I’m just going to plunge right in here: I went with my muse Edie to support my little sister Lou in the X-Factor audtions in Long Island, New York at the Nassau Coliseum. It was an absolute blast and the kind of experience that I will never forget as long as I live – and this post is all about it! If you’re thinking about auditioning (or going along and supporting someone who plans to do so), I’m going to encourage you right away to DO IT. Don’t even question it. Just hop in the car or the plane or the train and skedaddle. You’ll be very glad that you did.
In my case, we happened to be traveling by car. The Nassau Coliseum is only about two and a half hours away from where Edie and I live, but the line for registration was starting at six in the morning, and we had to get there as early as possible because registration for this competition is on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you get there late, even if you do manage to register, it will affect how long you’ll need to wait to try out on audition day. Thus, Edie and I were up at three-thirty in the morning and out the door by four. My mother made us all breakfast sandwiches for the car ride, and surprisingly, we were all wide awake to eat them! Of course, that probably isn’t too surprising in Lou’s case – she was practically on fire with excitement since this was something she had been planning to do for several years.
Can you sense the excitement radiating off of her? It was intense.
When we got to the Coliseum, there were already huge lines formed, even though we’d arrived on time. Everyone was roped off into little sections, packed like sardines into a can. It was also grey, brutally windy, and freezing cold. Thankfully, we’d come prepared with a bunch of blankets, coats, scarves, and gloves, but we saw some girls who were there in mini skirts and open-toed high heels, which is ridiculous! If you find yourself heading off to registration day at the X-Factor, you have to understand that this day is not going to be about fashion. There are no judges there and no cameras watching you. You absolutely need to concentrate on your comfort, because you’ll be waiting in that line for a long time. Personally, we waited about seven hours! Despite the bad weather and the fact that we were bundled up so much that we were almost unrecognizable, we made friends in line, which made the wait much easier. Everyone we came in contact with (save for a very few rude exceptions) was friendly, excited, and happy to chat.
Yes, they were happy to chat with us even though we looked like that. That’s how you know they were truly kind-hearted souls. And that’s also how you know how desperate we were to keep warm, but after seven hours, who could possibly blame us for wrapping ourselves up like mummies?
When the line at long last started to move, we were very quickly herded into the Coliseum and over to a registration table, where we showed our IDs and got wristbands and tickets for audition day. That process took a very short amount of time – it was over and done with in less than ten minutes. We then said good-bye to the friends that we’d made and headed out. There’s actually a Marriott hotel right across from the Coliseum, so we stopped in there to rest and have a snack before continuing on our way to my elder sister’s house.
Note our pink wristbands! Supporters got pink, performers got purple, and guardians of minors who were auditioning got blue. We had to leave these wristbands on until audition day and were told that if we lost them, we wouldn’t be allowed in. Mine was actually put on loose enough to slip off, but I was a bit too paranoid to leave it off.
So, wristbands in hand (or wrist), we hopped in the car and drove to my sister’s house in Connecticut, where we’d planned on staying. That was a much shorter and much less eventful drive: we were all exhausted from waiting in line, and I slept for most of the way there because I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. The rest of the day (and all of the next day too) were spent relaxing at my sister’s house and playing with my little niece. It was really a wonderful time – we went out for lunch, had sushi, shopped, got our nails done, and slept as much as we could. And of course, Edie and I had our little photoshoot.
On Thursday morning, we had to wake up incredibly early again to head off to the audition day. Even though we woke up a bit later than we had on our first day, it felt worse. Our exhaustion was catching up to us. When we got back to the Coliseum, I was half-dead. It was even colder out that it had been on registration day, and this time it was actually raining! Of course, everyone wanted to look their best for the cameras and for their auditions, so people were freezing and getting rained on in their nice clothes. Lou only had a sleeveless dress and tights on underneath of her coat – I’m not sure how she survived. However, we were only suffering for a little while, because when the cameras came out, so did the fun. They had a DJ get up in front of the packed crowds, playing music and encouraging us to dance around for the cameras that were panning over the giant crowd. It was like one big rave. Not only was it fun, but it warmed everyone up fast. Soon everyone was taking off their jackets and jumping around. Out of nowhere, it was a party of 16,000 people. Braving the cold was definitely worth it for that.
Edie put Lou on her shoulders so that the camera would catch sight of her. We were told after the camera had finished with us that Long Island’s crowd was the largest that X-Factor had so far, and therefore, they’d be using the footage from our rave for the opening of the television show. So keep an eye out for us! There’s an unbelievably good chance that you’ll be able to spot us if you take a look.
After dancing around, the rest of the outdoor wait wasn’t so bad. We were eventually let into the Coliseum around lunch time, showed our wristbands and tickets at the door, and found our seats in the main area. Luckily, since we had signed up very early on registration day, Lou only had to wait a few hours to audition. Other people seated further up in the stadium had to wait until eight at night or later! The way that this part of the audition worked was that you waited for your section of the stadium to be called, and then filed down into the center, where they had black booths set up with producers waiting inside to hear your audition. Everyone can see who comes out with a golden ticket and who does the walk of shame out the other end of the stadium. We were seated right in front of the exit which people who had gotten a yes were told to walk out of, so we got to watch and applaud as contestants came out screaming with excitement.
They asked people not to take any pictures inside the stadium. Oops.
When it was time for Lou to audition, she was extremely nervous. Tensions were high. Edie and I weren’t allowed to go with her down into the center by the booths, but we watched as she went down and disappeared into them. I took a picture of her descending the stairs, although you can barely see her. She was wearing a bright green dress from Delia’s and purple tights.
See her? Squint. Go on. Find her. Find the Lou.
Edie and I were going mad while waiting to hear the results of her audition. Sadly, it turned out to be a no, but I am extremely proud of her in any case. She is only twelve years old, and it takes a lot of bravery to do something like this. She’s not sure whether she will try again when she’s older, but she enjoyed the experience just as much as Edie and I did, and I’m as proud of her for that as I am of her singing. Not many twelve-year-olds actually go through with trying out for a big competition like this. Now she can say that she was there and tried her best, which is definitely a brilliant thing. After we left the Coliseum, we went out to lunch to celebrate. Even though it was a no, doing this at all was certainly an achievement.
I will say, however, that the X-Factor definitely isn’t how it seems on television. Even if Lou had gotten through, she wouldn’t have seen the famous judges unless she managed to get through three more rounds of auditions in front of various producers! That’s partially why she isn’t sure if she wants to audition again. The whole thing does seem a bit fake now that we’ve been through the real process, but that’s the nature of reality television.
As for me, if Lou did end up going again, I’d happily accompany her once more. Despite the weather and the early wake-up calls, there’s a lot of fun to be had. And I don’t pass up fun. Not now, not ever.