On Saturday at 2 p.m. Eastern time, MTV will air the climactic final face-off of "Wanna Be a VJ3," its third televised nationwide search for an on-air video presenter (a live, three-hour TelePrompTer-reading showdown among six extremely loud, posturing young people). The very lucky winner will receive a one-way ticket to stratospheric fame, or the MTV equivalent, courtesy of viewers who will vote online to choose their own television host.
How did they get here, these lucky six? Well, they queued up -- along with the clueless, the hopeless and the slight of opportunity -- in San Francisco, St. Louis and Spencer, N.C. Anyone who met the following requirements was allowed to audition: 1) show up; 2) be one of the first 1,000 to show up. You want to be a big star, you wait in line just like everybody else.
In San Francisco, a sleepy crowd of hopefuls, roped off from the remainder of an empty parking lot by a complex system of nylon cords, poles and banners, shuffled blithely toward their destiny. All around them were concrete and a few underemployed security guards. (Hopeful candidates were consolidated, it turns out, to make for more dynamic crowd shots.)
As music blared over the loudspeakers and wannabes had fun on command for the camera, the crowd waited to be admitted into the audition area (a hangar with 10 video stations), where the 1,000 would each be given seven minutes on tape to express themselves, be themselves and present phantom 'N Sync videos. I trolled the area in search of an explanation.
Why do you want to be a VJ?
"I'm a big MTV fan, you know what I'm saying; I always watch MTV and I just want to do my part to do what I gotta do."
"Um, I've been kind of working in this industry -- I'm a professional dancer -- and I love music. I mean, VJ is, like, the coolest job on the planet, is it not? I mean, you're famous, you're cool. Easy, awesome job."
"Because I'm too unique to pass up."
"I need people to listen to me."
"I'm a product of MTV and it represents all of the individual. And it makes people say, well, I don't have to stick to this to be a good person. I can have purple hair. I can wear pink lipstick. Doesn't matter."
"I want to be part of my generation, I guess."
"I want to have an influence on people's lives -- for a good reason. It's not about the limelight, it's not about the money, it's not about the sex, the drugs ... it's about ... this is a job, you know? This is a job. I plan on making this my career."
"I love music like you would not believe."
What do you think makes a good VJ?
"I think it's how good you read the cards."
"I think you have to have a good personality. And regardless of what your opinion is -- I mean you can share that, but, you know, really be open to whatever."
"Keeping the viewers awake and into the videos and stuff."
"I think it's looks."
What's your last name?
"I don't want to say cause I'm cutting work."
Where do you work?
"I don't want to say that, either."
What kind of work do you do?
"I'm an actor."
You're cutting acting?
"That's just my wannabe career."
What do you think they're looking for in a VJ?
"I think it's looks."
"I think I'm lacking in knowing about the groups. The names and stuff."
"My friends have been telling me for years that I have a lot of charisma."
"It's OK to be you."
"I'm at a point in my life where I'm becoming more happy."
"I have enthusiasm."
How does it feel to be a semifinalist?
"I'm always going to be Lorelei! The world needs to see me! The world needs to see Lorelei!"