Julie Ann was born with one notable gift and one equally notable (to her, at least) flaw: she could sing like an angel and she had a wandering eye. Unable to care for her too numerous children, Julie Ann’s mother sent her to live with her parents. Other siblings were farmed out to other relatives, until Julie Ann’s mother could get her life back on track. Singing was the one thing that brought Julie Ann, and those around her, joy. She joined the church choir, and the school choir, and entered little talent contests here and there, and everyone said the same thing: “This girl is destined for fame.”
But Julie Ann didn’t think so. Every time she looked in the mirror, all she could see was her hideous lazy eye. Her grandparents had taken her to the doctor and they did give her corrective glasses, which she wore for awhile, but threw away when the children at school teased her so much, she couldn’t stand it anymore. Instead, she decided to grow her hair long and wear it draped over that eye, so no one could see it.
Julie Ann grew tall, and despite her odd eye, stunningly beautiful. Her long black hair fell in natural waves over her slender body, and she soon discovered that men found her quite attractive. A pair of high-heeled stilettos worn with a short, tight skirt, made her legs appear to go on forever and effectively detracted from what was hidden behind the curtain of hair across her face. At sixteen, men were falling over themselves to buy her drinks at the bars she attended, underage.
Julie Ann couldn’t get enough of the attention she was receiving. She didn’t care how many women glared at her, or confronted her about luring their men, she felt powerful and no one was going to stop her. Soon, she started flirting her way onto the stage, and here she really began to shine. When Julie Ann opened her mouth to sing, rooms went quiet. There was magic in her voice and an undeniable talent that would propel her upward. At seventeen, she was the headliner performing in night clubs, and a couple of years later she was offered a recording contract.
She was on her way to stardom.
The little girl, whose mama had cast aside, was becoming a sensation.
Along the way, she had surgery to repair her eye. Then she noticed that her breasts were a little small, and she had surgery to increase those. Money was never an issue, because there was always some man eager to take up her cause. A little enhancement to her buttocks increased her shapeliness, and then she discovered botox. It seemed the ways in which she could improve her image were endless.
And all the while, she wore her trademark stilettos: to the grocery store, the night clubs, even the gym. No one would see her without them. She traveled through life on tiptoes. She aspired to be a super model.
Julie Ann’s obsession with her looks and sexual prowess soon overpowered her ability to sing. In her own mind, it was her physical appearance, and not her singing ability that helped her gain fame. She grew impatient when people asked her to sing. She disregarded her agent’s advice that she needed to focus on her singing more, and refused to do benefit concerts or charity events. She lost her footing on the hit parade. Other, younger, stars were willing to work hard to keep climbing. They soon surpassed her.
Julie Ann didn’t seem to notice.
It wasn’t long before she was only singing for family again, and even then, she had to be goaded over and over before she would relent. The pleasure was gone, and those who knew her well were saddened by what she had become.
Julie Ann showed up at my door one night, in the middle of a storm. I didn’t recognize her at first. The woman who stood outside, in the darkness, was shorter than me, with straight black hair that hung down to her waist. She was wearing a simple housecoat and flats. Her face was not made up and quite frankly, she looked like a lost little child.
“I’m sorry,” I stumbled to recuperate. “I didn’t recognize you.”
“I know,” she said flatly. “This is the real me. Pathetic, isn’t it?”
“Not at all,” I reassured her. Not at all.
“How do you do it?” she asked, getting right down to business. “You don’t wear a lot of makeup, you could care less about your hair, and you never wear heels, but people still look up to you.”
I had to stifle a laugh.
“I guess that’s what makes us different,” I offered.
“I want to be more like you.”
“Julie Ann, you are a very beautiful and talented woman. I will never be either of those things. I poured my energy into education, reading, and helping others. Stardom was never in my cards.”
She plopped down on the bed and started to cry.
“People admire you. People are jealous of me, or hate me for being better than them, but no one admires me. No one wants to be like me.”
“I’m sure that’s not true” Actually, secretly, I suspected she was right. There is nothing warm and appealing about a self-centered woman.
“How much money do you spend a month on makeup and clothes?” she asked scanning my hotel room for answers.
“I don’t know. How much do you spend?”
“I spend four hundred on makeup alone.”
“Holy Cow, Julie Ann. I wouldn’t spend that in a year!”
“Don’t you care?”
“It’s just not my priority.”
“No one sees me like this, you know.”
“Why is that, Julie Ann? What are you afraid of?”
“Everyone expects me to be glamourous. They only know me this way.”
“How much time do you spend each day getting ready?”
“Three hours. It takes three hours to do my hair and makeup. Sometimes, I do it twice a day.”
“What would you do with your time, if you didn’t have that routine? Three hours is a lot.” I rattled off all the things I did with three hours being a mother of three. Julie Ann had a young son; I couldn’t help but wonder what he did during her coiffing.
“Easy for you to say,” she stormed. “Your career doesn’t depend on it.”
I don’t know what Julie Ann expected to gain from me that evening, but it seemed to me that we got nowhere. I gleaned an insight into her bizarre daily rituals, and she seemed to convince herself that she was more important than me, and therefore, justified in her life choices.
When she left, she swore me to secrecy about what she really looked like. “I don’t want anyone to know I’m this short.”
Julie Ann is an enigma to me. She is gifted with the most incredible voice, and the physical beauty to match it. As an outsider, I would say she had it all. Until that night that she graced my doorstep, I would have thought that Julie Ann was above me; superior in so many ways. Our moment of intimacy shattered that illusion. Maybe Julie Ann just needed the opportunity to rediscover herself. Maybe she saw in me the inspiration to be different. Maybe she was considering what life would be like if she wasn’t always standing on tiptoes.
Whatever her reasoning, Julie Ann did not leave empty handed that night. At some point during our brief exchange, she had managed to “pocket” something of mine. I wouldn’t discover the loss until later that next morning, as I went to leave.
Julie Ann had taken my shoes. My practical, sensible, comfortable flat-soled, shoes.