For Valetine’s day, I bought Jon a DVD of the 25th Anniversary live production of Les Miserables, a musical that he absolutely adores. This specific production of the musical happens to feature Nick Jonas in a fairly large role, although not the lead role. The DVD comes wrapped in plastic with a sticker on it that reads in its largest font: “featuring Nick Jonas!”
As we are watching the DVD, I notice that Nick Jonas is playing along-side another male performer. This other male performer is young, attractive, and has a role that seems to be at least as important to the plot as Nick’s role in the story. But in addition, this other performer is an absolutely amazing singer and actor. His facial expressions are perfect, his voice is strong, he has a fantastic range. He nails every note, without any signs of effort. I’m sure that if I were attuned to the musical theater community, I would know who he is. But as it is, I do not know who he is; because his name was not on the sticker on the box.
Now here is the thing: I’m not saying that Nick Jonas is a weak singer. He certainly has a lot of things going for him. He has achieved a fantastic level of pop success, and I’m sure that is indicative of something. But it is also clear to me that he just isn’t as good a singer as the people around him. In fact, he is struggling so much with the singing, that he is not acting at all–not even with his facial expressions. He just looks slightly pained the entire time, as if he is scared that he might miss a note; which, on a couple of occasions, he does.
But Nick is famous, and his name is on the sticker. I hear that he is now performing in a Broadway musical–and good for him for doing it! In everything that he does, he will drag along with him a pre-packaged set of screaming fans, who will undoubtedly adore him no matter what.
And I can’t help but think about the guy standing next to him on stage. The guy who has probably been doing musical theater all of his life. The one with the amazing voice and the amazing level of skill… but not the built-in pop fan base. The one whose name people don’t know, if they are not really “into” musical theater, because his name is not on the sticker on the DVD wrapper.
I can’t help thinking about how that feels. You are standing on stage in a major performance. You know that you have been slaving away your entire life, and have truly honed your craft. Perhaps you know that you have put forward an exceptional performance, perhaps you even know in your heart that you are one of the best in your field. And you are standing next to Nick Jonas, who you know simply doesn’t have the strength that you have. Nick Jonas, who gets ten times more screams from the girls because of his pop celebrity. Nick Jonas, who has less talent, less skill, less experience, but whose name is on the DVD wrapper. Even if you knew in your heart that you were one of the best in the world at what you do, would it make up for the fact that everyone was screaming his name instead?
Or, on the other hand, think about how it may feel to be Nick in that situation. Imagine how it feels to be the one who has all of the adulation and all of the fame, while privately knowing that you are standing next to someone who is, in every way, simply much better than you are at what you are doing? Would it bother you? Would it even make you feel insecure, personally inadequate, knowing that even on your best day you simply don’t have the skill or ability of the person who you are standing next to? Would all of the screaming fans, and all of the attention, make up for that?
It makes for an interesting “personality test” psychological question, I think. A kind of “which would you rather” scenario. Suppose you had to choose: would you rather be Nick Jonas, or the other guy?
It’s a very interesting question. I think certainly different people–different personality types– would answer differently.
Jon thinks that I would rather be Nick Jonas in that scenario. He’s right about the fact that I enjoy attention. However, I’ve also felt the insecurity and shame of sometimes thinking that I don’t deserve the attention that I get. I’ve also felt like a “fraud”, when I think I’m being noticed for the “wrong” reasons (whatever they might be). So then I imagine, in this hypothetical scenario that I’ve constructed, magnifying that feeling by 100 or 1000 times. And when I think about it that way, I’m not so sure that I would want to be Nick Jonas. In some ways, I might very well prefer to be “the other guy”… the one who is talented and amazing, but whose name people don’t know.
Which would you rather be? Would you rather be the “Nick Jonas” type of character in this scenario? Or would you rather be “the other guy”?