Throughout my life, I’ve felt like if I've had anything, it's tenacity. It's something that I needed to be equipped with from an early age. I was excited for Tenacity week, especially coming out of the bottom three during Theatricality week. Not only was my goal to put my all into the week, but to show Ryan and the mentors that I am a force to be reckoned with and that I will stop at nothing to win The Glee Project. Plus, "Survivor," by Destiny's Child and "Fighter," by Christina Aguilera immediately started playing in my head, which was a huge coincidence boost because the first ended up being our homework assignment for the week, haha.
Robert told us that the guest mentor was someone who was readily familiar with the meaning of the song and immediately I knew it was Amber Riley. Let me just say, the girl can SANG--not sing, but SANG. As someone who wants to be on GLEE, I really admire Amber's talent and professionalism, so it was so great to have her as our guest mentor for the week. I expected to be intimidated to sing this song in particular in front of her because she had done it on GLEE, but surprisingly, I wasn't nervous at all. Maybe it was that pep talk I had with Ryan when I was in the bottom three the week prior, but I just felt all traces of fear be replaced by a sense of determination (it was almost a sense of vengeance) to perform the hell out of that song and have that carry over throughout the week.
This is one of those performances that I barely remember happening. Instead, I remember how I felt after the performance- and I remember almost trembling because those lyrics literally penetrated my heart and I allowed it to ooze out into my performance. Personally, I felt great about how I had done. I took last week's critique of claiming who I am and being unafraid of it and channeled it into my performance.
When it came to shoot the music video for "Eye of the Tiger,” I was excited to show my tenacity and my persistence. However, during our last music video shoot, I rolled my left ankle during the choreography segment (I blame those 4-inch platform boots and my determination to werk) and kept landing wrong on it during this week's choreography session when I attempted to do the leapfrog (or whatever it's called) so I knew going into the video shoot that I was working with an injury. Little did I know that a few takes into the video shoot, that I would trip and twist my other ankle and pull my back. You want to know how I really felt about it? It freaking sucked. I'm jumping and running on my feet the entire time during the video, so to say that the shooting of the video was painful would be a huge understatement of sorts. Regardless, I wasn't about to just quit and let myself, and the other contenders, down. So I continued on and tried to do the best I possibly could regardless of the pain I felt.
Even with the injuries I incurred during the video shoot though, I felt great about my performance. I definitely saved face and other than the jump rope scene (where I was hopping on one foot because of my fresh-new injury), it was nice to see that I worked with what I had and I didn't let the injury affect my overall performance. Plus, while this video may not be everyone's favorite video of the season, I definitely feel like it was a complementary video to "Everybody Hurts.” I say this because while "Everybody Hurts" took such an emotional toll on all of us, I feel like the music video for "Eye of the Tiger" was physical, mental and emotional. In a way, it was just as hard- if not harder- to shoot this video than "Everybody Hurts".
After all I had poured into this week, I have to say that I was mildly surprised to be in the bottom three yet again. I respect the mentors enough to also respect their decision and discernment. However, I felt like my placement into the bottom three for the past two weeks were really… decisions that I did not necessarily agree with. I felt like my vocals were on point and that in spite of all of my injuries, I did not stop or give up at any time during the video shoot. If anything, I channeled that pain into my performance (a conscious acting choice I had made early on in the video shoot). It's Tenacity week and I felt like I never once stopped being tenacious throughout the week.
For my last chance performance, I was assigned "Man in the Mirror" and I love this song and the artist that sang it--the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. When I was rehearsing in the dressing room, the lyrics just moved me because yes, while this is a competition and I'm directly competing with other contenders, the only person that can stop me is me. And yes, while I don't decide on who stays and who goes home, I can decide to look at myself and make a conscious decision to change and not let external circumstances affect who I am.
I took all of these emotions and poured them out onstage as I performed the song in front of Ryan and the mentors, and thank the sweet Lord that there were no lyric flubs this week! Hahaha. Overall, I felt good about my performance. I also want to share something sort of random that people may not have picked up during my performance, but I decided to wear my boots from Theatricality as a tribute to Amber and the theme of the week. I wanted to show that whether both of my ankles are sprained or not, I could rock those boots during this performance just as well as I could any other week.
After I finished my performance, Ryan barely commented on my performance and grilled me with these questions that put into doubt my character and the authenticity of who I am based on "what [he] heard from other contenders."
As all of you hopefully know by now, I really believe in humility and the necessity of performers- and people, in general- to be able to absorb and retain critique and feedback, especially from those who have walked before you (in this case, our mentors). Therefore, regardless of the feedback I had received from the mentors up until this point, I did just that. However, when you question my authenticity and the realness of my injuries based on what OTHER CONTENDERS say in a COMPETITION setting… I will stick up for myself. To quote our homework assignment performance, my momma taught me better than that. I believe in professionalism and humility just as much- if not more- than the next person, but I also believe in standing up for your character and integrity regardless of who you're standing up against.
Having said all of that, after being grilled by Ryan about… pretty much my character and integrity, I went back onstage and confronted him about those very things. I wanted to remind him that I am the person that all of the contenders in the house go to when they want an honest opinion; that it's a competition and it's those people who question my that he should be grilling about their lack of character and integrity; and that no, I wasn't freaking leaving until he wrote a role for me on GLEE.
That move was in no way calculated and I have no regrets whatsoever. I didn't curse and while it may have seemed like I was "giving an attitude," it was anything but. I wanted to do my mother proud and stand up for myself- the man that she worked so hard to raise as a single mother. And let's be real: if standing up to Ryan Murphy himself while wearing 4-inch platforms boots isn't tenacious, I don't know what is.
Often times, we feel such a great pressure to please others that we will even go as far as changing ourselves and turning our backs on everything we hold dear. In an industry such as this--and even in a world such as the one we live in--that pressure is all too real. However, walking away from The Glee Project, I'm taking with me a greater sense of self, a self-confidence I never thought was possible, and an even greater desire and determination to make it in this industry. Yes, I am Asian and no, I don't look like 99% of the actors on television; but it is in such differences that I know that I am special and that I will continue to create the change that I want to see not just on my television screen, but in the world.
I'm taking away with me some friendships that are irreplaceable. I walk away with a greater love for Robert Ulrich (who is practically my uncle now) and the other mentors who have irrevocably changed my life for the better. And I still love Ryan Murphy, believe it or not. If anything, I love him more than I did before because now, it's not based on a mere perception. You want to know a secret? It takes real respect and love for someone to be honest and open with them even in the face of possible elimination.
The Glee Project has thrown me so many challenges… and slushies. But, in exchange, I know I threw all of me right back at it. I love my fans so much and don't worry guys- if you think you've seen the last of me, you have not seen or heard anything yet.
Check out the rest of Abraham's videos here.