Three truths and a lie.
1. I once appeared on a Canadian game show and lost the top prize because I couldn’t remember Rupert Grint’s name.
2. I worked as a weed wacker for two summers while I was in university and wacked up dog 💩 in my face (and mouth) more than once.
3. I met Dwayne the Rock Johnson.
4. I almost died being crushed to death by a rush of screaming teenage girls at a Ricky Martin CD signing in Paris.
In 2013, I quit my full-time editing job to go back to freelancing. It was the summertime, the freelance gigs were sparse and I had just been fired from my part-time serving job at the Second City in Toronto. I was 30, single, and living with a roommate who would later hide her cutlery underneath her bed and steal my frying pan in the midst of our sticky moving out situation.
When I answered the Craigslist ad reading, “POP CULTURE FANATIC? CASTING FOR NEW GAME SHOW,” it was one of those times in my life where I really had no idea what to do or where I was going. I mean, obviously — I was surfing Craigslist, a place where old IKEA couches and terribly timed meet cutes go to die.
I knew I wanted to write, and earn a living doing so, but I felt like I was in a free fall: no prospects, no real obstacles, and, surprisingly, I was okay with this. I had given myself a month to chill, which wasn’t something I normally did. Chill, I mean. I’m a Capricorn, and 1/3 Generator in Human Design. In Muggle speak, this means I typically have no chill. Creating things, making things happen, makes me feel good about myself. It’s how I make sense of my place in the world. So not having a job and allowing myself to be okay with this, and not judge myself for it, was huge for me. But, intuitively, I knew I needed this time to just be. Which meant joining sailing lessons, meditating daily with Deepak and Oprah, and answering a Craigslist ad to be a contestant for a new Canadian game show.
It seemed like a good idea. I was well-versed in pop culture (a box filled with old People magazines that served no real purpose except to indicate I had inappropriate crushes on Kevin Costner and David Duchovny as a child, proved this) and, as a former acting student, I had no qualms with being on-camera. It seemed like the perfect fit.
I was right. No sooner did I land the audition than I was notified that I got the gig! I was going to be contestant for five episodes on a new game show called Pop Quiz. Contestants were to bring five different outfits, all really bright and colourful, as well as a “winning” anecdote to share with the host. The show was shot in a studio in Toronto, and we were there from about seven in the morning to about seven at night. There were about 12 - maybe 14? — contestants, along with a slicked back blond haired host who really thought he was too cool for school, and his chirpy co-host who was far funnier than he was (yes, Canadians, you would probably recognize both of these people).
So here’s the thing: I went full on Serena Williams in the beginning. I wanted to win. I didn’t want to get too close with the rest of the contestants. I wanted to be the reigning champion. I wanted to be the one to beat. “Oh, you know that woman Brianne? We don’t stand a chance. Her knowledge of the Kardashians and Brad Pitt’s love life is just too on point.”
Did I mention that board games mean life or death to me? Well, they do. Just another reason why I was so eager to play in what I considered the “big leagues” — a televised trivia game show, a major step up from game nights with my friends. For a brief second, I pictured what life might mean for me after winning Pop Quiz. Maybe a shot at Wheel of Fortune? Jeopardy? The Price is Right? I wondered how long I could keep the momentum going of being a full-time game show contestant. Was there such a thing? Maybe I didn’t need a real job. All I needed was a head filled with useless knowledge, like Charlize Theron’s birth place, and a quick buzzer hand. Maybe I could just win all of my earnings and necessities. Who doesn’t need a new toaster oven? I could probably sell all my winnings on Craigslist. A full-circle moment.
So, yeah, I was bit of a dick at first. I kept to myself, scrolled through the latest pop culture headlines, and psyched myself up for the game as if I was training for a grand slam. And guess what? It worked. On the first game, I was focused and fierce. I didn’t even make eye contact with the other players. I was all in. Do I even have to say I made it all the way to the final showdown? I mean, obviously I did. I out-buzzered, out guessed, out Kardashianed all the contestants.
I was asked to name the three stars of the Harry Potter franchise. I knew Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson, but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember the name of the buggy-eyed, ginger-haired kid. Roger? Richard? Roy? I was stumped. I lost the game, and was smugly informed by the smug host of his name: Rupert Grint.
Afterwards, the letdown of the loss stayed with me. I could’ve walked away with $5000 — money I desperately needed at the time — and instead received a $500 gift card to the mall. I mean, cool, but I doubted my landlord would forgo my next month’s rent in favour of my rad pair of jeans from the Jean Machine.
But what stuck out more for me was just how disconnected I felt from what was going on around me, including the rest of the contestants. They were all goofing around with each other, laughing, singing, and I realized I hadn’t kept up my month’s intention of “chilling.” What was supposed to be just a fun thing to do ended up feeling a lot heavier and serious than it needed to be. My game face extended further than my typical need to win at every board game match. It was clear I was trying to prove my worth; that I could win at something. I had quit my job because it had been unfulfilling, only to find no safety and stability in freelancing on top of which I had been fired from one of the easiest (and boring) serving jobs ever. I didn’t feel good about myself.
However, this had been the point of my chill month. It wasn’t about feeling good because of what I was doing or making; it was about feeling good just because. Finding ways that added joy to my life big or small not because they demanded anything from me but because they just asked me to be. That’s the tricky thing when we seek validation from outside of ourselves — we will never, ever feel secure in who we are because we think everything is dependent on what we do. Likewise, we will never feel completely and wholly free and happy when we place our value in another’s hands. I wasn’t being like, “Oh, I’m awesome because I’m Brianne and I’m on a game show having the time of my life and I am in awe of this weirdly wonderful experience.” No, I was like, “Oh, I am only awesome when I can beat everyone else around me, and only when I correctly answer the name of some one-hit movie actor, and only then when I am crowned the winner of this mediocre (let’s be real) cable TV game show, will I feel good about myself and see the value of this experience and of my place in the world.” Huh?
This is no way to live, friends. And yet…do we not feel this way about ourselves a lot of the time? Insert cheesy game show for…job, relationship, financial status, social media following, etc. How often do we judge ourselves for not having what we think we need to have? How often do we force ourselves to do something or act a certain way when we think it will reap a certain result rather than allowing life to play out? Instead of enjoying the flow of it all?
I think about this time a lot, especially during times of uncertainty when I find myself placing my worth on external factors rather than appreciating who I am and what I have now. I recently quit another job for similar reasons from all those years before and during tense moments of “should I do this? Maybe I should do that” I think about that month of chill when I let myself off the hook and decided to play with life rather than compete with it.
After the first game, I’m happy to report I got my shit together and started joining in with the other contestants. I bonded with a small group of people there, we made a lot of jokes, we had a lot of laughs, and we still follow each other on social media to this day. Four shows later, and I didn’t end up making it to another final showdown and I’m kind of glad that I didn’t. Choosing to give up the notion of needing to prove myself allowed me to relax more in the present moment and I ended up having more fun that way (reminder to self: do this more often).
Those are the things I still keep close when I look back on my time as a Canadian game show contestant, and one thing’s for sure — I will never forget Rupert Grint’s name ever again.
(Stay tuned for part 2, when I reveal another truth…)