I was on stage with Diana Ross at age 5. Thousands of people screaming. Of course, I was not the only kid up there with Ms. Ross and her nearly floor length tresses. Midway through the concert she said she wanted, “All the children to come up on the stage”. Parents, including my father, hurriedly hoisted kids on shoulders and ran for the already crowded Providence Civic Center ‘in the round’ stage. Her request was followed by “Reach Out and Touch”, an anthem of altruism. I swayed and tried to dance the best I could, my stiff, nervous little legs stuck in my stonewashed jeans.
All I could think was “Please look at me”. I wanted her attention more than anything. She was breathtaking. It didn’t matter that so many others were watching. But she didn’t come over to me. I was merely an extra in the wading pool of tiny people. When the song ended my daddy was right there to pick me up and carry me back to our nosebleeds. A loud man said, ”Hey, I saw you up there!” and my father held me tighter, whisking me away from my first fan. I was slightly scared and wanted more at the same time. Isn’t that always the way?
My first taste of fame, other than the variety shows I put on in our living room, was pretty bittersweet. It was big, glitzy and ended far too quickly. I loved being under those lights but I was also painfully shy and had trouble executing something brilliant once I got there. I wasn’t comfortable in my skin. I wasn’t a born performer. But, lord, how I lived to please and entertain.
So did I get famous? Despite some brushes (touring as a go-go dancer with an electro band in the ‘90s and working as a club DJ in the early ‘00s) I never caught that star. Here I was so many years later at my most anonymous. Selling clogs to housewives at a local shoe store by day, hitting a women’s AA meeting on the second floor of an Episcopal church at night and later watching a Mad Men marathon with the love of my life. Wasn’t this better than fame? After all, it was real and tangible. When I say this am I convinced of it? No.
I was talking to a good friend, who I never see, and she said to me, “We’re famous on the inside”. Some days I can grab that idea, hug it, make it some chamomile tea and tell it to take a lavender bath with me. But on other days I still want to go back in time and be Ms. Ross’s fangirl.
Annathena Kim is an ex-Hollywood DJ, sober rock n’ roller, Reiki Master, writer and mom living in Providence, RI.
You can find her on twitter @annathena