The scariest thing in life is taking chances. Following your dreams when you know the odds are seriously against you takes courage and encouragement from those who believe in you.
My dad is one of those people. Courageous, yes, but extremely encouraging. He is the reason I took a chance and tried out for "American Idol" five years ago.
It was mid-November. I stayed home from school because I sprained my ankle the night before and was in no mood to go hobbling down the halls of my high school with a big black boot on. I was sitting on the couch feeling sorry for myself when the phone rang.
"Hey, Carmie!" said my dad. "Guess what? A nurse I work with here at the hospital gave me some information about the 'Salt Lake Idol' auditions. All you have to do is send in a tape of you singing a cappella by today at 5 to the Fox studios here in Salt Lake. And the winner flies out to California for a guaranteed audition for 'American Idol'! Do you want to do it?"
"Whoa. Hold on. What?" This was a lot of information to process. Try out for "American Idol"? I had only seen the finale of Season 1. True, it looked like an amazing opportunity, but how could I get ready and send in a tape to Fox by 5 p.m.? It was already 3:30.
"Dad, we don't own a video camera," I said. "And I haven't exactly attempted to drive with a boot on. How am I going to pull this off?"
I was just about to tell my dad "Thanks but no thanks" when he said something I'll never forget: "Carmen, what have you got to lose?"
I hung up the phone and called a friend to ask if I could borrow a camera. Miraculously, I made it over to her house. But as I was pulling up the driveway, she came running out yelling, "Carmen! I'm so sorry. I just realized we don't have any tapes left."
I took a deep breath, called another friend, and made it over to house No. 2.
Looking back, I can't believe I wasn't more embarrassed about how I looked on my audition tape. I had on pajama bottoms, my hair was in a ponytail on top of my head, I had hardly any makeup on, and I had an ugly boot on my foot. But I didn't exactly have the luxury of time.
I sang a goofy song I wrote about a boy when I was 14, and except for an awkward close-up of my nose, my friend didn't do too bad as a camera woman.
By the time we finished recording, it was 4 p.m. But as we sat down to transfer the audition to a VHS tape, she looked at me and said, "Uh-oh." She realized she'd left the cord we needed at another friend's house.
I was panicking. We raced to house No. 3 and just my luck no one was home. Forget panicking. I was now officially freaking out. Thinking this was just not meant to be, I suddenly heard a voice from around the back of the house.
"Carmen! The back door is open!"
Telling myself it was for "American Idol" and surely the boy who lived here would understand when he found us in his house uninvited, I followed my friend in. We made the transfer and, luckily, he was very understanding.
Tape in hand, I drove to Lakeview Hospital, and handed the tape out the window to my dad, who was waiting on his Harley to drive it into Salt Lake City for me. He had 15 minutes to get it into the producer's hands at Fox. And guess what?
"This will be the last tape we accept tonight!" the producer yelled as he held my tape high in the air.
Two days later, I got a call. KSTU-Ch. 13 wanted me to come in for a second audition. I remember driving to the Rose Wagner Theater with my mom (this time with hair and makeup done, of course) and thinking "Wow. I can't believe I made it this far!"
Five days later, I was standing in the Fox 13 studios being told that I had been chosen as the Salt Lake Idol 2003.
The very next day I was in Los Angeles, preparing for my first round of "American Idol" auditions the producer round.
Having a guaranteed audition spot meant that I could bypass the long lines of people hoping to get a wristband to get in. There were 5,000 camped outside the Rose Bowl. After waiting for about five hours, I finally made it through the first round of producer auditions the only one in my group to advance.
As I walked up to the second level of the stadium, I noticed there were very few people waiting outside the doors.
"What room are you in?"
I looked up to see another girl watching me from across the room.
"Um ... room No. 1," I said glancing at the paper.
Her eyes opened wide and she said, "Oh that's too bad. That's the toughest room. No one has been getting through from room No. 1."
Suddenly, door No. 1 opened and a very upset boy came walking out, shaking his head.
"Good luck," he mouthed to me.
"Next!" someone yelled from inside.
I was terrified. There were about five people waiting for me inside.
One had a British accent. It was Ken Warrick, the co-producer of "American Idol." I sang LeAnn Rimes' "Blue" as best I could and was surprised at the response "I like you, darling! You've made it!"
I couldn't believe it. There were so many other amazing singers who didn't make it through.
I wondered what made me stand out. Later, after I got called back to be on the wild card show after having been cut from the top 24, I was told it was my country voice, and get this my hair!
"I remembered your blonde curly hair," Warrick said. "And I wanted you to come back."
Finally, "American Idol" has made the trek to Utah. And it only took them five years and David Archuleta to do it!
"Idol" hopefuls often ask me, "Do you think it's worth it to even try out? What are the chances?"'
Realistically, out of more than 100,000 people, not good. But then I smile and my dad's voice comes into my head.
"What have you got to lose?"