This is part Two of my HGTV story, if you have not read part one yet, you can find it here, HGTV audition part one
In part one of my story, I left off as the elevator doors opened….
There was a smiling casting producer waiting for me right outside the doors, “are you Debi?
From that point on I became the bubbly version of myself, talkative, animated and outgoing.
I have moved past shyness for the most part but I am still an introvert at heart. I love spending hours alone reading books, lost in creativity or daydreaming, but I have learned how to find balance and that sharing and connecting with others is just as wonderful as my precious quiet time.
The cute young casting agent led me down the hallway to an empty room that had a large white screen, lights and a camera in it. I was told that another casting agent would be coming in to meet me in a few minutes. moments later Lindsey walked in, she was also twenty something and very stylish. Lindsey was the person who had called to tell me I was a semi-finalist, and I was looking forward to meeting her.
We chatted for a bit, they asked me how I liked New York, I told them that I loved New York, and about my walk the previous night and my wild cab ride, they both seemed shocked, and told me they had heard similar stories but nothing like that had ever happened to them.
Then Lindsey explained that they would be asking a few general questions and my answers would be filmed. A microphone was attached to my outfit and I was asked to stand in front of the white screen, not look at the camera (which seemed enormous compared to the iPhone camera that I use to film my videos with) and to just be myself. I answered a series of questions and it just seemed like a regular conversation, most people like to talk about themselves, I am one of those so I just sort of forgot about the camera and began answering giving as much detail and personality as I could.
As I recall, many of the questions were similar to the ones in the application. because I have filled it out 8 times, the answers were already there and they seemed to flow easily.
One thing I was totally not expecting to do was cry… I was asked to describe one of the most difficult times in my life and how it affected my work. I began to recount loosing a very close friend in 2005 just days after a national magazine had featured my store in a 6 page article, this article was the best PR a small business could hope for and the traffic flow to my shop literally tripled over night!
I had a flood of customers in my store and on my website, people calling on the phone all day long it was wonderful!… and I was heartbroken at the same time.
As I described my memory of saying goodbye to my friend in the hospital, knowing I would not see him again, I felt the tears coming, but I didn’t worry too much about crying on camera, I kinda laughed silently at myself and thought well this seems like a total reality TV moment.
After that I quickly switched gears and answered the next few question. It felt like an emotional roller coaster ride, not scary just fun and challenging.
That interview lasted about 15-20 minutes and then I was given a 4 page design quiz, I had twenty minutes to answer all of the questions and write them out by hand, I felt like I was back at school, madly scribbling my answers down while the clock was ticking, my handwriting was a mess and I know I misspelled words, there was no spell check just good old fashioned pen and paper. The questions seemed easy enough, I recognized some of them because Kellie Clements described a few on her blog, Modern Whimsy, just a she said, I was asked to give the standard height of a table and the width of a bolt of fabric. but here is the question I liked the most,
Please describe the difference between decorating, design and styling… I giggled out loud when I read this question because there is so much controversy in the design world about the difference between a decorator and a designer… I would love to hear your answer in the comments and I will tell you mine in the next post.
I finished my quiz with about 30 seconds left. whole we waited for the next phase, I had a few minutes to chit-chat with the casting agent, she was a young producer, she told me that she didn’t know a lot about design and that she couldn’t answer many of the questions on the quiz, her passion is television production, she said she really enjoyed the creative process of making a TV show and watching it all come together from beginning to end.
I wanted to ask her a hundred questions, I’m fascinated with production and all of the behind the scenes details that go into film and television, that’s probably why I am giving you as many details as I can recall. I thought about how exciting it would be to be twenty years old, living in New York and working as a producer for HGTV. I asked her how many submissions came in each year, she told me that she didn’t know but that they see a lot of very talented designers that they want to use but they can’t because when the camera is turned on they stiffen up. I nodded and said a silent thank you that I was not among that group any more.
Lindsey comes back to take me to the next room where another casting agent is waiting with paperwork and a new challenge. After I finish signing more forms, she hands me a sheet of paper, instructs me to read it, and tells me when I was finished reading, If I had any questions, I should ask her before she started the clock, she says she can only answer questions about the instructions, she can’t give me any input with the challenge itself.
The paper says that I have 20 minutes to select various swatches from a long table, and pin them to a white board to create a room makeover/ design plan. There was a large picture of a very long dark, sad depressing looking basement/rec room sitting on an easel that I was to transform with my swatches. the last sentence said, be prepared to present your room when you are finished.
I thought to myself, yep this is exactly what Kellie said in her blog, you dork you shoulda prepped for this! Even though I had not practiced any kind of room presentation in my head, picking the swatches was easy, I have always been a lighting fast shopper. I regularly attend very competitive estate sales where you have to grab what you want quickly or some one else gets it. Often, the best items are gone in the first 10 minutes of a sale, and there have been countless mornings that I have gotten up at 4am, waited hours in line to be the first one in the door. If you hesitate for a moment, your item is gone and if you buy something too quickly and it’s a dud it doesn’t sell and your stuck with it. I have seen fights break out, and I’ve gotten my share of dirty looks because I grabbed an item before a competitor. I’ve been told that some of the other estate sale regulars have nick named me, and my friend , the deadly duo because we are so quick… (I like it).
I buzzed through the swatches and came up with a fun and colorful design plan, there were stacks of photos in every category, lighting, sofas, chairs, tables, barstools, pillows, hardware, tile, among many other things. Mixed in with all the design elements was a random picture of the Bob’s Big Boy statue, I smiled when I saw him and knew that he had to go in my stack, I wasn’t sure how I was going to incorporate big Bob into my room but he was something I would love to use in real life so I just pinned him up to the board. As I madly stuck all of the swatches and photos to my white board with little pins, I felt like I was playing a real life game of Pinterest!
Before I knew it, time was called! Yikes… I had a lot of great components that worked awesomely together but I had not yet decided where everything was going to be placed in my room. I tried to review my board as the casting agent was carrying it out and taking it across the hall where my final interview would be happening in a few minutes. I was a little worried but I remember thinking, oh well I can wing it.
As I was saying goodbye to my design board and begging it to come back, a new casting agent walked in and introduced herself as Jennifer, she seemed very professional. I figured that she must be the Jen, of Jenscasting, which was the header on all the emails I had received so far. Jennifer welcomed me and said we would be going across the hall momentarily, then a young hipster looking guy attached another microphone to me, the wires had to go down the front of my dress and out the bottom, he looked at me hesitantly and showed me how to attach the mic. Jennifer and I were headed across the hall, about to go into the final room when we were stopped and told to wait, I assumed the producers were inside reviewing my audition video. A few minutes passed and Jennifer says, ok were ready, we start heading across the hall, outside the doorway was a folding table with a few people sitting behind it, they were watching me and it looked like they were thinking here comes another one, wonder if she will make it? Jennifer said to me as we went in, ok Debi remember it’s all about the big personality! As I walked across the hall I said, “well I have one in here somewhere” and the woman behind the table gave me a look of concern, like she was wondering how it would go for me.
I walked through the door and inside waiting was a long table full of producers, I was told to stand about 15-20 feet away, next to my presentation board and another mega sized camera. Jennifer and Lindsey took a seat with the others and the door was shut…..
to be continued….
There was just one person asking all the questions and that was the man sitting in the middle of the very long table. As soon as i looked at him I thought…
A- he was totally super good-looking
and B- he was just one of the warmest friendliest faces I had seen all day.
It sounds weird to say but he seemed like an old friend and he immediately made me feel more at ease.
The first thing I was instructed to do was, state my name, where I live, what I do for a living and for how long. I answered the first two questions, “my name is Debi Beard I live in the northern coastal part of San Diego and I own a Store called, House Vintage, it is located in the middle of a very high end design district and I am like the Sanford and Son on the street.
When I said this, they started laughing and I was starting to enjoy the interview.
I was asked many questions that seemed like general warm up questions the man in the middle of the table seemed to sense that I was at ease and I could handle more direct questions, so he asked me, “so you have tried out for Design Star every year? Why? What is it about our show that makes you keep trying? I replied, “well it’s just one of those things that I feel I will regret if I don’t try, I went on… after being told no so many times you say to yourself well if this isn’t going to happen then I will find another way to make it happen myself. I told them that I started my Youtube channel out of the frustration of not getting cast on TV. I told them it was a blessing in disguise because it helped me develop on camera skills and confidence.
For every question I was asked, I had an over flow of words, I didn’t expect to have so much to say but being on camera, entertaining and inspiring people is my favorite thing to do and I could probably talk for hours about it. At one point the head guy says to me, “so what’s with the camera way up high in your videos?” I paused for a moment and said, “well it is the most flattering angle.” at that point everybody was laughing… and it’s true, when the camera is up high you look younger and thinner. Then I added that I use my iPhone to shoot my videos and putting the camera up high allows me to get more in frame and still have an intimate shot. This is also true, I don’t like it when the person on camera seems too far away and you can’t see any of the details especially if it’s a DIY video and you want to see what is going on up close.
I was asked what I thought I could bring to HGTV that they didn’t already have? I quoted Alton Brown, my favorite host on the Food Network who says, “a laughing brain is an absorbent brain” I told the table of producers that I hope to bring humor to the design community which was not seen very often and that I want to represent those who can’t necessarily afford the granite counter tops. I explained that I wanted to my viewers to be so inspired that they would get up and go make the the projects at the end of the show.
These were a few of the things I said, and the panel seemed to be smiling nodding and laughing through out the entire interview, so much so that I thought they must smile nod and laugh for everyone just to make them feel comfortable.
Just as I was feeling like the interview couldn’t be more awesome, the man in the middle said, ‘Ok lets see your presentation” At this point I had completely forgotten about the presentation board! It seemed like a long time had passed, I was enjoying the Q&A I just wanted to keep going with that but I had to shift gears and describe this room that I had given zero thought to…. this is where I fumbled, I started making stuff up as I went and it was obvious. Out of desperation I picked up the picture of Bob’s Big Boy and said, “ok I’ve got Bob here, you gotta love Bob, everybody loves Bob! The man in the middle is giving me a big smile, he’s nodding and and replying , oh yeah you have to love Bob! (later when I got back home I googled the man in the middle, turns out his Name is Bob Kirsh executive producer for Design Star…
I was not kidding when I said he was handsome right?
And here is a picture of Bob’s Bigboy that I was trying incorporating into my design plan,
At this point I realize that I should quit trying to fake it, I set the swatches down and say something to the effect of “look, i’m not sure about all the details of this room but I do know that when you design a room I’t shoudn’t be boring, especially on camera, it has to be big and bold, maybe I would build giant wooden letters that spell out the word family, and hang them above the pool table, the most important thing is that this room needs to reflect who the family is, and this is a fun active family, they like color and they like Bob!. I showed them my color pallet, red and aqua, I described the beach inspired elements in my choices, and then, Bob the producer, rescues me from my presentation and starts asking me more questions… yay and thank God!
Bob asked, how I would handle the conflict that happens on the show with the other designers, I told him that I would try to act like Columbo and if some one insulted me I would pretend that I didn’t know it. I explained that I am not the type to be disrespectful but I would take a stand when I needed to. I told the table of producers, that I would give them plenty of drama in my design work, but I wouldn’t be doing any name calling or insulting my competitors. I shrugged and added that I might cry if someone on the show was super rude, I just didn’t know for sure.
There were many other questions but this post is crazy long so I will wrap it up here, I left the room feeling 97% happy with my interview, although I did wish I had done a better job with my room presentation. Lindsay walked me out to the elevator and told me I did a great job! I asked Lindsey how long it would be before a decision was made and if I would hear back from them either way. Lindsey said I would hear something probably in a week, she said that’s how long it usually takes for the producers to decide but each year is different, she added that I would either get a phone call or an email, I nodded, thanked her and got in the elevator knowing that a phone call would be good and and an email would be, sorry thanks for trying…
I hailed a cab and headed back to JFK. The cab ride back was pleasant, a nice clean car, no scuffles, no gas fumes and it only cost 65$
When I boarded the plane and settled in for the flight back home all of the emotion of my HGTV adventure hit me, I was overwhelmed with gratitude I was fully aware of how much I had changed, I was no longer the girl who let fear invade life. I had given it 175% and it was fun! I started thinking about all of the things that my acting teacher had taught me, he had helped me more than he would ever realize and happy tears filled my eyes! I sent him a quick text before the plane took off telling him how much I appreciated all that he had done.
Then gravity washed over me… I had a real shot at getting on Design Star, I started thinking about the grueling competition, being sequestered for 6 weeks, cut off from family and friends and I started to plan how I would get organic food on the set.
When I got back home there was plenty of work waiting for me, my life is always jam packed with projects and responsibilities so the first few days I did not even think about the phone ringing…
I am a person who prays about everything, I beg God for stuff and I had been pleading with God for 7 years to help me get on Design Star, but now I could not bring myself to ask for it. I felt this overwhelming sense that I should just let what ever was supposed to happen, happen. My prayer was this, God you decide and let me be thankful for whatever the answer is.
Three weeks passed with out any word, every time my Phone would make a noise I braced myself for the email, and every time my phone rang I wondered if it was HGTV. Thanksgiving came and I sat at the table with my family, wanting to share my adventure but nobody knew about HGTV except my Mom and I.
The following week I got the email thanking me for participating and notifying me that I was not selected for season 8….
I did cry for a while, I emailed Lindsey back and thanked her, told her how much fun I had and please tell everyone else I had met that I really enjoyed my day with them.
So now I was finally able to share my big secret with some of my CeCe Caldwell friends, I received a flood of encouraging words from people I had never met telling me how much they enjoyed my videos and to keep going! I read all of the comments to my Mom as I sat wiping the tears away in her kitchen, she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and so was I. It wasn’t long before I was thinking about 2013 and how I would go about making my plans happen with or with out HGTV.
Days later I was looking at my Youtube account and I noticed a video, titled ‘My youtube Story, the video below is Corey’s inspiring story about being featured on the front page of Youtube and how it changed his life. Corey was homeless without money for food and making videos because that’s his passion. Youtube selected one of his videos and posted it on the front page. Overnight, Corey’s channel went from thousands of subscribers to hundreds of thousands. Corey made $10,000 in one month from the adsense revenue connected to his video and now he creates videos full time and earns a living doing so. This video is long but worth watching!
After watching Corey’s video it just confirmed how much I wanted to make videos full time, buy a real camera and produce a design show on Youtube that was television quality.
I did not hesitate this time to ask God to somehow get my videos on the front page of Youtube. I decided to come up with a schedule so I could post a new video every week, this is pretty ambitious for me, it’s often takes me a week to make one video and I have a full plate with my shop. I didn’t know how I was going to achieve this, I just knew that I needed to try to make it happen. A few weeks later Youtube announced that for the first time they were going to let viewers nominate their favorite channels to be on the front page! I read this and thought wow this could be what I have been asking for!
I decided to share my story in video form (the 4 minute version) and post it to my channel asking my viewers for their vote!
I posted this video today, and as I type this I am getting emails from viewers cheering me on and telling me that they voted for me! If you are reading this I am also asking for your vote, If you would like to support me all you have to do is click the link below and answer a few questions,
Enter my name,
check the box that says I have 1000-9999 subscribers
and then just tell Youtube why you like my videos.
The more votes I get the better my chances. If you would like to share my story with anyone you know that might be encouraged by my story please do so 🙂
click here to vote for Debi Beard !
Thank you all for reading this long post, and for your wonderful words of encouragement.
No matter what happens 2013 it’s going to be awesome, and my New Years wish for you is that you go after your passion and face your fears with victory!
Leave me a comment and let me know what your passion is!
Happy New Year!