In my hallway I have a framed copy of the time my picture was on the front cover of a newspaper. A huge photo of me under the headline: ‘I WILL BE FAMOUS!’ I keep it in the hall so that I can see it every time I walk past and be inspired. It reminds me of just how far I’ve come.
I always knew I was destined to shine, ever since my first stage appearance when I was in the nativity play at St Bernadette’s Roman Catholic Infants when I was five. There was me, third star from the left in my blue oufit and tinsel head-dress, beaming proudly at every camera I could see. Talk about star quality – excuse the pun. I sang my heart out!
My first television appearance wasn’t perhaps such a proud moment, but I like to think it taught me a lot about how I should behave. I can see now that shouting at the judges: ‘You’re all wrong! I will have a hit record and I will be famous before I’m twenty-one!’, followed by flinging the microphone into the auditorium, and then running off the stage to accompanying jeers and catcalls from the audience wasn’t my best work.
I’d had every intention of being calm and gracious in the face of possible criticism; but a combination of lack of sleep, and emptying the mini-bar the night before is probably not the ideal preparation for an important audition. It was just the way that not even one of the judges looked up as the four buzzers went off. Surely I wasn’t that bad? It had taken me ages to make my stage outfit spray painting an old wedding dress that I got in a charity shop.
Still as I said, it made me do a lot of growing up. I realised that nobody would pay to listen to the obnoxious little madam I was turning into, so I turned things round. I worked hard at my lessons and even harder at my music. After finishing school I managed to get some regular work singing at a club near where I lived. Just a few show tunes, requests, some current stuff. They even let me do the odd one of my own. In fact just to show that there were no hard feelings I even wrote a song called ‘I will be famous!’ Showing that I could laugh at myself. Life was improving all the time and I still dreamed of hitting the big time. I knew my efforts would be rewarded one day.
Working in a club was fun – and challenging; but it didn’t pay the bills, so I had to work in my local supermarket on the tills, and shelf-filling on the nights I wasn’t singing. Pale blue nylon is not the most flattering material for a uniform and it always made me look short and dumpy. If I wasn’t filling shelves that night, I wore my lovely blue platforms. Height and glamour all in one – very convenient!
Then one day my life finally changed!
I was sitting at my till, humming one of my songs when a couple of women walked in. I thought I noticed them looking over and saying something, so I smiled as modestly as I could while getting quietly excited that this could be my moment. You hear about people getting spotted by talent scouts all the time! I continued singing – not so loud that I upset my manager of course; as the two women worked their way to the front of my queue.
‘That was really great! Could you sing that again?’ They asked, holding a phone up. What else could I do? Shaking my fringe out of my eyes and gazing straight at my adoring public; I sang my heart out!
‘See what I mean? I said it was her!’ said the one holding the phone. ‘That loser who yelled at everyone, and threw a strop on the telly; I told you she worked here! We need to upload this, it should get even more hits on YouTube than her last appearance!’
Mammy always said ‘Mary Elizabeth your temper will get you into terrible trouble one of these days!’
Well, for once she was right; because I grabbed that stupid woman by her extensions, then whacked her so hard that she spun round and her eyes nearly popped out of her head!
So that was how I found myself in court the week before my twenty-first birthday. The local press couldn’t resist the head line over a picture of me and the other woman from the CCTV, rolling around on the floor throwing punches and kicks. My shoes looked really good though. Underneath it, there was a sarcastic little piece quoting my comment that I’d be famous and have a record before I was twenty-one. Ha Ha. I suppose I should be grateful that I only got a fine. I decided then that being famous wasn’t for me after all.
As I say, that picture on my wall reminds me of just how far I’ve come.