Feeling the heat. On the Runway has become a global phenomenon, and when Paige and Erin Forrester take their reality show to London, they get a reception to remember. Bombarded by crazed fans and the flashbulbs and interrogations of the infamous British paparazzi, the sisters know that their lives have changed—big time. Star treatment has its perks, but the girls quickly learn just how scorching life in the limelight can be. Before long, the sisters are stretched close to a breaking point. With zealous paparazzi poised to take advantage of even the slightest whiff of a scandal, the stakes have never been higher.
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Spotlight On the RunwayBOOK FOUR
By Melody Carlson
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2010 Melody Carlson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI never wanted to be famous. I know there are people, like my best friend Mollie, who probably don't believe me. Of course, that's because Mollie would absolutely love to be famous. Unfortunately, Mollie's acting career is on hold because her baby is due in about three months.
Since I never wanted to be a celebrity, I'm experiencing some real culture shock over what's happened since our show On the Runway became a real hit. According to our producer, Helen Hudson, we're one of the hottest reality TV shows running right now and sponsors are lining up. This is totally great news-and I am happy for my sister, Paige, because this is her dream. But I'm still not comfortable with all that comes with it.
My general dislike of the limelight is not because I'm some highly evolved Christian who is too holy and humble to want to hog all this attention. Paige's theory that my fame-phobia is a result of my poor self-image isn't exactly right either. In fact, I think my self-image is fairly normal. I mean, how many young women-or old women-look in the mirror and absolutely adore what they see? well, besides Paige. But honestly, I'm pretty much okay with my looks. And most of the time, despite having a drop-dead-gorgeous sibling, I'm thankful that God made me the way he did.
My discomfort with celebrity is basically selfish-I happen to like my normal life and I enjoy my privacy, and I'd rather fly beneath the radar of the paparazzi than be running from them.
I think being in Paris last month gave me a false sense of obscurity-security, because Paige and I were able to film our episodes and go about our daily lives with very little intrusion from the media. Of course, Paige was a little troubled by this.
"It's like no even one knows who we are," she said as we walked through the Charles de Gaulle international airport unobserved.
"Or they just don't care," I teased. And, really, Paris is kind of like that-subdued and slightly aloof. I think Parisians, totally unlike Americans, aren't too interested in celebrity spotting.
But Paige seemed bummed. Her way to protest was to sport her newest pair of Gucci sunglasses, hold her chin high, and strut through the terminal like she was a real star. And I'll admit I noticed heads turn. I'm not sure they knew who she was, or cared, though: she is simply an eye-catcher.
Fortunately, for Paige, we were spotted and even photographed when we arrived at LAX the next day. By then I had on sunglasses too, but mine were to hide the dark circles beneath my eyes after a mostly sleepless night during the eleven-hour flight.
"Is it true that you and Benjamin Kross were vacationing together in France?" a reporter from one of the gossip shows asked Paige as we waited to spot our luggage in baggage claim.
Paige smiled and tossed her head. "we were with a number of interesting people in France," she said brightly. "Benjamin was there for a few days as well."
"What did you think about Benjamin's settlement with Mia Renwick's family?" the reporter persisted.
"I think it's really none of my business." Paige smiled.
"What about rumors that you and Dylan Marceau are engaged?" the other reporter asked next.
Paige laughed. "they are just that-rumors."
"But are you involved with Dylan Mar-"
"I think Dylan is a brilliant designer and he's a good friend."
Just then I spotted some of our luggage on the carousel, and I abandoned my sister to her adoring paparazzi in order to help our director, Fran, drag the bags off. Sure, we might be "famous," but we still carry our own bags. At least most of the time, anyway. Blake has reminded me more than once that his offer to carry my bags, do shoulder rubs and pedicures, run errands, take out the trash-or whatever-is still good if the show wants to take him along with us. So far I don't think the show is too interested in Blake.
Unfortunately, Blake's interest in the show doesn't seem to be going away. And way too often, despite me asking him not to, he wants to talk about it. So why am I surprised when he starts in after our fellowship group? several of us, including Lionel, Sonya, and Mollie, decided to extend the evening by meeting at Starbucks for coffee, and I've just taken a sip of my mocha when Blake brings it up.
"Did you guys hear that Erin is going to London next month?" he announces.
"Yeah, and she's not even excited about it." Mollie rolls her eyes at me.
"It's not that I'm not excited," I protest. "It's just that we haven't been back from Paris for that long. And we're trying to plan my mom's wedding and-"
"Excuses, excuses ..." Mollie waves her hand. "You are off living the life and all you do is complain, complain."
I frown at her. "Really? Do I complain that much?"
She gives me a sheepish smile. "Well, I might exaggerate a bit. It's only because I'm jealous. I would so love to go to London."
"Me too," Blake chimes in.
Mollie makes a face at Blake. "But you already got to go with Erin to Paris, so if anyone gets to go to London with her, it should be me."
"FYI," I remind her, "Blake went to France with Benjamin Kross, not me." And, okay, I know I'm doing this as much for Lionel's sake as for Mollie's, since he already questioned why Blake made that trip. I'm not sure if he was jealous or merely curious, but it's a topic I try to avoid.
Things have been a little awkward with both guys since I returned from the trip and put the brakes on both relationships. as soon as I got home from Paris, I called both Blake and Lionel and told them the same thing: that Paige and I had made a pact not to date for a while and to focus on the show.
"Yeah, Erin didn't actually invite me." Blake turns to Lionel, almost like he's trying to get a reaction. "And when I got to Bordeaux, she already had a French boyfriend."
"You know that Gabin was not a boyfriend." I shake my finger at Blake. "he's just a good friend." We'd been over this several times already.
"Yeah, but he gave you that great bag." Mollie points to my black Birkin bag, which has kind of become my signature piece of late. Not because it's such a fashion statement as much as it's really great for carrying my camera and junk.
"So what are you going to be covering in London?" Lionel asks me.
"Isn't it Fashion week there?" Mollie suggests.
"Actually Fashion week London isn't until September," I explain. "and the show will probably send us back to london then. This trip is to coincide with a new British TV show. It's kind of like America's Next Top Model. Paige is going to be a judge and we'll use that for an episode, then we'll do some episodes on the Brit fashion scene. And we'll stay at the May Fair and-"
"The May Fair is like the swankiest hotel in the coolest fashion district in London," Mollie explains. "I looked it up on the internet and I was pea green with envy."
"And you're not excited about that?" Sonya asks me. She's been the quiet person in the group tonight. As usual, I wonder if she's still feeling a little out of sorts because of her breakup with Blake. And because she might secretly blame me for losing him, although I'd beg to differ. Sometimes I catch these glances from her and, despite Blake's assurance, I suspect Sonya isn't totally over him.
"It's not that I'm not excited," I say for the second time. like is anyone listening. "It's just that-"
"Oh, admit it," Mollie pushes in. "You're like the heel-dragging, reluctant little starlet. Your TV show is handed to you on a silver platter and you turn your nose up and-"
"It was not handed to me," I protest. "It's Paige's show. I'm just a secondary character, if that. I'm the lowly camera girl and-"
"Not true," Blake interrupts. "That makeover episode in Paris sent your popularity soaring."
I frown at him. "And how do you know that?"
He grins. "Because I pay attention to these things."
"So do I," Mollie tells me. "And, whether you like it or not, that episode turned you into a star. So get over it."
Okay, now I don't have a response.
"I think they're right," Lionel confirms. "I saw that episode too, and I'm guessing that your role in the show is going to change."
"Is changing," Mollie interjects.
"And you're not happy about that?" Sonya looks like she'd love to slap me.
"It's just not what I wanted," I try to explain. "It's Paige's gig, not mine."
"Did you even listen to Eric's message tonight?" Blake demands with a twinkle in his eye.
I consider this. Eric is an assistant pastor at our church and he led the fellowship group tonight. But at the moment I'm blank. "I listened," I tell him. "But I'm having a hard time remembering ..."
"Eric said that God sometimes puts us in bad situations for good reasons." Mollie grins at me like she thinks I'll give her a gold star.
"Oh, yeah." I nod. "Thanks, Mollie."
"Like Joseph," Lionel reiterates. "Sold as a slave by his brothers, then falsely accused and put in prison-talk about some hard situations."
"But God had a plan," Blake adds. "He worked it together for good."
I nod, knowing where this is going. "You guys are right. I do have the wrong attitude about the show."
"You need to see your TV show as an opportunity," Blake tells me. "You can be a light in a dark place, Erin. Remember that night in Bordeaux?"
"What night in Bordeaux?" Lionel asks with a creased brow.
I tell everyone about Blake's bonfire idea. "It's like everyone was starting to get into a big fight," I explain. "Our hostess was having some issues. Paige was caught in the middle. Yet somehow Blake managed to get everyone gathered around a campfire and we sang and stuff and then, before the evening ended, Blake actually gave his testimony and it was pretty cool."
Lionel actually gives Blake a fist bump. "That is very cool. way to go, Blake."
Blake smiles and I can tell he appreciates this coming from Lionel. I must admit it's a relief to see a couple of Christian guys acting more like brothers than competitors.
"So maybe you need to remember Joseph next time you feel like complaining," Mollie tells me. "He didn't exactly like being sold as a slave or doing time, but he did his best and God used him in some big ways."
"And the bigger your role on your show becomes, the more visible you'll be," Lionel says. "And the more influence you'll have ..."
"To be a light in a dark place," Blake finishes.
And so that's my new attitude-or it's what I'm trying to adopt as my new attitude. I obviously need God's help to carry it off. But my goal now is to do my best job, and even if I don't particularly love being on the show, I'll give it my all and just see what happens. I thought that would make everyone happy-especially everyone working on the show.
Unfortunately, I quickly discover that might not be the case. The following week, after previewing a couple of the Paris episodes, Paige and I are in a planning meeting with Helen and Fran and the rest of the crew when Helen suggests that my role in the show has changed.
"I know that you like filming the show," she tells me. "But I see the show going a different direction now. We no longer need a camera girl."
"What do you mean?" Paige demands. "You can't take Erin off the show. I need her!"
Helen laughs. "No, of course we're not taking her off the show. On the Runway needs her too, Paige."
Paige has a relieved smile. "Oh, you scared me."
"Sorry." Helen pats her hand. "What I'm saying is that Erin needs to become more of a partner now."
Paige's forehead creases ever so slightly. "A partner?"
"Yes. No more remaining behind the scenes. The fans are connecting with Erin in a big way now. She needs to come out of the background and become a featured costar."
"A featured costar?" Paige looks unconvinced.
"Of course, you'll still be the host," Helen assures her. "But Erin will play a more significant and visible role alongside you."
"How, exactly?" Paige glances at me then back to Helen.
"Mostly by being herself." Helen smiles at me like I should get this. But frankly, I don't.
"We want Erin to bring her opinions about fashion onto the screen," Fran injects. "You two girls are so different. Sometimes it's hard to believe you're really sisters." she laughs. "But it's apparent that our fans are diverse as well. And we've gotten some great viewer responses in regard to topics like green design and economical fashion."
"So we've decided we need to include more segments along these lines," Helen finishes for her. "And Erin is the perfect one to take us there."
Everything in me wants to stand up and protest-to remind everyone in this room of our original agreement, that I am merely "Camera Girl" and that it's acceptable for me to remain a wallflower. But at the same time I remember the conversation at Starbucks on Saturday night. I remember how my friends challenged me to change my attitude and let God use me however he wants in regard to the show. So how do I back down now?
Paige lets out a little laugh then shakes her head. "Okay, I'll admit that sounds like a sensible plan and, naturally, we want to expand our audience. But there's one itty-bitty problem."
"What's that?" Helen adjusts her glasses and peers at Paige.
Paige makes what feels like a patronizing smile at me. "we all know how stubborn my little sister can be. Of course, Erin would never agree to this, would you, Erin?"
Now all eyes are on me, and with a furrowed brow Helen points her silver pen in my direction. "is that right, Erin? are you still going to play the spoiler?"
I clear my throat, which suddenly feels like sandpaper.
"Speak up," Helen urges.
"Actually ..." I glance at Paige then back at Helen. "I am actually ... sort of ... open."
Paige's jaw drops ever so slightly. "Open? Open to what?"
"Open to ... you know ... whatever. I mean, if the show needs me to step up, well, I'm willing."
Helen clasps her hands together. "I just knew you'd be game, Erin. I felt it in my bones. When I saw the initial footage from Paris I said to myself, our little Erin is finally growing up!"
Suddenly they're all talking and making plans, and it's obvious that they've already given this some serious thought, but when I glance over at Paige, who is sitting silently, I can tell she's not really on board. And the way she's looking is reminiscent of something ... something I'd nearly forgotten ... something that happened a long time ago.
When we were little-I was in kindergarten and Paige was in first grade-my sister begged my parents for gymnastic classes. Her friend Kelsey was bragging about how she was going to become an Olympic gymnast (which never happened), so Paige insisted she needed lessons too. My parents eventually agreed, but Dad decided both Paige and I should be enrolled in the academy so that I wouldn't feel left out. Naturally, I was happy to be included since I already loved jumping, climbing, and rolling around like a monkey. But after a couple of months at the academy, which I thoroughly enjoyed, Paige's interest started waning until she refused to go at all.
Years later, I learned by accident that Paige's reason for quitting gymnastics was simply because I'd been outshining her and she did not like to be second best at anything. Although I continued going for a while, it wasn't long before my sister convinced me that gymnastics was silly and the outfits we had to wear were even worse, and that it would be much more fun to take dance classes instead. Naturally, she turned out to be far more gifted and graceful at ballet than me. And, once again, she was back in her comfort zone-where she reigned.
Although my sister has grown up some since then-she's matured a lot these past few months, and our relationship is stronger than ever-I still suspect that some of her old habits die hard. Forcing Paige to share the limelight with me could come with its own set of challenges. Which brings to mind Joseph ... and how his own brothers sold him to strangers. Okay, I'm pretty sure my sister wouldn't sink quite that low. But it does give me pause to wonder.
Excerpted from Spotlight On the Runway by Melody Carlson Copyright © 2010 by Melody Carlson. Excerpted by permission.
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