Chapter 2:

The Makeover

Accidentally Idol

I’ve probably apologized to Hiroki a thousand times by now. My best friend had, unsurprisingly, not been picked for the show. And I feel like garbage for competing when I don’t even want to be there.

Even as we walk towards the filming studio for Idol Factory, apologies continue to spew out of my mouth.

“I’m going to do my best to get voted off as soon as possible. It’ll be like I was never—”

Dude,” Hiroki interrupts me. “I told you, it’s not a big deal.”

My heart breaks when he smiles at me. In the smile I can see that Hiroki has finally accepted that his dreams will never come true. I want to tell him something, anything, that will make him feel better. Nothing comes out.

Hiroki fills the gap. “Well, time for your makeover. Make sure to get good promo shots in, ok?”

My throat is still swollen, and I can barely manage a response. “Yeah.”

“Good luck man.” He draws me in for a hug. “I know you don’t want to be here, but if you change your mind…Live my dream for me, ok?”

I nod.

It takes every ounce of willpower to walk away from Hiroki and towards the Idol Factory building. I flash my ID to the woman checking in each contestant. She looks at me, my ID, and once more at me. I know exactly what she’s thinking with the look on her face. This guy is trying to be an idol?

She gives me my contestant number, and I thank her before walking away as fast as possible. I sigh as I walk towards the styling station. The sooner I get out, the better.

The stylist isn’t as forgiving. Her eyes flick up to me before quickly resuming the tabloid she is reading.

“Photography and video is in the other room,” she says, turning the page.

“Um, I don’t work here. I’m a contestant,” I respond, holding my number up.

“They’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel this year, aren’t they?”

She shoots me a disgusted look that is somehow worse than her words. The way she glares at me makes the sinking pit in my stomach even deeper. I have a feeling it will only get deeper the longer I’m here.

“Sit,” she commands.

I obediently follow directions. The look on her face hasn’t changed, and I fear if I make one more mistake, I’ll find she can become more terrifying.

“What’s the prescription on these?” She plucks the glasses from my face.

“I uh, can’t see.”

My eyesight has always been shit. I’ve worn glasses with thick lenses in them for as long as I can remember. Without them, she’s no more than a colored blur.

Judging by the clicking noise she makes with her tongue she’s upset with my answer. I blurt out my prescription before she has the chance to respond.

Her blurred figure walks over to another blob of a person. Listening to their conversation is impossible with the chaos of the contestants and workers.

“Alright, we’re going to cut your hair."

“My hair? What’s wrong with it?”

Even with my poor eyesight I can see her recoil.

“As a starting point,” she picks up a few strands. “It’s oily. You need to wash it every day.”

As she works on my hair, I find she’s not much of a talker. I can’t decide whether I like or dislike that. Her aura is so threatening that when she’s silent it’s terrifying. But, I also hate socializing, so I’m grateful I don’t have to talk.

I’m not too concerned with the haircut. If I hate it, it will grow back. But when she puts foil in my hair, I start to get nervous.

“W-what are you doing?”

“Bleaching your hair.”

I’m pretty sure only girls bleach their hair. Either way, it’s definitely not for me. I’m a 19-year-old who can’t even brush my hair every day. I try to remind myself it’s not permanent as ‘I can shave my head’  runs on loop through my mind.

With my sight essentially useless, my other senses are extremely aware of what’s going on. The foils in my ear crinkle as she removes them. Then, I feel a cool liquid on my scalp. The heat of a blow dryer cements whatever she put on my head.

I’m getting pretty desensitized to this ‘idol’ thing. No glasses and a haircut? Fine. I realize I’m wrong when a sponge presses against my face.

“Is that…makeup?” I ask.

“Obviously. Now sit still.”

Why does Hiroki want to be famous? I’m only an hour into this idol thing, and it already sucks worse than getting kicked out of college. Maybe.

The stylist mutters under her breath as I take eons to get changed. I earn myself another irritated click of her tongue when I put my shirt on backwards. I resist the urge to sass—not that it’s particularly strong, I have no backbone—and point out I’m half blind.

“This is the best work I’ve ever done.”


“Ugh, put these in.” She shoves a box in my hand.

It’s a box of contacts. I hate the way the lenses feel in my eyes, and I always stick with my glasses. But, I don’t tell the scary stylist this. I obediently open the box and do as she says.

She wasn’t lying when she said it’s the best work she’s done. I don’t even recognize myself. The ratty clothes I normally wear are replaced with a stylish outfit. The makeupadmittedly a lot of it—makes me look handsome. There is one major change I’m not sure how to address.

“My hair…”

“What of it?” she responds.


She turned my hair the color of cotton candy. My comment makes the look of irritation return to her face, but she exhales and composes herself.

“Look, you want to win this, right?”

“Well actually—”

“Looking at you, it’s not even the same person. Hell, I’d believe you’re an idol.”

For a moment, I do too. Then my eye twitches from the discomfort of the contacts, and I’m quickly brought back to reality.

“Anyways,” she continues. “Headshots are in the other room. Good luck.”

The way she says good luck implies that I’m definitely going to need it. Ha. Right now, I just need luck getting kicked off the show as soon as possible.

Headshots are worse than the makeover, if that’s possible.

“Ok, look into the camera and smile,” the photographer says.

I do as he asks. Or rather, try. If I have to guess, the look on my face resembles constipation.

“Well…let’s try sexy. Bite your lip a bit.”

I shove it under my front teeth. Judging by the look on his face, I did it wrong.

He pauses. “Maybe…we should go with a ‘mysterious’ vibe. Look aloof, ok?”

I stare away from the camera. That’s aloof…right? I glance back at the photographer and see another confused look on his face. No, I did that one wrong too.

The camera shutters rapidly click as he takes photos. He gives me directions to get something, anything useable for my promo pics. It’s near impossible.

“There should be something here! Have fun filming your video introduction.”

“Wait,” I start, but he had already motioned another contestant over for photos.

This is so stupid. I mutter under my breath as I walk to the video station. I should be working, not playing dress up.

The videographer is the most lively out of the other employees.

“Hello!” he says. “Are you ready to win the hearts of the viewers?”


“You’re trying to win votes before the show starts. Say something to the viewers so you’ll be their number one pick.”

Idol Factory is a reality show that picks Japan’s next hottest boy group. The five winners debut after the show ends, with the number one ranked boy as the center. Viewers have five votes per episode to choose their favorite boys, AKA ‘number one pick.’ At the end of every episode, the boys with the lowest number of votes go home.

“Hello, my name is Susumu Tamashiro. Please don’t vote for me.”