On most TV talent shows you can often guess which singers are going through to the next round and who’s headed straight for the door.
But The Voice UK aired one of the most shocking and brutal rejections we can remember in Gemma Kalmakrian’s blind audition.
The 34-year-old receptionist from Romford had the full works – the behind-the-scenes VTs that had been shot at her office, clips of her at home with her husband and son and slo-mo scenes of her staring into the middle distance as she spoke about how much getting through to the next round would mean to her.
“I auditioned for lots of West End musicals and things but didn’t get very far because of the way that I look different to other people, because I’m six foot with red hair,” explained Gemma in her heartfelt pre-audition interview.
“I remember one audition that I did, they didn’t pick me and I was cool with that to be honest. But as we were leaving they said ‘you’ve short hair, you look like a boy and you’re really tall’. Not being people’s cup of tea all the time did hurt my confidence and made me think ‘am I doing this right? Should I bother?'”
“I really wanted to go for The Voice this year because what I’ve realised is that you can’t please everybody but if I’m true to myself and I do what I do best then hopefully there will be someone that will take a chance on me,” she continued, the emotional music playing in the background.
“If I could get one turn then all the knockbacks in my life would just diminish and it wouldn’t matter,” she said.
With all that anticipation and the fact that Gemma said she felt as if this was her last chance, it seemed like almost a dead cert that her fun-filled and powerful rendition of Born to be Wild by Steppenwolf would get the coaches turning. But then, shockingly, not a single one did.
Looking dejected, Gemma left the stage in tears and could barely speak backstage afterwards.
“I really thought I had that,” she sobbed. “Why did they not turn?”
More so than most auditions, it was as if we were watching someone’s hopes and dreams literally shatter before our very eyes. Yes, people get rejected from shows like this all the time. But it felt particularly pertinent when the preamble had so clearly portrayed Gemma as an underdog – a vocalist who had been rejected many times before, partly because of the way she looks, but who would finally get her chance on The Voice, which is all about vocal ability. And yet it wasn’t to be.