I don’t know what made me think of it, but last week I was reminiscing about my junior year of college and my balls-to-the-wall attitude; specifically, the time I decided to enter my university’s Lip Sync contest—by myself, on my own, with no backup support or motivation.

The concept was as simple as it sounds: Pick a song and lip sync to it in front of a crowd of many. Winner takes home $300 cash, with $200 and $100 prizes available for the second the third place winner.

Without giving it much thought, I decided, “Sure, what the hell?” I grew up performing solo dance routines in my elementary and high school talent shows, so I was used to any potential mockery or ridiculing (as is what happens when one, wearing a sparkly green and black sequin/spandex costume, does a jazz dance number to a 2-Unlimited techno song in front of an audience of quick-to-judge “cool kids”). Besides, I kind of looked forward to showing off my “other side” to a student population who only knew me as the bookish journalism student who once actually wrote a letter to the head of residence life because the other students in her dorm were a bit on the “raucous” side and blasted music past her bedtime. This was my opportunity to say “Watch out, kiddos! I may look like a librarian in the making, but I will dance those Dewey decimals into the ground!”

So there I was, ready to make an appearance and show the campus who’s hot stuff….so naturally, I picked a Broadway.showtune. as my song of choice. I had performed in my university’s production of Cabaret the year before, so I was quite familiar with the music.

Me backstage as Kit Kat girl Lulu (third from left). Or maybe this picture was from "28 Days Later: The Musical." Yikes!

I thought the song “Don’t Tell Mama” was a great choice for my debut in the Lip Sync scene: It was slightly scandalous, focused around the innocent-looking-but-not-really theme, and was a much better showtune for this type of event than, say, “Send in the Clowns.” I was taking my audience into consideration: late-teen, 20-something, mostly frat guys and sorority girls. I needed a number where I could look sexy and end in a split.

If my memory serves me correctly, I was the only person who entered the contest alone. The remaining contestants were either part of a pair or a giant group, mostly Greeks representing their letters. There was money to win, but I definitely had everything to lose, including my self-esteem, reputation, and ability to walk around campus without being laughed at.

What I did have going for me was that I was in this for myself, by myself. No one had encouraged me to enter the contest, and no one was in the audience rooting me on. I had downplayed the entire thing to my friends (“Ehh, come if you want, but it’s really no big deal.”) and preferred going into this potentially humiliating mess alone. That’s the balls-to-the-wall attitude I’m talking about; the initiative to just get up and DO something, even if it’s scary, maybe embarrassing, with no support system waving in the wings. And I think that’s what allowed me to shine that evening—I just did it. I put myself out there, in front of a massive hootin’-and-hollerin’ crowd that looked like this:

Actual crowd shot from the contest.

The other groups got whoop-whoops and cheers and homemade posters held up in their honor. I got applause, but none of the extra bells and whistles of support.

At the end of the night, however, I DID get $200.

Yup, I won second place. “Singing” and dancing to a freakin’ Broadway showtune. Beating out fraternity groups who performed to rap songs, placing ahead of sorority sisters who acted like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. I was shocked. Stunned. And pretty damn proud of myself!

My balls-to-the-wall endeavors since then haven’t been as dramatic, and unfortunately they occur less often. It’s a shame, because things usually end up better than I anticipate, like when I auditioned for a state-wide dance festival a month after returning from yoga teacher training and was actually accepted into a piece, despite doubts about my abilities; or the time I stood in front of a group at a leaderless drum circle and suddenly became the “teacher” who attendees looked to for guidance. That’s kind of the way I am; I stand quietly in the corner, silently observing the world around me, and then without much thought just launch into an entirely different person and take the reins.

But is it really “an entirely different person”? Or is that who I really am, and this bookish Tina Fey/Liz Lemon-wannabe character is really just a façade, my layer of protection from potential humiliation and defeat?

Would a librarian in training really audition for her school’s production of Cabaret by singing “Mein Herr” while stripping down to nothing but black velour pants and a strapless bra??

(Sorry, dudes. No photo for that one!) 🙂