Right before I step out the door to audition for a spot in Dubai's first all-girl pop band, my friend offers me a last-minute insight. "This could be your big break," he says and smiles. "You never know. After this afternoon, you might start living the dream!" A flurry of nervousness rummages through my stomach and I tighten the grip on my car keys. Honestly, what did I really know about this audition other than the picture of six women in skimpy outfits that decorated the small ad on Dubizzle?
Sure, I spoke to the 22-two-year-old leader of the band, Leonora Osaigbovo, but all she told me on the phone is she'd like to establish a "multicultural Pussycat Dolls" and needs three more members. The audition will be from 2-5pm, involve dancing and be judged "American Idol style". Does that mean there will be a Simon Cowell, I wonder, while steering my car over the Garhoud bridge towards Deira. Will the judges perform a good cop, bad cop routine, will my husky voice be able to transcend the Thursday night karaoke sound and how many other sheep will be waiting?
I check my hair in the reflective windows of the Emirates Concorde Hotel and wiggle my toes in my only pair of stilettos. I look good. No need to be nervous. I have a legitimate reason to be here: I'm on assignment. I strut inside, take the circular Seventies lift up to the mezzanine and follow the signs for "Dubai First Pop Star Audition" through the deserted corridor. My heels click loudly on the shiny brown and gold marble. My bag, stuffed with gym clothes for the choreography round, is heavy on my arm. Distant laughter and light violin music waft through the hotel hallway. My heartbeat increases. I take a deep breath. Here we go...
I blink and see three girls all dolled up sitting on bright blue office chairs in an otherwise empty conference room. I blink again and realise this is it. There is nondescript grey carpet, a table and some rural landscapes in thick baroque frames on the walls. "Hi," I stammer when six eyes scan me from head to toe. "I'm here for the audition?" A stunning Nigerian pops up and extends her hand. "I'm Leonora," she beams. "Welcome to the audition. You're early."
I accept a glass of water and sit down. For the first hour, there are as many members of the media as there are band members. Osaigbovo looks a bit anxious but assures me I will not be the only one. "I'm counting on 30 people," she says. "They're probably running fashionably late." Well, at least this gives me a chance to get to know the girls. I find out this is the second time Osaigbovo has tried to start an all-girl band in Dubai. The first attempt, four years ago, failed. "My father taught me never to give up," she says. "I've always wanted to be a pop star like Mariah Carey and Paris Hilton."
A new addition to the band, 23-year-old Julia Komarova, giggles. "You can't compare Carey to Hilton! Paris has no sense of music. Her first song was sooooo bad." After a moment of laughter, they agree: it won't be their musical direction. They have yet to figure that out. "We'll probably start with some covers, do some voice training and end up doing our own stuff," Osaigbovo says. "I've almost written three songs already."
Osaigbovo is an encyclopaedia of contemporary pop culture and keeps dishing up little-known facts on Destiny's Child, Girls Aloud and the Sugababes. As I find out more about Rogue, the working title of the band, it turns out the name isn't set in stone. "Those things we're going to decide on together," Osaigbovo says. "Once we are complete." Komarova's eyes light up and she wipes her frizzy bleach blonde hair from her face. "Maybe we should call ourselves the Dubizzle Girls!"
She has dreamt of being famous since she was in a band back home in Belarus. Komarova started working in the hospitality industry in the UAE two years ago, but from now on the band will be her first priority. "We need a sponsor," she thinks out loud. "And then we'll have to take some voice lessons, get a manager, schedule some gigs..." Marianne Argy, a perky Greek-Australian bombshell of 27, interrupts Komarova's train of thought: "When I saw the ad, I knew. This is it. This is big. We definitely have a shot."
There will be no prefab format like sporty, spicy or the girl next door. "That's been done," Argy says while swinging her zebra stiletto over her black skinnies and adjusting her silver top. "This is new. We all bring a different background... We'll mix it up all multicultural and real." One by one, more girls walk in. Two in total. While the three of us fill in the application form and jot down why we need to be part of this group, I am no longer nervous. When it's my turn, I close my eyes and sing Gershwin's Summertime fully at ease. For the dancing, Julia picks out a top 40 song from her mobile phone and puts it on speaker. Then, it's over. "You can all go home and we'll call you if you made it."
The Rogue girls perform an a cappella version of Shakira's You Are Beautiful for a local television station and I hum along while grabbing my stuff. Leonora looks me in the eye and says: "Your voice is beautiful." My heart leaps. "For background." I wonder if they will call me back. To be considered for the band, e-mail email@example.com for more details.