It’s kind of funny how our lives can change in a split second, in a seemingly innocuous moment. For me, that moment came when I was flipping channels on a rainy day in 2004 and decided to stop on a show I’d never seen before: ‘Endurance.’
I soon discovered that it’s a bit Survivor-like. Twenty kids ages 12-15 are taken to a remote location, paired up, and compete in challenges. Within minutes, I was hooked and hunkering down to watch the all-day marathon.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the game. The competitors are sent to a remote location where they immediately compete in a Right to Stay challenge, where three boys and three girls are eliminated. From there, teams are formed (one boy and one girl on each team) and compete against each other. The object of the game is to collect all thirteen Pyramid Pieces; some challenges win you a piece and the ability to handicap another team in the next challenge, and some win you the right to send two teams to compete to avoid elimination. Eliminations happen at the Temple of Fate, and the teams that are sent there play water, fire, wood (basically rock, paper, scissors). The team that wins two out of three returns to the game, while the losing team is eliminated. This continues until one team is left standing.
Fast-forward a few months. What had begun as a product of my boredom had exploded into a full-blown obsession. I was watching old episodes, chatting with other fans on message boards, buying clothes that were the color of my favorite team. One day – one fateful, fateful day – I was watching the latest episode to air, and one of the contestants who’d made it to the final four teams was complaining that she wanted to go home.
I was furious. Furious that there were deserving teams sent home before she was, and furious that thousands of kids were sitting at home and wishing they were in her position. And that’s when it hit me. Well, someone had to be on the show, right? Why not me? When I presented the idea to my parents, they shrugged and let me have at it.
My dream was born. I began researching how to audition and when the time came, I filmed an audition tape with nothing but my brother, a video camera, and some serious enthusiasm. I sent it off to California with high hopes but low expectations. I mean, what would they want with a skinny, soft-spoken girl with no previous TV experience?
A month and a half later, the phone rang. Caller ID logged it as an unknown number, so nobody answered. I’m watching TV in the basement as my mom sprints downstairs. “You need to listen to the message on the machine,” she said breathlessly. “Right now.”
It was a producer of the show telling me they liked my tape and wanted to see more of me. After slapping myself a couple of times to make sure I was awake, I returned the call, got some details, and filmed a second tape.
Unfortunately, that’s where it ended. I didn’t hear from them again and watched Endurance season four from my couch.
However, I was just turning 15; I had one season of eligibility left. I repeated the process the following year and, lo and behold, got another callback after my first tape. But this time, I was ready. I pulled out all the stops for tape number two, enlisting the help of my entire family and filming a masterpiece that culminated with a sprint up a giant staircase to the Rocky theme song. I sent in my tape feeling truly sorry for the kids I was up against.