WITH the 150 contestants dressed to kill, state-of-the-art video and audio recording equipment on site, and journalists in tour – the Starbrite boot camp party looked nothing more than a glitzy, all expenses paid holiday.
But no, contestants were to learn the hard way that the journey to stardom is no walk in park – that the entertainment industry is not for the fainthearted.
Hard work and resilience are some of the basic elements accompanying any successful venture and an artiste possessing such traits will be set on a path to greatness. Starbrite, one of the oldest talent search competitions, runs boot camps every year in a bid to arm future stars with the ammunition needed to survive in the entertainment jungle.
While the show gets to be screened on local television station ZTV, most people get to watch the edited version of events and in most cases they will not get to know the complete journey to the finals.
The Sunday Mail Leisure joined the Starbrite boot camp a fortnight ago, which was held at Sanganai Creek in Banket, for third round finalists drawn from all over the country.
Among the contestants were musicians, dancers, poets and a painter who had come with prospects of advancing to the quarter finals. The mood at the pickup point in the capital on day one was vibrant with contestants glamorously dressed, oblivious of the harsh reality of what “boot camp” really is.
Although, the term boot camp is now used to serve many purposes, it basically alludes to an intensive and rigorous training course, usually with very strict discipline. And as such the mood suddenly changed upon reaching the sign post welcoming visitors to the campsite.
The contestants were ordered off the bus and immediately split into small groups. They were instructed to carry one of their colleagues for about two kilometres, marking the beginning of a challenging five-day camp.
Another task saw the participants reorganised into four groups, each having to come up with a war cry and prepare a collaborative performance in minutes, a task which was carried out satisfactorily, proof of the abundant talent on display.
By the time the sun went down and having gone through various physical training routines, the whole bunch looked like they had walked through a desert, plastered with dust from head to toe, thirsty, hungry and visibly worn-out.
That same night there were auditions, which went on way past midnight, but with the fear of being eliminated – most contestants gave it their all while some, drained by the surprise turn of the day’s events, simply lacked the energy and determination.
Through all that, discipline was emphasised and those who were caught offside were punished. The punishments ranged from doing press-ups to going for a lengthy jog with one’s entire luggage while singing the song “Hakuna Zvinorema”. Others were ordered to take a plunge in the mud pool, among many other physically challenging and degrading exercises.
Having barely slept, day two tested the limits of the hopefuls, kicking off with physical exercises at 4am before moving on to the first auditions, which started an hour later.
Most of the activities were meant to challenge the contestants both physically and mentally, a recipe for moulding future stars who do not succumb to the pressures of the entertainment industry.
By 1pm on the second day, the assessors decided they had seen enough to send the bulk of the contestants home. A huge chunk of participants, 114 to be specific, had their hopes smashed as they were asked to pack their bags and board the Harare-bound bus, just hours after arriving in camp.
Emotions ran high especially for those who had travelled from faraway places like Hwange, feeling hard done by the outcome. The survivors had their celebrations cut short with the strenuous activities that awaited them but the joy of living to sing and dance another day kept them going.
Music professionals, life coaches and image consultants held one-on-ones with the contestants, injecting their knowledge and giving the artistes tips on how to better their performances.
Contestants also had motivational workshops where they were being coached on various aspects of being an artiste and these included attitude and personality, among others.
The evening auditions exposed many weaknesses among the contestants, which were highlighted by the judging panel who went a step further to give advice on how to improve their performances.
Day three was hyper charged and with each audition there seemed to be improvement among the acts. The major highlight of the day was a lakeside audition where the ambience from surrounding elements created a mesmerising atmosphere and seemed to catch on to the contestants as they were impressive as well.
The excitement was turned up with the arrival of multinational hip-hop group, Kwaai, which had been invited to conduct a workshop.
The group, which comprises of musicians from numerous countries including Sweden, South Africa, USA and Zimbabwe, to name just a few, conducted an energised session, which left the contestants in high spirits.
Artistes the world over have been thriving with collaborations and during the camp the aspiring artistes were assigned to showcase collaborative efforts.
The fourth day kicked off a bit earlier, with contestants having to wake up at 3am to be given their various assignments which they would partake in during the day.
With crew getting used to the routines, the day was a bit relaxed since almost everyone was doing what was expected of them and during the afternoon they had fun playing games in the swimming pool.
With every audition, there was evidence of improvement from the vocals to the performance aspect proving that the boot camp was indeed serving a purpose.
The whole group also composed a song for Starbrite with artistes from various genres showcasing their prowess. The final day of the camp consisted of morning auditions and soon after it was time to say goodbye.
Starbrite went to great lengths to ensure that the every moment of the boot camp was captured by enlisting the services of upcoming music producer Tinashe Mlambo to record audio while video was shot by film production company Mirazvo, which came with state of the art equipment including Black Magic cameras and an Iris drone, among other sleek gadgets.
In interviews with some of the artistes who had survived to the quarter finals, it was clear that the level of competition was high.
“I might have survived elimination but I will have to pull my socks if I am to see this through to the end because as you can see, most of the people who are left are really good. Besides the competition, however, the fact that I am still here is encouragement enough,” Tawanda Mugadza, a contestant.
Although some were constantly complaining that the physical exercises were gruesome, others appreciated their inclusion.
“This has been a life changing experience and during these past two days I have learnt a lot both from the coaches as well as my competition. We have not been sleeping much because sometimes we go to bed at midnight and wake up as early as 3am but I believe it is for the greater good,” said Carl Tinarwo
Starbrite founder Barney Mpariwa said that talent alone was not enough guarantee for an individual’s success in the entertainment industry as various factors come to play. He said the physical challenges and sleep deprivation, among other activities, were a necessary evil that trains an artiste not to lose focus despite the challenges they may face in life.
“You see, some of these kids are talented but their attitude might derail them from their goals so we are trying to teach them things that will help them later on in their careers, said Mpariwa.
The finals of the competition are set to be held at the end of October with organisers hoping to conclude the season before year end.
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