“NOVA, you’re on in five!” The stagehand yelled.
Nova Quinn, known only as Nova, was exhausted after a year-long world tour. She was finishing up the last show of her newest self-titled album, Supernova. Nova was the hottest female rock star in the business and had done it all; movies, magazines, won Grammy’s, and an A -list celebrity.
She was also known as being a bit of a diva in the industry and was always the talk of gossip news. Despite her reputation, she still made a few friends with other celebrities 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 of being a cut-throat businessman and one of the most well-known wrestling managers in the business. Now an executive to the global brand.
When people took the time to know Nova, they soon saw she was nothing like him or the reputation that preceded her. Unfortunately, not very many people took the time to find out who the real Nova really was. She had become jaded knowing people saw her as only the bossy and self-centered brat of the rock scene. Other than her fans who loved her, she didn’t have many people she could depend on. Nova had a reputation of yelling at staff, trashing hotel rooms, and not to mention, the party girl lifestyle the paparazzi had portrayed.
Nova headed out to the stage with her handler, just going through the motions, attempting to get in the zone to go on stage.
“We’re walking! Nova’s heading to the stage.” The lady said in her headpiece.
Nova had had enough of her demanding lifestyle and strenuous travel schedule. 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.
“One last show, then home,” she thought to herself, as she adjusted her costume.
After daily arguments, butting heads with her manager, they finally agreed she needed some time off to rest. She desperately needed a break before she lost her mind. They canceled her last two shows because of exhaustion and fatigue. She couldn’t risk her health or sanity much longer.
Nova still wanted to make up for the canceled shows for her fans, so she demanded her last show of the tour be free. It would also stream live online, against her manager’s direction.
Nova stood under the stage ready to put on one more show for the tour. She stood at the ready on a hydraulic lift that would bring her up onto the middle of the stage. 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. The holograms gave the appearance that the coat was the universe, once the lights lit up the stage. Her shows were full of special FX, pyrotechnics, and laser lights. Far more glitz and glam than Nova thought were needed.
On stage, the music started as the stage smoke and pyrotechnics filled the space.
“Hello LA! Are you ready for a SUPERNOVA!”
Once the lift had her in place, Nova rushed the stage and rocked the house with her newest hit song. She was feeling energized once she saw the excitement of the crowd. 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 that she wrote about her own life. She went to the black grand piano that was rolled out to the stage as the house lights went down. Only a glowing light shone over her and the piano. Nova began playing the song Smoke and Mirrors as the audience swayed cellphone lights back and forth making the stadium look like fireflies. She could feel the crowd and her own emotions cover her as the words fell from her lips.
Nova’s new song shared the feelings she had been dealing with 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 is if the music was all being overshadowed by the video graphics playing in the background and the annoying laser lights that started to zoom around her. The blinding lights were distracting people from seeing the painful beauty of lyrics.
Singing about being lonely 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 now that they were celebrities. Doing what they loved so much was lonely. She remembered Jade saying she felt fake because the music execs were trying to make her more mainstream. Emma said 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 when he was a manager 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 own rock tour, she was more alone than she had ever been in her life. Nova knew at the end of the night when 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.
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 to 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 her 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 sung her songs wrong but she was now. No one noticed. She wondered if they ever cared.
Nova stopped playing and held her head down over the piano keys. Soon after, the band stopped as well as they become aware of 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 up from the piano. Peering over the now-silent crowd, she knew this had to end. This was not the life she had dreamed of. Something clearly needed to change.
Nova stood before the crowd trying 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 and mumbled questioning what was going on, Nova was shaking and insure of what to do next.
Finally, she spoke, “Turn up the house lights and turn off the lasers, please... Thank you. Do you 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. It has been all over the news and social media. Truth is... I’m tired.”
Nova paced across the stage. “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. 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. Singing this song... I realized something. It’s time for a change. Time for the real Nova to shine again. Not what the music execs want me to be. Not what the media is trying to make people believe.”
Nova looked over her shoulder to her band, then back to the crowd. “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 for at least four bars of that song, and no one noticed. You can’t even hear the show for the pyro booming and 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 to see my fans smile, became less important as the record labels tried to make me what they want me to be. That’s what the song Smoke and Mirrors is about. To them, it’s all about fancy cars, money, and red carpet events. My shows used to be about music. Not fireworks and huge stage productions. It was just me and the 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 old school. 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. Preforming 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! Old school!”
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 really entertain a crowd made her shake with excitement. Running backstage she was smiling and high fiving the band. It all seemed perfect.
Nova’s manager waited for her to get past the curtains and grabbed her by the arm hard. 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 exec’s 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 music exec’s are 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.”
She pulled away and stormed to her dressing room. 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 will 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.
“Oh, Nova. Sweetie, I’m so sorry. Listen, you have to figure out what you want. Stop trying to keep things going if you’re not happy. Every time we talk you are more and 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. Everyone thinks you’re a bitch. I know you’re not, but I hear how you are started to get in 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. I’m right here if you need to talk. I’ve been praying for you.” Emma comforted 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 jerk. You know if he finds out you’re still getting in the ring, he will flip out.”
Nova heard a pounding at the door.
“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? Don’t ever 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. The slam of the door jolted her making her jump. Her head dropped feeling in utter despair. She turned to see her reflection in the mirror. Looking back, was an empty shell of her former self. The woman she once was was slowly fading.