July 09--The norm with music competition TV shows is that a singer (or someone who thinks they can sing) belts out a tune, then waits to see if a panel of judges will keep them in the game or send them home. It's just the opposite with the new NBC series, "The Winner Is." There's still a singer belting out a tune, but it's up to the performer to decide whether to stay or to go.
That's the decision Roosevelt High School graduate Miranda Rae Mayo had to make. The decision she makes can be seen in the series opener on Thursday.
"It was so tough. It might have been two minutes, but it felt like 10 seconds," Mayo says of making the choice.
Here's why she faced the dilemma: Each episode of "The Winner Is, " hosted by Nick Lachey, consists of three rounds. In the first round, contestants are offered $10,000 to leave the game. It's that simple. One tune. One big check.
If the performer doesn't believe they have impressed the jury of judges, they can take the money and run. Those who opt to keep going and have been given a thumbs up by the jury face a similar decision in round two, except the offer jumps to $25,000. The money goes to $50,000 in round three.
It's worth the risk because the finalists will be battling over a prize package worth $1 million.
Of course, Mayo can't reveal what she decides, but says, "I usually go with my gut and this time I didn't. My family was telling me something else."
No matter her decision, being on the show was worth its weight in gold for Mayo.
She started acting at the age of 8, and it was her discovery of the Junior Company at Good Company Players, Children's Musical Theaterworks and other productions while attending University and Roosevelt high schools that made her want to be a performer.
After appearing in more than a dozen school, local and regional stage productions, including a performance as alpha girl Toffee in the 2007 CMT production of "Zombie Prom," Mayo moved to Los Angeles and landed acting roles on "Law & Order: LA" and "The Game." At the same time, Mayo has been trying to launch a singing career.
"I was super excited to be a part of 'The Winner Is' because it's an opportunity to sing on a grand scale, which I haven't done before," Mayo says.
"The Winner Is" is the latest attempt by Mayo to be on a singing competition series. She previously tried out for NBC's "The Voice" and FOX's "American Idol."
She failed to get past the early rounds in her tryouts for those singing competition series, but the failed attempts taught Mayo an important lesson. She had not prepared fully for either of the singing shows and that hurt her efforts. This time, she entered the competition ready to do musical battle.
Mayo can't say much about the song she sings, but she does reveal it's a familiar song and that if she could go back, she probably would have picked another tune. That's just a little bit of insecurity that Mayo's had since she was young. She describes herself during her school days as being "awkward" and "an ugly duckling." That's all behind her now as the swan in her has emerged enough that she makes her living modeling.
Mayo is using all the energy she got from being on "The Winner Is" to spark her music career. She is working with music manager Shaun Cairo and you can find her every Friday night in Simi Valley performing at the Limon Latin Grill.
"The Winner Is," 9 p.m. Thursday, KSEE (Channel 24.1)
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, email@example.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.
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