Project Runway, Top Chef, Work of Art, Chopped, Face-Off, Cupcake Wars, Sweet Genius...that sort of thing. Watching the contestants struggle with each challenge looks like fun, and also looks a little like torture. Seeing how each contestant interprets the mystery "ingredient" is where the creativity comes in.
It's the "confessional" on-camera talk that really gets me. It's the part of each of these shows that is designed to lure you in; make you love or hate the contestant, or feel sorry for them, or realize how talented they think they are. So many of them are obnoxiously over-confident.
One universally disliked reality show contestant recently delivered a line that was so telling - I can only paraphrase, but when told he was overly self-assured, he explained "there's a difference between arrogance and confidence. There is nothing wrong with being confident when you know you have "it" - arrogance is confidence with the lack of talent."
These shows suck us in with on-camera confessionals - even the best of shows want us to root for or against certain contestants. Think of kids that are adored beyond reason on Idol...the terror-in-high-heels on Top Model...and there's always some pompous ass on any cooking show.
And then there's the meek & modest, quiet, hard-working types that put their heads down and do their jobs. The loud ones that think volume and "personality" make up for talent. And of course, throw in a few visionary but self-doubting contestants. Stir.
How come artisans who are potentially and equally talented have such a huge range of confidence? Were they born that way? Did someone overindulge them, or is it all an act? Assuming they can all design, cook, paint, sculpt or bake...where does the self-esteem come from...or why is it lacking?
Given any group of us creative types... assuming they all have the capabilities to compete on the show - with the same challenge in front of them - you'll hear these sorts of "confessions."
- I'm the best one here, no one has the skills I have.
- I am better than _____, I went to the "real" school: CIA, Parsons, FIT, the Cordon Bleu
- I don't know how to approach this challenge.
- This isn't my aesthetic or I don't use this product or I don't model in the nude and I don't feel comfortable not expressing "who I am" as a: designer, chef, artist...
- OMG, we're gonna lose - my partner is: taking too much time, is questioning my design, doesn't know how to surge, is not talented, too young, too old, too slow, doesn't speak English...
- I wish ______ would just shut up!
- I've never done this before
- I'm running out of time
- I am going to take a risk by going big or going home [bye-bye, no one wants a jalapeno popper cupcake]
- Why won't the other contestants help me by telling me where the sugar is, how to use this sewing machine, etc.
- Why is contestant _________ here if they don't know how to sew, cook, make pastry, walk the runway, use make-up?
- I use my sexuality to win everything.
- I'm more than a pretty face [or body]
- I'm screwed, I picked the wrong: ingredient, fabric, material, theme...
- I cut myself, I sewed my finger, I dropped the pan, I burnt the mystery ingredient...[tears]
- I am having a hard time doing this because I: miss my kids [tears], husband [tears], lover [photo shown of gay or lesbian lover], I've never been under pressure to perform
- I am a self-taught and I'm just as good as the contestant that went to: art school, design school, culinary school...etc.
- I'm self taught and I've never seen this kind of: fish, fabric or other ingredient before
- I really hate contestant _____ he/she really gets under my skin
- I am going to destroy the competition by trash-talking, bullying, teasing my fellow contestants.
- I'm too good for this, I am leaving - the judges don't appreciate my skills
- It's not cheating if I used a: glue gun, overhead projector, pre-made product...
- I am going to sabatoge _________'s project
- I'm going to win this to prove to my parents that I made the right decision by going to _____ school/profession
- I'm doing this because if I win I will prove to my daughters that you can do anything you want to in this life [so, if you lose that means your daughters can't?]
- I'm doing this because I have/had a life threatening illness
- I'm doing this because I want to use the money to: help others, put my kids through college, visit my parent is far-away land, open my own: restaurant, bakery, gallery, store... [like 10K after taxes will do that]
I'm sure the producers have a list of "types" they need for the casting call: one pretty, one old, one scary, one loathsome asshat, one super talent, one self-taught weirdo, one club kid, one country girl, one with a strange accent, one sexy, one with a lot of tattoos, and one just for cannon fodder [goes home first week].
You'll get egotistical, arrogant, confident, neurotic, terrified, audacious, pushy, nasty, catty, timid, doubtful, poised, hesitant, shameless, modest, disorganized, confused, annoyed, petty, sensitive, gifted, skilled, clumsy, inept, imaginative, incompetent... personalities
And within many of us creative types, you'll find all of the above within us. One moment confident, another moment - your sensitivity finds you crashing through the floor. Maybe the judges are too mean, maybe they don't understand you, maybe they're stupid.
You'll find a great chef or artist or designer can be just as neurotic as the people who have no talent, but eat their food, wear their clothes or hang their art on their walls.