So, I have a confession. All my life, I’ve wanted to be on stage. ALL. MY. LIFE.
I’ve done amateur stuff at various stages of school and actually got admission to study Theatre Arts in university but chose something else
because I felt I was betraying my father by not doing medicine and the compromise in my mind was a more ‘serious’ arts degree: English in the end.
The urge to perform has only died in the last few years, but I don’t know, can dreams die, or are they simply put on hold? Each year I tell myself I should try to go up for character roles or extra roles, take a few community classes or improv classes and/or tap dancing or just fling myself into it…something! (Although I think I am more guarded now, and quite reluctant to visually emote.)
This is the woman who started me on the path. Lydia Grant, aka the dance teacher from the popular Fame film and subsequent TV series, aka the almighty Debbie Allen.
“You’ve got big dreams. You want fame. Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying. In sweat.”
These words till today, have got the ability to induce mania in me. They’re so powerful and can be applied to just about any facet of the creative process. I have the DVDs, the soundtrack was my ringtone for a while and my playlists are full of Fame songs such as ‘High Fidelity’, ‘Starmaker’, ‘Hot Lunch Jam’, ‘Be My Music’ and ‘I Sing The Body Electric’.
From age two till about 14, I wanted to be Lydia Grant.
My sisters and I would perform wall sits until our thighs felt leaden. We’d wear our one-piece swimming suits – lovingly packed for us all the way from obodo oyibo, even though there was nowhere in which to swim – don leg-warmers (ditto) and prance about pretending to be the kids from Fame. Sometimes, we tucked out dresses into the leg bands of our underwear and that worked just as well, although one kept having to stop and re-tuck, particularly after a challenging bit of choreography (for me, the high kicks were murder. I was a plump kid).
I cannot tell you how many times I hurt myself. Once, I slipped on the carpet and banged my bum on the floor so hard, I could have sworn my I compacted my spine. I’m still convinced that is why I am the shortest in my family. I’d hide the injuries because even though my mother encouraged the dreaming, the one thing she did not condone was injury or damage to property. But these were the days before the proliferation of ‘Do not try these at home’ warnings. Besides, who would have listened? Not me. The whole point to Fame was sowing the desire to try it at home.
Long before Lady Gaga came along to popularise the term with her album cover, long before Save The Last Dance and the abomination of the Fame remake (according to the reviews. No true ‘Famecicle’? ‘Fameite’? ‘Fame Fam’?* would see it. I certainly didn’t), there was this TV series that told us that we could be whatever we wanted, do whatever we wanted and that is was OKAY to want it as badly as we did. AS LONG AS YOU WERE WILLING TO DIE IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE IT.
Lydia Grant and the entire cast of Fame (et vous Coco, et vous!), thank you.
* What is the collective noun for a group of Fame fans? Answers in comments please!
P.S: The name of this blog will be changing soon.