Glamour (Short Story)
Her stage name personified her reputation – ‘Glamour’. Heralded now by millions, she was idolised by young and old, male and female. An actress that rose to superstar status, now seated in a first class carriage on her way to an awards ceremony, peering outside the glass window as a more ordinary world passed by her.
Her outsiders and fans, her lovers and haters, could see in her no less than the lady who had it all – her public image certainly rendered it as such. Expensive cosmetics that scoffed at perfect natural beauty to render it insecure, a face on her constant smile worn like a crescent moon, glowing… she was the trophy for what life on earth could be. The American dream, as it were, could hold her name as a synonym – what it means to achieve glamour, success, happiness, above and beyond. She bore the flag of a life that others aspired to – the poster on the wall, the reason to grind through dreary routines cherishing dreams that may otherwise seem fruitless. Many wished they could be her, or be like her, or even – such was her status – some desired just to be noticed by her. What worth one must have, for a people’s life ambition to be reduced to the mere acknowledgement of their otherwise meaningless existence!
Yet Renee Leyton couldn’t see herself as further from the screen persona for which she was so beloved. All she could think about, sitting on this carriage, was how there was still this young fan girl inside her, and how surreal that she was the subject of hysteria now. Yet what troubled her more was how she fought to be noticed, for years climbing the ranks, accruing the buzz of recognition, fortune and fame, and now that she was there…lost. So mesmerised by the chase she forgot why she was chasing it, tantalised by a fantasy that betrayed her. She remembered how, at the beginning, she just wanted to prove herself to a world that refused to concede to her existence – to old friends that lost touch, lovers that loved no more, rejecters that once broke her, haters that mocked at her every hope, and those that once might have cared but later simply didn’t. So determined she was, to act her heart out, to force her spirit through their ignorance and indifference to her, to win all the acclaims… because then everyone would love her. Those that once loved and forgot her would reignite in remembrance again; those that never knew of her would start to. It made perfect sense in her mind – to be rich and famous, admired and successful – this was the lifestyle worth fighting for, the dream worth living for – to be noticed, appreciated, understood and wanted.
As she was rising up rapidly, messages were flooding in of support and positivity from people she hadn’t spoken to in years, just as she’d hoped. It was all she thought it would be and so much more… alas, this was only transient. For soon, old acquaintances would ask favours, or would try to remind her of how close they used to be, or tell her how she’d changed…no mention of their disappearance, or how they blanked her when she tried to reconnect in the past. The proximity she initially desired quickly felt like suffocation, people trying to hone in to her success and snatch it from her, like crowded barbarians playing a tug of war with her helpless body.
Even the close friends, that were before armoured with unquestionable intentions, were now suspects as she wondered about every motive and action as a psychological game, as a desire for something from her. What haunted Renee was that, after all this journey and effort, for all her status and acclaim, she felt bound to a helpless feeling that the world did not love her, but more what she had, what she’d earned. They loved what ‘Glamour’ represented – not who Renee was. It would extract components of her soul whenever those thoughts surfaced in her mind, because Renee was not ‘Glamour’, and she was so conflicted and troubled in being these two people at once. Most of us hold different elements of our personality, but when your whole life is magnified and examined to intricate detail, you cannot embrace them all – and in covering any aspect of her being she felt more like a hypocrite. Renee was the dirty secret that Glamour had to hide. A tear would have rolled down her cheek at high speeds had she not exerted every effort to maintain the makeup that her team spent hours on doing for her.
She knew how important it was to keep her public image. The world didn’t want to see her for her true colours, and while it pained her, she was so afraid of what they would all think. Too often she had seen the world condemn celebrities to lunacy if they expressed heart, dismiss their struggles as unworthy, their issues as attention seeking. She would often rationalise her suffering, saying that this self-sacrifice in moulding an illusion – an artificial hope for millions – could enforce a genuine joy in the masses. Maybe not all celebrities felt like her, reduced to commodities and assets, used and subject to majority consensus – or more bluntly – a slave to the public. They never showed her these in the terms and conditions of success.
Yet here she was, with a vacant stare, ingesting a void that she desperately tried to cover up from the world she was running to with a lavish lifestyle and an image that never correlated with her state of self.
The carriage was pulling over – the awards ceremony drawing nearer. Renee smiled a half-smile – maybe today would be the day she would expose her thoughts, her feelings, this fabricated façade that has deceived the world of public image, of beauty, of fame, of friendship, of fortune. She rehearsed the idea in her mind endlessly before any such event. For now though, she had to get back into the acting role she struggled with most. Exhaling a deep breath of dread, she went forth – displaying her glistening whitened teeth complementing her royal velvet dress.
Renee was to cover herself from the world again, and pretend she was ‘Glamour,’ once more.