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Fame

THE DESIRE to be famous and the desire to get wealthy are two different things. And some people only seek to be widely known. Psychologically, their need to be famous and to stand out comes, ironically, from the desire to fit in. This desire can be easily identified. Who doesn’t know the Fame Monster, Lady Gaga, and the overnight sensation, Justin Bieber?

A child craves attention rather than fame. A toddler can catch attention by throwing a tantrum, asking a lot of questions, or simply doing well in school. But trying to get noticed and trying to be famous are almost the same thing. Both involve doing something extraordinary. And I didn’t skip this stage when I was a child.

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I used to be part of a carpool when I was in kindergarten. I was the youngest in the group, and the older kids thought that made me easy prey to either their bullying or snubbing. Apparently they preferred the latter. And so for several months they treated me as if I did not exist.

Being a naïve and willful girl, I longed to be the school bus baby. I wanted everyone’s attention and grabbed every opportunity to show that I was worthy of their interest. I would sit in one corner near the driver’s seat and stare at each one of them and then look away if they caught me. I suppose that made me look more like creepy than cute.

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And then salvation came. One day, perhaps getting bored while waiting for others in our carpool, a 5th grader asked me, “Can you sing? Sing one song, it’s dull in here.”

And I did. The endless hours of listening to FM radio after homework with my yaya paid off as I did a fairly good imitation of Jessa Zaragoza and sang, “Parang ’di ko yata kaya, na sa buhay ko’y wala ka…”

He was stunned. I was singing a cheesy song from the 1990s and he actually enjoyed it. And so as the others arrived, I was like an iPod on repeat mode singing a single song and they all applauded it too. I was not only the baby of the bus, I had become the star.

Word about my talent spread to other carpools, and every afternoon, they would listen to the Jessa Zaragoza song. It was the song they would listen to before they went to school and the song they listened to until they got home. And they never seemed to get tired of it. Or so I thought.

But one day it just stopped as their attention was diverted to plastic balloons being sold in a sari-sari store nearby. I couldn’t believe they had replaced me with a P1 toy that was known to contain toxic chemicals.

In a last-ditch attempt to save my dwindling popularity, I asked my yaya to teach me new songs. But I was too shy to offer my new repertoire without being asked, and so I was once again the weird, friendless girl sitting in the corner of the school bus.
People have the tendency to search for meaning in their lives. There are those who find it in loving someone or accomplishing some things. But those who find meaning in fame can pay for it. The stars of today may not be the stars of tomorrow; fads just come and go.

My early childhood experience with fame taught me to grab opportunities and to take little gambles. But every time I visit the old parking lot for school buses and the bus drivers tease me to sing for them, I feel like Lady Gaga dressed in a simple shirt and jeans or like Justin Bieber without the signature hairstyle—a lusterless star. But then, the idea of Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber being “a slob like one of us” (as Joan Osborne puts it) is not so bad.

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I was glad when one of my carpool mates noticed me. She was about seven years my senior at that time and she lived a few houses away from ours, but she started playing with me and dressing my hair up. I was glad to know that I did not have to sing for her, all I needed to do was to be 5 years old and cute to win her friendship.

Fame is a monster that eats one up if he or she loses control. Popular icons like Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan are talented performers who have been eaten up by the obsession with fame. It is good to hone and improve one’s talents, but when I remember a carpool-mate saying, “Wala ka bang ibang alam na kanta?” I am reminded that it is not enough to be famous.

In college where everyone is supposed to have stood out in their own former high schools, you are expected to stand among those who are already standing tall. How does one do that? It requires one to tiptoe and it hurts and there is always the possibility that you would topple over. It means sacrificing part of your personal life to focus on your whole college existence.

There is no certainty about finding fame. Not all the 6,908,601,170 people around the world (and counting) can be under the limelight at the same time. As a child, I had my 15 minutes of fame. When it was gone, I joined the more than six billion people who enjoy other, mostly safer and more lasting pleasures.

Angelli Camille P. Ancheta, 18, is an AB Literature student at the Ateneo de Manila University.

Stories from the young Filipino

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TAGS: childhood, fame, Jessa Zaragosa, Music, talent, youth
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