Kimberly Russell M.A., M.S.Ed

How to Be a Grown-Up

3 Life Lessons From My American Idol Audition

Who knew rejection from a reality TV show audition could teach us so much?

Posted May 16, 2013

A few seasons back, I auditioned for American Idol. Spoiler alert: I didn't win. 

But I survived. And as a result, I've got this blog post for you that's full of wisdom and bad jokes. So I guess you can say I failed out of generosity, all in the name of all Psychology Today readers' personal growth. You're welcome!

Here's what you can learn from my experience:

1. Hell, there’s no harm in trying.

The worst that happened after my failed audition is that when I worked as a temp at my dad’s office, his co-workers kept asking me, “Which one of Horace’s daughters are you? The nurse, or the one who didn’t get into American Idol?”

Okay, so maybe I didn’t have much to lose in the first place since a career in music was never something I was aiming for. But there was no way I’d pass up the unique experience of auditioning for a television show I liked. Because really, that’s all part of the fun of being alive.

Are you afraid of taking chances, putting yourself out there, or trying something new? That’s fine, but do it anyway. You only live once.

2. You may not get picked, but that doesn’t mean you’re not worth picking.

The audition was held in a huge sports complex that seated thousands of Idol hopefuls. In the center of the arena were several booths where 2-3 producers sat. We were separated into groups of four, then asked to stand in a line in front of an assigned booth. Each person had ten seconds to sing their butt off, and if your group was lucky, one of you would be chosen to move on to the next round.

The arena was a mad house. With all of these auditions happening at once, you couldn’t hear any particular person auditioning, especially if you were sitting up in the stands, waiting to be assigned to a group.

But all of us heard one African American woman’s AMAZING, diva-licious audition, which had the power to travel throughout the arena, without a microphone.

Well, guess what? She was turned away by the producers. The entire arena let out a collective “WTF?!”

Unfortunately for this talented woman, Idol already had a season in which three African American power house divas made it to the top 3. The show’s producers didn’t want a repeat of this, so the woman didn’t even make it far enough to sing in front of Randy, Paula, and Simon.

It just goes to show that sometimes rejection has nothing to do with your talent, and it most definitely has nothing to do with your worth or potential.

3. You’ll never regret being yourself.

For my 10-second audition, I sang KT Tunstall’s Black Horse and a Cherry Tree because I love songs that an alto like myself can add soul to. I also changed the lyrics at the end to make a funny joke about the judges.

I mean, I guess I could have sang something prettier, but that’s just not me. I have no regrets about what or how I sang because I’d rather get rejected for who I am than be accepted for who I’m not.

Final Thoughts

My performance was the only one of my group of four that the producers ended up liking. They said I was very unique, but they weren’t putting me through. But hey, here’s how I look at it: I made them laugh, I sounded good, I didn’t forget the lyrics, I had fun, and I didn’t sing into a banana. Success, I’d say!

The thing about rejection–whether it’s from a potential employer, a person, or a group– is that it feels like you’ve lost your chance at something great. Maybe you have, but the fact is, this particular opportunity for happiness isn’t the only one you’ll get in life.

Since my audition I’ve continued writing songs, performing at people’s weddings, and seducing men. (My husband says that the first time he heard me perform one of my original songs, he felt a “hot spot” in the back of his neck.)

So my story ends well. Mostly because everyone’s story keeps moving forward, even after rejection.

Your Turn: What lessons did you learn after a big rejection?

Read more of this writer's PG-13 antics at A Brave Life.

Copyright Kimberly Eclipse