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“NOVA, you’re on in five!” The stagehand yelled from outside the door.
Nova Quinn, known only as Nova, was exhausted after a year-long world tour. Finishing up the last show of her newest self-titled album, Super Nova, had been my physically draining on the rock star than she could have ever imagined. Nova was the hottest female singer in the business and had done it all; movies, magazines, won Grammy’s, and an A-list celebrity.
The public knew her as being a bit of a diva and she often was the talk of celebrity gossip news. Despite her reputation, she still made a few friends with other stars like her best friends, Emma and Jade, from the rock band Roxy. People assumed Nova was just like her cocky father, wrestling manager of the world-renowned Powerbomb Global, Eric Quinn. He had quite the reputation of his own, being a cut-throat business manager, and one of the most well-known managers in the business.
When people took the time to know Nova, they soon saw she was nothing like her father or the reputation that preceded her. Unfortunately, not very many people took the time to find out who the real Nova really was. After years of her bad reputation, she had become jaded by knowing people saw her as the self-centered brat of the rock scene. Other than her fans who loved her, Nova didn’t have many people she could depend on. A reputation of yelling at staff, trashing hotel rooms, and not to mention, the party girl lifestyle the paparazzi had portrayed didn't do much to improve things.
The last night of her big tour Nova headed out to the stage with her handler. Just going through the motions she attempted getting in the zone to go on stage.
“We’re walking! Nova’s heading to the stage,” the lady shrieked in her headpiece making Nova cringe from the shrill voice.
Nova had enough of her demanding lifestyle and strenuous travel schedule and was counting down the minutes for the tour to be over. She was ready to head home to sleep in her own bed in the luxury penthouse apartment in Manhattan after the long tour finally ended for a much-needed hiatus.
“One last show, then home-sweet-home,” she thought to herself, as she adjusted her costume.
After butting heads with her manager they finally agreed she needed some time off to rest. It was obvious to anyone looking in that she wasn't the same woman she hadn't been years before. She desperately needed a break before she lost her mind. The promoters had canceled her last two shows because of exhaustion and fatigue. She couldn’t risk her health or sanity much longer; especially after her short stint in the hospital weeks before.
After several weeks of back and forth, Nova wanted to make up for the canceling of several events and do something to show appreciation for her fans. She demanded her last show of the tour be free with a live stream online, against her manager’s discretion.
Nova stood under the stage platform, ready to put on one more show for the tour. Standing at the ready on a hydraulic lift that would bring her up into the middle of the stage, she was dressed in a black sequin bodysuit, thigh-high boots, and white custom coat that would show hologram projections as she performed. She shivered with excitement at the idea of the holograms giving the appearance that the coat was the universe, once the lights lit up the stage, knowing her fans would love it. Her shows were full of special FX, pyrotechnics, and laser lights. Far more glitz and glam than Nova thought were needed, but it was par for the course at this point.
On stage, the music started as the stage smoke and pyrotechnics filled the space.
“Hello LA! Are you ready for a SUPER NOVA!”
Once the lift had her in place, Nova rushed the stage to rock the house with her newest hit song. Feeling energized once she saw the excitement of the crowd her spirits were instantly lifted. Performing was her life, and she loved it. This was her safe place; on stage with her fans.
Halfway through the show, Nova was getting ready to sing a new ballad she wrote about her own life. Going to the black grand piano that was rolled out to the stage, the house lights went down. Only a soft glow shone over her and the piano. Nova began playing the song Smoke and Mirrors as the audience swayed with light from cellphones. Back and forth they waved making the stadium look like fireflies. With the feel of the crowd, her own emotions took over as the words fell from her lips.
Nova’s new song shared the feelings that consumed her over the past few years. Her second world tour had grown to be nothing like she expected the rockstar life to be. Her personal life was in shambles, and she just wanted to go home to be with her family.
As she played, Nova felt as if the music was all being overshadowed by the video graphics playing in the background and the annoying laser lights that zoomed around her. The blinding lights were distracting people from seeing the painful beauty behind lyrics.
Singing about her loneliness on the road, and having to be something she wasn’t, Nova remembered a conversation she once had with her friends, Jade and Emma. She traveled with them on a festival tour and it was the most fun she had in the music business over her whole career.
The friends often talked about how hard the music life was once they were celebrities. Doing what they loved so much was lonely regardless of how happy the smiling faces of the crowds were. She remembered Jade professing the feeling of being a fraud while the music execs tried to make her more mainstream. Emma noted that she felt like her love for music had turned into flashing lights and cameras instead of a way to reach people through music.
Nova’s mind wandered to memories traveling with her father at his old wrestling company years before. With wrestlers, it was like a traveling family. She missed those simpler days practicing in the ring and working to be a wrestling star. Here on her metal tour, she was more alone than she had ever been in her life. Nova knew at the end of the night and the lights went out, she would return to her hotel room, left with just her thoughts.
Even her own band members stopped hanging out with her once her perceived diva attitude started. So having any social life had become nonexistent.
Halfway through the song, Nova looked out to the crowd where people held up lighters and cell phones, swaying to the music and singing along. Curious about the reaction, she stopped singing and began just moving her mouth. Suddenly she realized no one was hearing her. No one even noticed. She had heard other musicians say this could happen, but she never realized how true it was. They were just singing to what they knew.
Nova felt overwhelming emotions well up inside her as she struggled to breathe. Recent years had caused her overwhelming anxiety, and all was crashing around her now. Tears fell and her voice trembled as she tried to sing again. Nova had never missed a beat, but she was now. No one noticed and he wondered if they ever cared.
Nova stopped playing and held her head slumped down over the piano as a single tear hit keys. Soon after, the band stopped as well as they realized what was happening. She looked to the side of the stage where her music manager stood frantically waving her to go on.
Nova slowly took the microphone and stood from the piano ready to take back her life. Peering over the now-silent crowd, she knew this had to end. This was not the life she had dreamed of and something clearly needed to change.
Standing before the crowd she desperately tried to get a hold of herself, taking a deep breath that she didn’t realize she had been holding in. For the first time in her life, she was experiencing stage fright. As the people watched her she could hear the mumbles of voices questioning what was going on. Shaking she was unsure of what to do next.
Finally, she spoke, “Turn up the house lights and turn off those damn lasers... Thank you. Ya know, I did this show for all of my fans. All of you out there in the crowd and across the world who are watching me now live in their homes. As you all know, I have been dealing with a lot of pressure lately. I became hospitalized for exhaustion just a week ago for the third time in the past few months. It has been all over the news and social media. Truth is... I’m tired.”
Nova paced across the stage as she thought about her life that was now out of control.
“The paparazzi follow me everywhere I go, spreading lies about me. People on the street yell obscenities, thinking I’m some kind of monster. People protest outside my concerts saying I am a horrible role model for their children. I hate that and it breaks my heart. My whole life I wanted to be an inspiration to kids who had a dream just like I did. I never wanted to be a disappointment to my fans or my family. Singing this song, I realized something. It’s time for a change. Time for the real Nova to shine again. I'm tired of pretending to be what the music execs want me to be. I'm not what the media is trying to make people believe. I'm a real person behind the persona of Nova the superstar.”
Glancing over her shoulder to her band so thought of the effect the media had on them, then back to the crowd saying, “I need to make it up for everything. You came to see me and my band rock the house because you love my music. I haven’t sung a word now for at least four bars of that song, and no one noticed. You can’t even hear the show for the pyrotechnics booming and being blinded by laser lights flashing in your face. The fans are why I’m still here, not for myself. You didn’t come to see the stage designs, crazy costumes, or fancy props. You came to watch a kick-ass rock show!”
The crowd cheered at her statement, giving Nova the strength she needed to go on.
“This all stopped being about the music a long time ago. My love for performing, and seeing my fans smile, became less important as the record labels tried to make me into a money-making machine. That’s what the song Smoke and Mirrors are about. To them, it’s all about fancy cars, cash, and red carpet events. My shows used to be about music, not fireworks and huge stage productions. It was just me and the art of making music. Tonight, I will do something different from what I have done this whole tour...”
She turned back to her band once more. “Guys, it’s time we take back the stage and go back to our roots. These people came for a real show and we’re going to give it to them. We will rock like we did when we started this journey six years ago; performing in dive bars and shady concert venues. No more pyro, videos, or crazy lights. Just an old-school rock concert. Are you with me?”
The crowd and her band cheered.
“Good! Now let’s rock this crowd the way we used to! Time to ROCK!”
She started singing one of her more hard rock anthems and the crowd went wild from being able to hear and feel the music. Nova and the band played the best show they had the whole tour, and she felt more energized than she had since it started. As she sang, she knew, it was time to take back her life. Starting right now.
After the show, Nova felt amazing. Remembering what it was like to entertain a crowd made her shake with excitement.
Running backstage, she was smiling and high-fiving the band and for the first time in years, it all seemed perfect.
Nova’s manager waited for her to get past the curtains and grabbed her by the arm so hard she was sure it would leave marks. Pulling her to the side, he was fuming. Nova’s smile quickly faded when she saw the look in his eyes.
“What the hell happened out there? You ruined my show! I have promoters and record execs calling me worried you will have some mental breakdown. You have five more shows ready to go up for promotion, so you better get your shit together. Not to mention the label's breathing down my throat for you to write songs for the next album.”
“Your show? Last I checked, I’m the one out there busting my ass! First of all, get your damn hands off me! Second, I told you I need a break. I’ve been dragging my ass on stage for months, just going through the motions. I’m not going on tour again until I’m damn good and ready. I talked to the band today during rehearsals. They agree we need time with our families. Now, get my flight changed. I’m going home.”
Pulling away she stormed to her dressing room with rage building at the thought of the man's threats. Locking the door behind her, Nova grabbed her cell phone to call her friend Emma.
“Hey, Nova. What’s up, girl? I watched the show. It was amazing! I was worried for a minute there, but you pulled it together.”
“Emma, I can’t keep doing this. I'll be in a mental institution if I keep up this pace. I haven’t slept in weeks.” Nova put her head in her hand, leaning on the makeup table as she fought back tears.
“Oh, Nova. Sweetie, I’m so sorry. Listen, you must figure out what you want. Stop trying to keep things going if you’re not happy. Every time we talk, you're more depressed. I thought this show was a good thing, but now I think you are just rallying to keep your head above water. I hear people talk and everyone in the industry thinks you’re a bitch. I know you’re not, but I hear you're getting into a dark place again. It’s the stress of trying to keep up this persona of yours. Maybe you just need to get away for a while and figure out what’s important to you. I know it’s hard and I’m right here if you need to talk. I’ve been praying for you,” Emma said comforting her best friend.
She was always her biggest cheerleader. Her support saved Nova’s life in a time she was at her lowest.
“What if this isn’t where I belong anymore? I love music, but I miss my old life.”
“Nova, are you still thinking about returning to wrestling? I’m no expert, but from what I could see when I watched you practice, you’re good at it. Of course, that’s just your bestie talking. At the end of the day, it’s your choice to make. I just suggest keeping Liam from finding out until you have to. That manager of yours is a jackass. You know if he finds out you’re still getting in the ring, he'll flip out.”
Nova heard a pounding at the door and instantly stiffened knowing what was on the other side.
“Emma, I have to go. I’ll call you later. Love you, sister-friend.”
Opening the door stood her manager, red-faced and furious.
“Grab your stuff! The plane is ready. I’m gonna give you two weeks to get your damn diva ass together. Princess, I don’t know who you think you are? Never talk to me the way you did in front of the band and crew earlier. No one talks to me that way, do you understand me? I can make it where you never work in this business again. Now get moving! We have a flight to catch.”
Liam turned and slammed the door in Nova’s face jarring the entire room. The slam of the door jolted her, making her jump as the teats started to roll. Her head dropped, feeling utter despair wash over her. Turning to see her reflection in the mirror, looking back was an empty shell of her former self. The woman she once was fading fast.