Everything people say is true. Kelly Clarkson is genuine. She’s as nice as the day is long. She is all about others (not herself), and so much fun.
I know. I am on her show tomorrow- in person with Kelly.
Kelly is the real deal, and she could be my best friend. That’s just who she is. When the doors opened to walk out onto the stage, she smiled and waved. I did, too. It was across a very crowded and busy room, a locked-on moment.
Everyone associated with the show is the same way. Surely they must have to pass a ‘kindness test’ in order to work there.
To tell you the story, I will start at the beginning, nearly a year ago. In the words of a ‘Jennie Story’, “It Happened Like This”:
Our blogging community is like a family, and the story begins with Kelly hearing about me through my blog and a fellow blogger, John Rieber. I received a call from Dan Sterchele, a Producer on the show. “Hi Jennie. I only have ten minutes. Please tell me about yourself.”
Twenty minutes later we were still talking.
I told him about reading aloud, Gloria, Milly the Quilter, the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, Jennie Stories… on and on. He kept asking questions. A lot of questions. We laughed. Then came the next step.
“Jennie, you need to ‘wow’ Kelly. I need you to make a one-and-a-half minute video of yourself.”
“Sure. No problem.” How hard could this be? Hard. Very hard! Seventeen video takes hard. This was the best I could get:
After that nothing happened for a long time. Covid hit and everything shut down. I didn’t hear back and chalked it off to life. Hey, it was fun to give it a try. Then a few weeks ago, Dan emailed me. My pitch sheet had been on his bulletin board all along. “Hi Jennie. We want to talk to you about how you help your students fall in love with reading by introducing them to books at such an early age! Kelly is going to absolutely adore you.”
Wow! So I had been on hold.
The next four days were a whirlwind of long phone interviews and planning. They wanted to video me in the library at school as part of the Friday taping of the show. I was excited! I worked it out with school (of course they were excited, too), and then I got a late phone call from Dan – west coast time when I should have been in bed.
It was “The Call.”
“Jennie, we’re changing this. Forget taping you in the library for the show. We want you here, live. We’ll put you on a plane to LA in two days.” Did I tell you this was the first week of school? The scrambling began to find subs, get a Covid test, sign papers, and answer questions.
And just like that, I was on a flight to LA.
There was still planning to do, as in ‘get to the point and say what I need to say right away, because I will probably get six minutes’. Okay, no problem. I asked who else would be on the show. There are two famous people… and me:
Perhaps it was best that I did not know these stars. Therefore I could hang out on the show and have fun with two new people. Yes, they are absolutely fabulous. Kelly wouldn’t have it any other way. We laughed, shared stories, high-fived, and simply had a great time together. But, I’m getting ahead of myself in this story.
At last I arrived at the studio. As I drove under the Universal Studio entrance sign, I had childhood memories of seeing this on television or in the movies. That made me smile.
The studio was right around the corner. I pulled up to the entrance.
After my Covid test and meeting the friendliest staff ever, I was taken inside. The long hallway was covered in photos of many people who had been on the show. I wish I’d had time to study all the people along the wall of fame.
I had my very own room, a ‘greenroom’, where I waited until it was my turn. The room was more like a suite. It was fabulous!
To my surprise, I had my very own name outside the door!
“Jennie, we will come and get you when we need you. In the meantime, relax and let us know if you need anything. You will be the third guest on the show.”
They came to take me to hair and make-up. When I walked in, I looked at the make-up guy, pointed to my face and said, “This is your challenge for the day.” He burst out laughing! I looked as his plethora of every tool, cream, and color and said, “I don’t have one of these things at my house.” More laughing out loud! We talked about his mother, my chicken neck, and life in the south.
As I was leaving he stopped me and said, “Thank you for bringing joy into this room today.” See, I told you everyone who works on the show is wonderful.
Back in my greenroom, the taping of the show was starting. The big television turned on and I could watch everything that was happening. Oh, I paid attention. Where would I sit? How would I come onto the stage? I needed to feel ready. Frankly, I wasn’t the least bit nervous. Nope, not at all.
Why? I had been told that Kelly loves teachers. Her mother was a teacher in Parkersburg, West Virginia. She often has teachers in her audience. I knew I was in good hands. She tells the story of being on the Jay Leno Show right after she won American Idol. There she was, a nobody so to speak, sitting alongside famous people. She has never forgotten that, nor her humble roots. The country western song, “Humble and Kind” by Tim McGraw makes me think of Kelly Clarkson.
Kelly opened the show singing a beautiful song about faith. She then had a video in London with the actor Stanley Tucci, and his cookbooks. They ate pasta together. JoJo was the first guest. She has a great story to tell, and her enthusiasm is contagious. Gee, I should have asked her to teach me a few cool dance moves. The next guest was Christo. He is really nice, warm, and of course handsome. His television series just won many Emmy Awards. I was captivated by both of these guests.
The staff came to my greenroom. I was walked to the area behind the set, pitch black with more computers and technology than you can imagine. The doors to the set slid open, we waved, and I was taken to the couch where I sat beside Kelly. While what seemed like a million people were rushing around with everything from cameras to mics, I waved at the audience, said hello to the other guests, thanked Kelly… and then I was on!
Still, I wasn’t nervous at all.
Kelly started by asking me what was the moment when reading aloud became my passion. I told her about my first day of teaching, when my head teacher put “Swimmy” by Leo Lionni in my hands and asked me to be the one to read to the children. Kelly jumped right in and told me her mother always read “Matilda” to her. “Yes”, I shouted. Then JoJo told us she loved the “I Survived” books growing up. Again I shouted “Yes”, as I know these terrific books. Christo told of a biography that was his favorite. He was moved.
Kelly asked me about my blog, and about how I reach out to parents. I remember feeling passionate about what I said. I remember turning to the audience and asking, “Doesn’t everyone love a good story?” The specifics are a blur. Once I start talking about reading aloud, I go like the wind.
At one pause in the taping when the technicians were doing their thing, I had a chance to talk with Kelly. She told me about her mother and teaching. I asked her if she still reads aloud to her children. Yes she does, and we laughed about keeping kids engaged. I leaned forward and said, “Would you like to know the best book ever to read to your kids? I have read it aloud so many times.” “Yes, yes!”, she said. I told her about “The Wild Robot”, by Peter Brown.
Just when I thought everything was over for me, Kelly announced there were two guests who had come to the show to say hello to me. I was stunned. I will only tell you I jumped out of my seat, yelled, told stories, and cried. You won’t want to miss it!
When the show was over, photos were taken. Here I am:
As I left the studio, I couldn’t help but stop by the sunflower wall.
After I got back home, I knew I needed to send a thank you gift and handwritten note to Kelly. What did I send her? “The Wild Robot” to read aloud to her children, of course.
P.S. I look forward to watching the show on Tuesday. I hope some of you have a chance to see it, too.