How is it that mothers always know best? And does nature conspire with them so that they’re always right too?
A recent invitation to take part in a mini talk show destined for early morning TV made me realise my mommy’s wisdom anew. She always said, “Wear high heels,” to which I would always roll my eyes as I slipped on some sandals. The other thing she would always say was “always be more interested in the next person; ask questions.” She meant this as advice for dating, but it’s worked like a charm in many other settings too. In fact, her advice has led me to some of the most fascinating people and is perhaps why I now have a veritable Smarties box of friends and acquaintances.
While I was completely convinced of my mother’s wisdom when it came to ‘being more interested’, I still valued comfort over glamour. Very soon, however, I’d realise that high heels can do wonders for your height and self-esteem!
I was both exhilarated and terrified at the prospect of being in front of the cameras. I kept thinking, “What if the camera zooms in and I go completely blank!” Happier thoughts were, “This could be my lucky break!” In an attempt to calm myself I focused instead on how interesting it would be to go behind the scenes of Expresso and maybe see someone famous. I did! Just a few feet from me celebrities were sitting checking their emails and drinking coffee. If my mom were there she’d walk over and chat up a storm. I preferred to let them go about their business – have their privacy you know?
Being behind the scenes was such a revelation. I saw and heard things that confirmed what actor friends had been saying for years: it’s not as glamourous as it seems. Everyone worked hard, even the celebs. Waiting for hours is normal. So is sitting in aircon-less studios where dust settles through the exposed pipes and wires overhead. I also learned lots about camera angles and the importance of repetition. Booming from behind the black-boxed lens would be a voice saying, “Now do that again, but this time do it faster and look a little more to the left.” I even discovered that live broadcasting isn’t that ‘live’. I have it on good authority that a five-second lag between what is shot and what we see on TV allows time for fixing a strap or having another go at pronouncing that darn word. It was utterly sobering to see how much make-up, light, script writing, editing and engineering goes into making something look and sound ‘natural’.
My mother’s words and a sudden wish for a fairy godmother to bring me some high heels came as I realised the mini talk show we were doing did not entail getting dressed in another outfit. I was anticipating a make-over of sorts, but it was not that kind of show. What’s more, I completely missed the memo that said, “Regardless of the details; if anyone so much as mentions TV, make darn sure you look your best!” My fellow guests definitely got the memo and took their mothers’ advice. They were dressed to the nines and had high heels to match.
I was also wondering when the host would get to the business of being interested in us and asking us questions. I thought that’s how talk shows worked. At least, that’s how it worked on Oprah. Granted, you can only fit so many questions into three minutes of show time and randomly selected unknowns may not seem that interesting. But I suspect that Oprah would’ve been interested even when the cameras weren’t rolling. And if our host had a mother like mine, she would’ve known that asking questions could lead you down fascinating paths toward even more fascinating people.
Unfortunately not everyone is as lucky as I am. And if I should ever get my lucky break I hope I’ll never forget to be more interested in others. Oh, I also won’t forget my high heels!