On Saturday morning I was mindlessly driving my seven-year-old daughter from her acting class to my nine-year-old son’s lacrosse game with the radio on when it happened. The moment I wish I could have avoided. If only I had been blaring music from my somewhat outdated and slightly embarrassing playlist instead of allowing my daughter to be infiltrated by a pathetic group of scammers.
Here is what came on the air: “Does your child want to be a Disney Channel Star on shows like Jessie or Austin and Ally? Open call auditions for kids and adults are being held this weekend. Call XXX-XXX-XXXX to reserve your spot. Only the first 200 callers will be accepted.”
My daughter nearly stood up with her seat belt on and spoke directly to the radio, “I do. I want to be on Jessie. Oh Mommy I want to do it. Call the number. Please!”
The person on the air repeated the number more than 5 times and she jotted it down. I took a deep breath and attempted to explain that what she heard may not actually be an audition for those Disney shows, but instead for an acting/modeling agency that wants to make money.
She said with urgency in her eyes,” Okay, that’s what I want to do. Please Mommy. I want to be on TV.”
I knew she was being sincere and that she didn’t really understand what I meant. She dreams of being on TV. She is shy and doesn’t get overly excited easily. In fact, other than her continual campaign to get her own room or collect more Shopkins toys, she hardly asks for anything with overt enthusiasm. This is why my heart sank. I told her I would call later and learn more. I hoped she would let it go.
Hours later she was drawing at the kitchen table when she turned to her brother and said, “I’m going to be on Jessie.”
My heart dropped all over again. DAMNIT. My little star struck dreamer didn’t forget… and now she is counting on me to come through and take her to this scam of an audition.
I spoke to my husband and he didn’t seem to see the problem. “Just make the call and take her to the audition. It will make her happy.”
But, this didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t want her to experience this heart break. Or worse, be given false hope by a group I knew was only out to collect money. A group that preys on little kids’ dreams. Before bedtime I sat with my daughter and tried to explain again about the audition to my daughter. And all she could say was, “Mommy, I want to be on TV. I want to be famous.”
And there you have it. Who can compete with this fantasy. She wants to be famous in the way I dreamed about marrying River Phoenix and then Jordan Knight (NKOTB). She wants to be famous in the way I envisioned myself getting discovered in a coffee shop (whatever that meant). She wants to be famous in the way I fantasized about becoming a star on Broadway when I was part of my high school’s theatre productions.
She is obviously my child. And I didn’t want to tell her not to dream. I also didn’t feel a need to explain that “being famous” is not exactly the true aspiration (unless you are in the Kardashian family). Instead… I made the call.
I got on the phone with a “scheduler” who became cagey the second I asked any questions. She could sense my skepticism and asked if I wanted “corporate” to contact me.
I told her I would think about it and hung up. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t make the appointment just to make my daughter happy for a moment. Instead, I became angry and frustrated. Why do radio stations allow these sorts of commercials on the air?
I took my complaints to Google and found I wasn’t alone. Plenty of parents across the country are complaining about the same scam. These commercials are misleading and only marginally legal. Notice the ad asks if your child wants to be a Disney star. It doesn’t claim to be an audition for Disney.
According to AuditionsFree.com, Disney Channel never runs ads on the radio for sites other than their own websites. Also, auditions for Disney Channel never have any fees. They will never sell classes or make promises of fame and fortune. There are millions of kids with dreams of Disney stardom, the reality is only a handful are actually cast in Disney shows.
My job is to protect my beautiful, creative, and innocent daughter from vultures like these. Companies that want to make money off the hopes of young children. It is also my job to explain that not everyone looks at the world with a pure heart. That there are people motivated solely by greed. That there is a way to follow your dreams, but it’s never as easy as answering a radio ad. It takes passion, hard work and for most people… time.
My daughter will slowly learn about these ways of the world. For now, I will continue to trust my instincts and question everything that raises a red flag. I will protect her, but I cannot insulate her. Instead, I will support her interests and allow her to dream, while filtering out all the other crap that comes along. She will get to where she is supposed to be… and when she does I will be there to support her and love her.
In the meantime, I am turning off the car radio. It’s just not worth the heartache or aggravation.