Live Through This

Lights, Camera, Action

All I want is to be famous, which is the last thing I want to be.

Being on The Glee Project had some not-so-happy effects too, though. I’ve always been a really reserved person (when I’m not on stage); I have a hard time showing my feelings externally. Throughout filming, I had to constantly remind myself to have an appropriate visible reaction to every situation. We’re singing “Party Rock Anthem”? I hate that song, but it’s time to smile and laugh and look excited! During my on-camera interviews I would constantly be thinking about the way I held my face and analyze in real time each word that came out of my mouth: Did I sound excited enough? Happy enough? Like I wanted to be there enough? Would they kick me off the show if my “I want to win!” didn’t sound convincing enough? When I watched the episodes later I could tell I was having the “wrong” reactions, particularly when I checked the callback list. I never looked scared or worried enough when I was in the bottom three, nor did I seem excited when I wasn’t. I studied the way the other competitors acted during their interviews and tried to mimic Abraham’s restless energy, Aylin’s laugh, Mario’s jumping up and down. But I just couldn’t pull it off. And this is what got me kicked off the show after four weeks. (I didn’t look sad when I got that news, either. Everyone else cried.)

My last performance was in front of Ryan Murphy himself. He told me that he wouldn’t want to cast me on Glee because it’s hard to write for a character who lives in his head so much—introversion doesn’t translate well to TV.

In June, a few months after filming wrapped, the show began airing on Oxygen, and I started getting some attention from strangers. People were writing about me and my fellow TGP-ers on the internet, and tweeting me about the show. Knowing that people I had never met were analyzing every detail of my every performance on every episode made me even more self-analytical. There were a lot of negative comments about my voice, which really tore me down, because I was going through a “second puberty” and having a hard enough time singing to my own standards. I started to think that no one would ever like my new voice and that I’d never make it as a singer. I analyzed every movement of my body on screen, especially when I was dancing (I am a terrible dancer, which came up a lot on the show). People on the internet pointed out that I said “I’m transgender” a lot, because they didn’t realize that the show is edited and that they had to include at least one “I’m transgender” per episode to catch up any new viewers. I did a performance for Perez Hilton’s website, and the highest-rated comment on YouTube was “This would be so much better if it were Michael instead of Tyler.” I read the comment by accident—I was watching the video over a friend’s shoulder when he scrolled down—but it really got to me. I became convinced that I wasn’t good enough to make it, or good-looking enough, or desirable enough. I believed the people who said my voice was annoying. I wanted to bury myself in a hole and come out when the show stopped airing, but I couldn’t be honest about that at the time—I had to be excited! For interviews! I knew if I didn’t seem happy enough, people would call me ungrateful and unlikeable, and I just couldn’t deal with any more criticism about my emotional responses.

I wasn’t handling fame very well, and I was only on a small Oxygen show—I can’t imagine what it’s like for people with real widespread fame. My adverse reaction to receiving so much attention surprised me—after all, this was a step toward my lifelong dream of becoming a famous singer! I had spent my entire life dreaming of the day I’d have a record contract, dreaming about writing songs with P!nk, dreaming about going on world tours—I couldn’t hate fame! Wasn’t I always asking for people to pay attention to me—to my singing and to my story? I wanted to be a role model for young people who are queer, trans*, biracial, or otherwise gifted. But now all I wanted to become was a recluse—and it’s hard to be a role model if you won’t leave your house or talk to people.

Since The Glee Project ended, I’ve struggled to readjust my life plan. I still love music, and I love to sing on stage. I love feeling connected with an audience. It’s one of the only “living in the present” moments I ever have, because I’m so stuck in my head all the time. I love that music has that effect on me, and on other people. I know I won’t be fulfilled if I give up that dream. And I still want to work for trans* visibility, acceptance, and rights. I still feel those two callings—music and public service—equally strongly, all the time.

But I hate fame. There’s a big part of me that wants to disappear completely from the face of the earth, never to be bothered again. I want to share my story with as many people as possible, so I maintain an online present; yet I hate feeling like I need to constantly please everyone. But then yet again, I’m scared of losing connections and being forgotten about; I’m scared of being deemed “irrelevant.”

I still haven’t figured out how to strike a balance between my desire for fame and my need for privacy. It’s all just a mess of contradictions, and I don’t know where I stand on any of it, or what I should do. (I do know I need to delete my Twitter, or do something drastic that will cause me to stop prioritizing it, and that I need to stop valuing the standards and opinions of others over my own heart and mind.) Right now here’s what I do: I write for you lovely people. I write poems that I post online. I blog about social issues, and I’m thinking of getting some speaking gigs so I can talk to people about trans* and queer issues, and to answer any questions they may have, in person, no cameras. I honestly don’t know what my future holds—whether I’ll pursue music on a grand scale or decide to help people in a more intimate way. But I feel like I’m on my way to figuring something out. And I think I’ll be OK, whether I wind up with a million fans or just my mom. ♦


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  • eremiomania May 14th, 2013 12:13 AM

    I loved this so much! I’m afraid of fame but I still want to be a film director/screenwriter, I really appreciate this.

    • JO-EY May 20th, 2013 2:35 PM

      Me too! I want to be a screenwriter/director also and, the fame bit scares me a lot. At least directors and writers don’t get as much fame as the ones acting in their film, though, right? To totally tag onto your comment: You always write amazing things, Tyler! It’s like everything you want to do or have gone through, I’ve also gone through. Do you have a long lost twin you don’t know? ‘Cause I think I’m probably that person! :) Thank you though, for always writing something I need to be reading.

  • FlaG May 14th, 2013 12:44 AM

    I had no idea it was you that was writing for Rookie! Such an interesting article to read. I’ve always wondered how people who have been on reality TV show competitions cope with going back to normality after; to go from being famous to relative obscurity once again.
    Wish you all the best in the future, Tyler :)

  • lua May 14th, 2013 1:19 AM

    you are amazing and your voice makes me smile.

  • elliecp May 14th, 2013 2:13 AM

    I totally get this. I spend my life trying to be noticed but then feel so on the spot and vulnerable when i am, that I begin to wonder is maybe being noticed isn’t right for me, even though its what I want so badly.

  • Isil May 14th, 2013 6:48 AM

    I haven’t watched the glee project. But I like your posts and everything you said in Rookie magazine. Somehow I can think you are an amazing person without knowing you. Some people out there are really rude. It’s good to open your feelings out. If you don’t want to be famous but have a desire to fame, you can record videos just for Rookie people. Just like singing to your family.

    I’m always thinking that I’m gonna be famous like you do in the beginning. Mine is kind of different, I’ve always thought I’m gonna be famous in a small group of people. I mean, in YouTube, Tumblr etc. things like that. I don’t know if all people desires that. Do everyone want things like these?

  • Kimono Cat May 14th, 2013 7:06 AM

    Great article, you are definetely one of my favourite Rookie writers! Ryan Murphy’s explanation as to why hé couldn’t cast you confuses me, though. Surely a talanted introverted actor can easily play the role of an extroverted character?

    • Tyler May 15th, 2013 2:32 AM

      Thank you! And absolutely. I’m just a talented introvert, though. Not an actor. Because he didn’t know what was going on inside of me (I can be really hard to read), he found it difficult to imagine writing for a character with my personality.

  • Hannah May 14th, 2013 10:09 AM

    I think you have some fans right here, especially one that find you awesome and inspiring and even though a Oxygen TV show could show us all sides of you, your writing can. Also, I thought your horrible dancing was adorable.

  • AliceS May 14th, 2013 10:23 AM

    I should study right now, but I’m happy to have read this instead. I watched The Glee Project and I liked you and it’s cool to know the way you lived it.

    People are contradictory. We all are. I think that someone doesn’t ask himself the right question and so lives his life without big problems about what he is or what he’d like to do. And there is someone who does. Someone who thinks too much and worry too much. I don’t know what it’s better and what it’s worse. I guess we have to find our own way.

    Good luck Tyler, with any road you will decide to do.

  • Mary the freak May 14th, 2013 1:23 PM

    I am your fan.
    And Michael would have been lame. Seriously, I love everything you write, and you are amazing. ♥

  • trassel May 14th, 2013 1:39 PM

    I wanted to be famous when I was younger too. I still do in some way, since I want to draw comics, and to live off that you need to be considerably well-known. The good thing is that nobody knows who the comic artists are and what they look except huge nerds like myself so I think I will be fine.

    • Tyler May 15th, 2013 2:23 AM

      I so feel you on this. Part of me just wants to write and live in Maine like Stephen King. Achieving that level of greatness (seriously how many #1 bestsellers does the dude have) is next to impossible but to achieve that level of reclusiveness is what I want a lot of the time.

      ALSO, yay for being a nerd. I love comics and I think about making them all the time but I feel like I don’t really know where to start. Keep up the good work and best of luck!

  • imfinejusttired May 15th, 2013 12:56 AM

    i love your writing, and your singing

  • Tyler May 15th, 2013 2:18 AM

    Aw. Thanks for the love, everyone. <3

  • Angeline . May 15th, 2013 7:47 AM

    I really love this. I can’t think of the right words for a proper comment at this moment but I just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed it :)

  • Issmene May 15th, 2013 9:22 AM

    Fame always sounded like a scary thing to me, but on the other hand I also want to be noticed and liked and make people think about stuff I think about, to be really honest. I guess it’s a double-edged sword? Getting noticed with positivity, but not with negativity (which by the way, is often super rude and stupid..I mean, there is nothing wrong with constructive critisism but some people say really mean, bully-like things). I actually really do think that is pretty logical thought to have (not wanting fame, but not wanting it).
    Btw, I do think that you’re reaching a lot of people by your writing/blogging and I think it makes a lot of people aware of social issues.

    I liked you on the Glee Project btw, I really rooted for you (ok, actually for all the contenders, because you guys were not characters, but real people, not that I really know any of you, plus there probably was editing, but you seem like cool people). I felt represented by you although I’m probably not like you in ways, though I’m very introvert and that the way I carry myself changes on stage (I sing as well).

  • saramarit May 15th, 2013 11:04 AM

    Reality tv show competitions are probably the ultimate worst thing to do if you don’t want that attention. I can think of lots of ways to pursue a singing career that won’t land you on Perez Hilton’s site.

    Or if you do want that kind of fame create a persona to hide behind, that way no one will ever really know you.

  • soretudaaa May 16th, 2013 3:36 PM

    I love your artices <3 they're super smart and insightful and interesting and well-written.

  • selinau May 18th, 2013 4:26 AM

    This was such a good article!