One Direction, The Reason, Hustle, Princes and Rouges, F.Y.D, Diva Fever, Twem and ourselves (Belle Amie) arrive in Marbella, tired with excitement. We were put on a coach still clueless of where we were heading next or whom we were meeting. The crew must have had ‘professional poker face’ down on their CV’s as a fundamental attribute to working on the show, because they gave a very disappointing amount of no information away, at all. No matter how much we nagged like impatient toddlers at the back of the bus like ‘are we there yet?’, ‘where are we going?’, ‘who’s house is it?’, ‘pleeeeeeease’. They certainty added to the suspense by clearly enjoying not being able to tell us.
An hour later we pull in to a drive just off the main road to approach a rather large and extravagant house, ‘yes, are we here?’ We scramble around to get the best view of the building from the coach windows trying to figure out whose home it could be. We’re shuffled off the bus and positioned in a camera friendly manner around the front door of the mansion and we quite appropriately guessed it was probably to meet our potential future mentor.
I was a travelling sweaty mess, with the Spanish heat rapidly adding to my sweat brow, I’d definitely looked better and yet here I am being filmed for millions of people to see, great. We wait for a good 15 minutes being filmed ‘looking at the door’. These moments often felt overkilled and there was a continual expectation from the crew to maintain an elevated level of happiness and hysteria. With low sugar levels due to the hectic itinerary (no time to eat) along with the heat in this case, keeping up the enthusiasm can be somewhat of challenge, ‘fake smiles’ are forever a must in reality TV.
After a tense wait the door finally opened, and out he came. Head to toe in attire unfashionable enough to bring Gok Wan to suicide. Horrendous shoes, horrendously bad fitting T-Shirt, and honestly the most horrific jeans that have ever existed in all of life, how can somebody with so much money, dress so badly? (Says the fashion expert who at the time dressed like a female Timmy Mallet) That question came to me soon after I had screamed with delight that it was in fact Simon Cowell who walked through that door (and relief that it wasn’t Louis Walsh) I’m sure we even ran to hug him.
He stood awkwardly waiting for us to shut up squealing so he could speak, he said something TV worthy, then turned his focus back to the door and introduced his surprise guest. We already knew it was going to be Sinitta, and as much as we were grateful to see any remotely famous person we all kind of hoped for someone a little bit more, Beyoncé. But out she came in all her pop magnificence, soaking up her moment with everything she had, dressed somewhat like a superhero. She didn’t disappoint her fans. Simon laid down the spiel, something like ‘this is your chance to prove yourselves’ etc etc and off he went. We were told to follow Simon into the millionaire’s mansion and specifically ‘not to touch anything’. We had a relatively minimal tour of what they said was ‘Simon’s house’, but it definitely wasn’t. If it wasn’t already quite obvious the houses are hired. Like they would really allow a bunch of desperate famous hopefuls into their actual homes.
We all gather on the beautiful terrace over looking the coast with Simon. We’re briefed by production that we will now ask Simon questions. Holy shit I’m on the spot what the hell do you ask Simon Cowell that’s not ‘why do you wear your trousers so high?’ I decided that to save myself the embarrassment of saying something ridiculous I would sit back and allow other more sensible people to do the questioning. The typical question ‘what are you looking for in an act’ was asked, to which Simon replied almost just as typically with ‘originality’. After that I felt like all we did was sit and stare at him, with it being the closest we had ever been to him. He was pretty much a real life waxwork.
‘Where’s he gone? Aren’t we invited in for tea and biscuits now? Am I not going to sleep tonight creepily satisfied knowing that Simon Cowell is asleep somewhere in the same building as me?’ Oh no I’m not because we’re being herded back on to the bus. The good news was that ITV2 and Konnie Huq were taking us for Paella on the beach! Konnie was the cutest thing ever, she was sweet and seemingly authentic, you got the vibe from her that she actually cared about you. We arrived at a small rickety beach hut somewhere in Marbella, it was bloody beautiful. We sat around a ridiculously large table big enough for the lot of us and we scoffed our little faces with the best Paella I had ever tasted. Some of us even had a few sneaky San Miguel’s, Louis was the only one of age from the 1D clang at the time so the others watched him sip his beer with a teenage thirst for the bad stuff. We did some filming (beers hidden) and chatted about what we thought about having Simon as a mentor. It was all very informal and fun really. We got to spend some time with each other and ‘bonded’, as cliché as that sounds, we really did.
Later that evening we arrive at a hotel (3 star maximum) near the marina (I think). Really we had no clue where we were we just saw the sea and boats and presumed. We were knackered but we wanted to explore where we were so we grabbed Princes and Rouges and went for a wander down the front to try and find a nice little restaurant or something, which we did, tapas and sangria sat around barrels, Spanish music playing, it was perfect. We returned to the hotel and got into our PJ’s, myself and Geneva visited Zayn in his room (she clearly fancied him and kindly made me the third wheel). We were chatting about the other acts, who we thought was good/nice and spoke about our own group dynamics. Luckily for us we were getting on quite well at the time, however Zayn had some uncertainty about how he was getting on with Liam. He told us that he felt like Liam always ‘boasted’ about his past achievements (Liam appeared on X Factor the previous year making it to Judges Houses and had already built up a small fan base for himself), I suggested that he maybe look at other possible reasons he might be ‘boasting’, maybe he’s trying to be accepted? Maybe he wants you to be proud of him? Perhaps he’s just insecure and doesn’t feel as important as you or the others? Generally I do like to chat a lot of shite and I do have a tendency to try and ‘fix people’ even without their asking but surprisingly Zayn actually listened to what I had to say or seemed too anyway, and agreed that he hadn’t thought of looking at it that way. My people fixing ego felt satisfied while I reminded him of how much potential they had if they were to get on well (my Simon Cowell moment). We chatted more about life back home and Geneva did her best to get as close to him as possible without looking too desperate, that whole ‘did you see his foot brush past my foot’ period was happening with them, it was cute and I could see she was starting to become infactuated. I was just the old third wheel, getting involved in everyone’s business and giving out all my opinions to people who didn’t ask, thinking I was doing ‘good’. I was really annoying.
The following morning we were picked up by the coach and taken back to the mansion. There were chairs and a table placed in a hidden part of the garden, and that little section no bigger than my own back garden was where 32 of us were going to sit for 12 hours a day for the 4 days. Oh yes that’s right, we were not allowed into the house. Not even to pee. We had to use the toilet in the side house that was made up of a few bedrooms. And the funniest part was that the papers actually printed a story claiming that we had ‘trashed the house, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage’. And we weren’t even allowed inside the bloody house. Many of us conspired that it was merely a PR stunt to drum up more public attention, which equalled more money for the Cowell.
We had no clue what to expect that day, the production forever kept us in the dark about what was going on in order to protect any possible ‘surprise’ reactions from us. Which was understandable as catching ‘real’ emotions on film is what makes reality TV so popular. You are left in a constant state of terror, not knowing whether or not you’re about to perform. We were called into one of the side rooms where we were met by the same vocal coach we had back in London, we had a practice and were given advice and help with how to improve. At the same time other acts were being asked to do filming and interviews, the grounds were buzzing with crew and production members, as well as the lovely Dermot who still insisted on shouting ‘Scarborough’ at me every time we passed. Next we were on the beach with some of the other acts filming ‘walking shots’ and were asked to basically act like divs ‘run in the sea’, ‘look excited’, there were an astronomical amount of cringe moments.
After waiting around for hours, sweating and eating buffet food that was brought out for us in our little garden it was actually starting to get dark and I’m thinking well surely we wont be sat out here still in the dark. Yep. We sat in darkness, outside while other acts were being taken away to be interviewed. Finally it was our turn to have our main interview, but for this one we were allowed in the house, again told not to ‘touch anything’ with extreme seriousness. We looked like shit. It was now 10pm at night, we’d been sat outside since 8am in the blistering heat, we’d gotten wet and sandy from the beach and simply just stank. This interview was the ‘this means everything to us’ one. It was filled with us trying our very best to look ‘humble’ and ‘grateful’, and trying to project our need to succeed through our eyes, kind of like how Tyra teaches models to smize (smile with your eyes) I dramatically tried everything in my mind to transmit my lifetime wish through the camera. That wish was to meet Cheryl Cole obviously. I was so blinded by that thought that I hadn’t even focused on the ‘life changing’ aspect of it all. There was prompting by the director for certain answers and if you’re not careful you can fall into the trap of saying things you would have never said yourselves. Some of the time they are helping you, and some of the time they are helping themselves.
We got back to the hotel late and sat up for hours practicing, crapping ourselves contemplating that tomorrow could more than likely be the day that we have to sing in front of Simon Cowell. We were advised to be on time for the coach the following morning due to it being full of the production crew, so from that we assumed that meant tomorrow is the day. We had to be ready for about 6.30am I think and we were still up practising at 2am. Tomorrow was going to awful.
To be continued…