Since undertaking this ridiculous quest, the question that I've been asked most often, hands-down, is "what are the other girls like?" Sometimes there are judgements and assumptions attached to the question. Sometimes there aren't.
When I first started rehearsals, I felt like I was undercover. I would stealthily start my tape recorder in my bag and make sneaky notes in between dance numbers. I was like that character in one-too-many romantic comedies. You know the one--the struggling journalist who disguises her identity to get the inside scoop? Sort of like Hunter S. Thompson, but replace the drugs with makeover montages. (See: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, 27 Dresses, Never Been Kissed.)
It helped justify my participation, I guess, both to myself and to everyone else. But those movies teach a valuable lesson. In the end, the protagonist always discovers the err of her ways and comes to the ultimate realization--sources are people, too!
Okay, you know where I'm going with this. I don't think I need to continue this analogy much further.
I will admit that I now have a stock of hilarious anecdotes about this experience--my favourite of which is about one individual who I think may actually be actively campaigning for Miss Congeniality. But every time someone asks me that question, I'm reminded that I am one of them. And every time someone asks that question, I'm reminded that someone is being asked that same question about me.
So, the answer? If you know me, you know what the other contestants are like. They're all different. They can't be pigeonholed. And they don't fit neatly into any stereotype that can be succinctly summed up in a one-sentence response.
I'm still taking notes, though.
(Oh, hey there. Here I am at the salon, fact-checking, while my hair processes. Does anyone else ever do work while getting their hair done? Or does this make me really nerdy and over-committed?)