daggers through my heart. “I can’t do that. It just that you…you don’t use words correctly.”

Had I been on a televised set, I may have responded like Jessica Rhodes.

“No way. Please no, please!”

But that’s not because I’m mentally ill (well not totally). It’s because I had a dream–to become a writer–and I wanted it badly.

Viewers shouldn’t mock the contestants for pursing their dreams on TV. That takes guts. They should fault the judges for their lack of tact and constructive criticism.


“You need to work on your craft, Therese,” a very wise writing mentor told me when he took me under his wing. “And this is how you do it….”

He instructed me to read books on style, take classes, and analyze the technique of writers I respected.

He didn’t sit back in his chair and make fun of me like the arrogant professor I had, like a former boss of mine did, or like the tacky Cowell does. That’s not helpful at all.

Thinking more like my father, my mentor–a seasoned writer and an established publisher–read my essays, took a good look at my character, and came up with a plan. I’d have to apply the 99.5 percent of tenacity in my personality to compensate for the 0.5 percent of skill (and talent) provided in my DNA.


I don’t know. Maybe all dreamers are mentally ill to some extent…because dreams aren’t grounded in reality or logic. If they were, I’d be a math professor or an engineer for NASA (remember, my math and science scores were higher than English), not blogging in the middle of the night about “American Idol’s” poor suckers who just got the punch (the “forget about it” talk) that almost made me drop the pen (and my dream) back in grad school, when I had a few more neurotransmitters to spare.

Poor Jessica may very well visit the psych ward before the this season’s finale. But I’m rooting for her regardless. Because talent doesn’t determine who lives out their dreams. Believe me, I know.

  • http://HASH(0xced8fc0) Marcella

    What a great article! I came across it by chance, but realize that God brought it with intention. I am struggling with some emotional issues after being laid off after more than 23 years working for a nonprofit agency. My heart is broken and my spirit (it seems) for the moment. I can’t even watch American Idol, but agree that it takes GUTS to get out there and what a thrashing most of them get! Thank you for your article.

  • http://HASH(0xcedaf98) Angela

    I totally agree with what this article says. My only problem is, that it’s much easier for me to believe in other people’s dreams, than my own. I am currently struggling to keep a once dead, now reignited dream alive of finishing school. I personally choose not to watch the American Idol show because of the horrible tact that the article refers to the judges as having. In my own life, I have had a million and one ‘American Idol’ moments…it seems…(I always felt like the cool nerd that never really fit in no matter how hard I tried) but I think that I was just trying to find myself through all of that. Now I’m trying to focus, and keep moving forward, but the ‘judges in my head’ sometimes say,’no way’…lol. Anyways…kudos Ms. Borchard!!! You are an inspiration to people like me to stay focused on our dreams.

  • http://HASH(0xcedbf7c) Jennifer

    I’m of two minds on this one. On the one hand, I remember my father telling me I would never ever be able to sing and that a mere hour with a vocal coach would undoubtedly inspire him or her to announce to me my glaring lack of talent. That was crushing, and did much to amplify my burgeoning social anxities. Good for me that I believed in my own potential, because a year, 50-some vocal lessons, and a much improved vocal output later, and this became the only cruel comment (among a host of worthy contendors!) that my father ever actually apologized to me for making. I don’t make much use of the voice nowadays, but I still savor that apology. So I sympthize with the singers and wish that the judges didn’t have to go for tv soundbites and could give them some sound advice instead. I also think some of them are just clearly disengaged from reality, possibly suffering emotionally, even cognitively, and it’s sick sick sick that this is the way we as a culture deal with our odd-balls. It’s like a telivised version of the public humiliation that was junior high school for many of us. On the other hand, though — going for your dream is one thing, when you are willing to actually work for it. Showing up to a casting call after zero voice lessons and zero knowledge of music just to drone out “Don’t Cha” becuase, see, it’s all about /believing/ in yourself strikes me as a very hollow version of self esteem. Really believing in yourself means being willing to commit to working hard to achieve your dreams. Thinking your sense of your own talent, totally untested by real world experience, should launch you into stardom without the least bit of hard labor seems more like believing in magic.

  • http://HASH(0xcedcbf4) sharon

    Mean! Some of those people cannot sing at note. I just laugh and tell the TV to shut up. They need to be told, that they cannot sing, Simon is the best person for that, he speakes his mind and tells them the truth. And if a person wants to be a singer they had better beable to take rejection. Its a great show and it does give a person a chance to see if they have what it takes to be a singer. So I say go Simon, your the best on that show.

  • http://HASH(0xcedcf18) MARILYN MAINES

    We all have opinions and here’s mine: SIMON is ‘why’ American Idol is a success. He tells it like it REALLY is. How could anyone go on this show knowing that they can’t carry a tune which simply means that they CAN’T SING. I’m sure that through their schooling, friends, family that: SOMEONE had to tell them this. These people are the very people that wanted and ‘opinion’ and life is really very simple: They Got It from SIMON. Too, most of them simply want to be on TV knowing they can’t sing. Why waste the contestant’s time after being told by professionals that they simply can’t sing. It’s not the end of the world. They knew prior to getting on American Idol that they couldn’t sing, but wanted a ‘professional’s’ opinion (at least some of them did). Now, they should pick themselves up, brush themselves off and start all over again, but NOT looking for a singing career. This show isn’t just a ‘talent show — It’s a ‘SHOW’. People love to laugh and if someone on American Idol is a bad singer (which most are) it can be hysterical. This show is entertaining, to say the very least. I know that there are phenomenal singers out there and yet, they’re not on this show. Why? No-one can make it in this business without having other qualities as well as being a good singer. They must have good movements, be able to put the song over, have confidence (which should have come from their families early in life), etc., etc., etc. There’s even more to singing than just having a good voice, BUT you need to be able to ‘carry a tune’ at the very least. SIMON saves those that ‘dont’ make it’ on American Idol from believing that the career they are searching for is to become a singer. Do what you do best. Most everyone wants to be a star and to put it simply: EITHER YOU’VE GOT IT OR YOU DONT. SIMON apparently knows talent or he wouldn’t be on this show. I can understand ‘why’ he says the things that he does to ‘horrible singers’. He’s fed up with those with ‘no talent’ (as a singer). Possibly they could have someone pre-screen the ‘good from the bad’ so that so many ‘untalented’ people wouldn’t get the chance to be on TV to only be humiliated when they should have known that they couldn’t sing in the first place. I VOTE FOR SIMON. HE’S HONEST, NOT AFRAID TO DO THE JOB THAT HE WAS HIRED TO DO AND HAS THE GUTS TO DO IT. GOOD FOR YOU, SIMON. KEEP IT UP.

  • http://HASH(0xcede7f0) tonie

    No matter what, life is not fair! Unless you are willing to put in the time and work, you can’t complain when you show up for a tryout without being prepared. Simon may be blunt; but if anyone is truly serious about being a singer, then they also have to realize that they may be facing rejection when they try to market themselves. Such is life!!

  • http://HASH(0xcedf2f0) Beyond Blue

    Having never seen “American Idol,” I only know what I read in the papers. But if SIMON is critically-minded enough, it sounds as if his “put-downs” are needed for some performers who really DON’T know how to sing. As far as 99.9% perspiration is concerned, as a junior in high school, when I heard the announcement that applications for senior class officers were being taken for next year, SOMETHING prompted me to sign up. There had been very few female presidents, and I wasn’t the most popular girl in school. But – I did my “homework.” I asked 2 of the cheerleaders to paint a giant poster, with pirates, zoo animals, and assorted characters to represent the “Motley Crew,” (which incidentally was my maiden name.) Then, I attached lolly-pops to make-shift “pins” saying “Don’t be a sucker – vote for Sue.” The final work was a banner saying “SUEpercalifragilisticexpialidocious” from “Mary Poppins.” I was running against 2 guys who had been class president before. Well, wouldn’t you know it – the day of the announcement of class officers came, and – I WON! I do believe it had not so much to do with my campaigning strategies – just that I split the vote between 2 guys and wound up the victor. And, I had enough friends in all of the cliques to pull ahead. A couple of years later, when i was up for my “dream job,” in Washington, D.C., I knew I had done my “homework.” I had learned how to type fast (121w/p/m), I knew the “right” people politically, and had worked very hard in all political campaigns available. I was between my sophomore and junior year in college. I visited my Senator’s office, where I had volunteered for almost 2 years, and found out the girl who worked for the Legislative Assistant had just quit. I went up to the LA and said I would like to apply. He looked up at me and said, “Manna from Heaven,” but gave me over the weekend for both of us to make up our minds. Monday morning, I heard from him – I had the job! Unfortunately, almost 2 weeks into the job, I had my first “nervous breakdown,” actually, a manic episode, and was hospitalized immediately. Yes, my “dream” was gone, and experts say when your dream dies, you’re dead. I thought so, too, but when you’re mentally ill, you have to expect the unexpected. I would never again be a secretary in the Senate (a dream I’d held since I was 12 years old), but I could pick up the pieces and make a new dream. It can’t be anything as stressful, or in the public eye, but it could be SOMETHING. I married the first time at 36; my husband (7 years younger), died of a massive heart attack at 35. My second husband (19 years older), died the same way. Marilyn says “you’ve got to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.” I’ve had more “start-overs” than I care to admit – losing jobs through breakdowns, etc. – but somehow I always get the “InSPIRation” to go on, do something different, and see how it goes. I, too, have had depressive episodes (just 1, thank God!), but somehow I persevere and get through it. I was a landlady in my 3-story house for almost 30 years, so had to deal with people on a day-by-day basis. Now that I’ve moved to a condo, by myself, I found a lot of time on my hands. I’m now “mystery shopping,” answering paid emails, and doing surveys for cash over the Internet. Of course, there are no “dreams” involved in any of this. I HAVE no “dreams” to speak of, but I AM alive, and that’s the important thing. So – I say to you – dream BIG, or don’t dream at all. The benefits of working hard for something you dream of, are ALWAYS worth it.

  • Grant Schnarr

    One difference between all the hard working people you mention who had to work to make it to the top and those idiots on American Idol — a brain.

  • http://HASH(0xcee100c) anon

    What to say. Some of the people that go on American Idol truly believe in their talent. Although they may not have any, how can anyone put them down for trying. Others are albsolutely clueless and beyond having any talent at all but just show up for the prestige of saying they tried out..What the must be fun for them, the experience and meeting the judges. I wouldn’t mind meeting Cowell myself. Quite a bloke if I must say so myself..Getting back to the point, self esteem is the anwser to this. Confidence in ones self as well. I am not a singer (privately or in church with 400 others only) by any means. But if I was, honestly, I would never go on American Idol. I am way too shy, have no confidence in myself, and so therefore I think as in life, trying for a chance at the prize will give you a win if you believe in yourself. If not, you just sit back and know that God is good and He in His time will answer your dreams, if it is within His will…..

  • http://HASH(0xcee188c) jgee

    This article has ‘articulated’ what I have been keeping to myself about rejection and keeping a balanced ‘psyche’. It’s truly hard to face the fear of being rejected as it is equally difficult to keep your mind’s sanity when you are told “sorry, you just don’t have the talent.” But, after having worked in New York city for quite sometime, I realized that showbiz is really a tough, dog eat dog world if you don’t have talent plus ability. These two combined with passion and commitment to see through yourself finish a job or a difficult task are what it takes to say “if I can make it There, I can make it anywhere.” American Idol is a misleading phrase. I think that the producers should entitle the show as “American Pop Singing Idol” to be more appropriate to its calling. All auditionees are really seeking to be a Pop Idol after all. And not all Pop Idols are American Idol. I would like to think so. Because for me, Barbra Streisand is an American Idol. But definitely not a Pop one! Simon Cowell is living the role of an antagonist in a TV reality show. If we don’t see him as such, then, he really becomes a mean and cruel person. But, I don’t think he is such in real person. Maybe I’m wrong.

  • http://HASH(0xcee1bb0) Patricia

    Bravo! As the mother of a bright daughter who faces the double whammy of Asperger’s Syndrome and Bipolar Disorder, it was wonderful to read about a young lady who challenged what some in society said she could not do and persevered! I am going to hold onto this article for my daughter to read. Actually, my “normal” daughter could learn a thing or two from this!

  • Jorge Rivas

    I like it 80%/85%…although I may have a couple Positive-Observations…in the meantime, just keep going with your good work!! specially speaking out about that Meanie person called Simon & his mouth.

  • http://HASH(0xcee5310) Lori

    Ah American Idol – I love that show for alot of reasons – First off the (most) winners deserve the win (I think Chris Daugherty should have won last year tho) but come on the show is looking for the “one” person with the MOST talent in “singing” most of the people who try out are awful. Sure they could have judges that say nice things like “well, you arent very good but we will let you go on to the next part” or hey why not pick one of the worse ones for the Idol just cause “we feel srry for them or they tried hard” Even tho they dont have the best talent. Thats the problem with America, we dont expect the best anymore from ourselves or others. I think Simon rocks, he has the “balls” to tell it like it is. So what if some dont like the truth, and sometimes he is harsh, but maybe those people needed to have their friends/family to tell them the truth in the first place and then they wouldnt have been set up to get knocked down. Should we be ok with mediocore talent, after all those people when they make it make millions, do you want to really see an “american idol” be just ok.. or really great? Carrie Underwood is awesome, I say the show does us justice and should continue the way it is. When those people get out there they know what there up against. I personally wouldnt watch it if the ones that sucked got treated all nicey nice.. and allowed on to the next round – America needs to be tuff and have only the best of the best rep us in all areas!!! You go Simon, keep up the good work .. and no I cant sing good but I wouldnt go on American Idol unless I wanted the laugh..

  • http://HASH(0xcee6008) Milinda

    I totally agree with the majority of people that Simon could and should have dealt with the two young men in question in a more considerate type of way. We have to also consider that the American Idol show is mainly designed to entertain and they’re lucky whenever a true star is discovered. In the begining of the show, Simon was the only one that was rude to people and he really thought he was funny himself. Maybe that’s just Simon’s personality and he doesn’t see the true harm in insulting people. I’m sure he wouldn’t want one of his relatives to be treat in that manner. However, God is good and it worked out for the best for the two young men because they have received better friends and recognition due to the unfortunately treatment received from Simon.

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