On June 21, 2011 Oxygen network debuted a new reality show. “The Glee Project,” a singing competition that hosted 12 contestants competing for a “seven episode arc” to appear on the hit Fox television show, “Glee.” The contestants received a chance to have their personal stories heard on reality television, each of them holding the title of “misunderstood underdog.”
The contestants included people struggling with anything from weight and gender to religion. One of these contestants was Cameron Mitchell. Mitchell, a 22 year old from Colleyville, Texas, was a fan favorite from the time audiences first saw him on screen in “The Glee Project.”
Throughout the season, he began to standout as a vocal artist and eventually became a frontrunner for the show. However, this came to a halt on episode seven of the show, entitled “Sexuality.” A devout Christian coming into the competition, Mitchell had problems with the values of the reality show he was contending on.
During a duet with a fellow contestant, he was forced to kiss the girl as part of the scene. Their duet and physical interaction were supposed to showcase their “sexual natures”, a challenge given to all “Glee Project” contestants during the seventh week of the competition. This assignment Mitchell not only struggled through physically, but it also challenged his morals. He had a girlfriend at the time, and even though his scene kiss was acting, he remarked to both the director and producer that it was “the same as cheating” to him.
This personal dilemma led Mitchell to perform his final song of the season, “Blackbird” by The Beatles. After this final song, Mitchell informed Ryan Murphy, creator and writer of “Glee,” that his final decision was to leave the show. Mitchell would go on to win the Bing.com’s “The Glee Project” fan favorite award of $10,000, even after his decision to leave and refusal to ignore his morals to have a chance at becoming a television star.
Sometimes defying what others except and not succumbing to what goes against one’s personal beliefs gains more popularity than to obey every wish and fall prey to what the media, and not oneself, really wants. Since leaving “The Glee Project,” Mitchell has been true to himself. He has not only been composing his own music, but primarily he has made the decision to proclaim his ministry by traveling the country to share his personal experiences and beliefs.
On Sept. 5, Mitchell traveled to the Blount county campus of Faith Promise church in Maryville, Tenn. to share his religion and original music.
“You know what’s crazy is that going into ‘The Glee Project,’ I was always scared of how they were going to distort my faith because of the things they ask you to do,” Mitchell said. Mitchell explained that “Glee,” the show all of the “Glee Project” contestants were competing for, is made up of stereotypical characters, and he didn’t feel like he fit into the labels they wanted to create.
“‘Glee’ is all about being gay and pushing the envelope,” Mitchell said. “As the only Christ follower there, I was worried if they would take me as a freak.” However, Mitchell was still thankful for his opportunity on the reality TV show.
“Coming out of ‘The Glee Project’ pushed me and stretched me even further in my faith,” he said. “It pushed me further along in my walk with Christ, ‘cause here I am, singing in front of someone who is so respected, Ryan Murphy, who is the creator of Glee, and basically saying, ‘Hey, I‘m a Christ follower. Can’t help you out.’”
Mitchell said that he believes that in life, one is not always as tested as he was in “The Glee Project.” He believes God was calling him to “give back.”
“I feel like because of that, whether or not they are believers, whether or not they know God or anything, they at least saw a glimpse of his light through me,” Mitchell said. “And that was awesome!” Mitchell explained he wants to “be the guy that is out there in the world, but not of it” with his music.
He does not want to be associated with “Switchfoot” or be limited to the Christian realm of music. “I just want to bring a positive influence,” Mitchell said. Mitchell not only sang his own original songs during his Faith Promise performance, including “Love Can Wait” and “Dance, Dance,” but he also attempted to instill his own personal advice to musicians in the audience.
“Coming from me, a small town guy who just sang for his mom all the time, I never thought I was going to be big,” he said. “I never really aspired to. But I would just say to be yourself, know who you are in Christ and know who you are in yourself, because you can go from being a guy singing in a basement to being on a TV show.”
After his concert at Faith Promise in Maryville, Mitchell left to go to other campuses of Faith Promise church. Michael Wallace, the Pellissippi High School student pastor and pastor of the UT Faith Promise Campus, organized the concert series.
“When I first met Cameron, obviously music was all he cared about,” Wallace said. “It is really cool to see him being able to have an audience that is not just a Christian audience. To have an impact with people who don’t know the Lord and are maybe running as far away from Him as they can, but they care about Cameron and that gives him a way to represent Jesus in a way that many people would never have an opportunity to.”
MC senior Allen Brady works at the Blount County campus of Faith Promise as a small group leader. He was also in the audience for Mitchell’s show.
“Having concerts like Cameron Mitchell’s provides another opportunity for students to invite their friends who normally wouldn’t come,” Brady said. “We want to offer an environment that’s relevant to the middle school and high school students of today, where they can feel comfortable being themselves and bringing their friends.”
“I think it’s great what he’s doing especially for the youth,” said Cory Lingerfelt, also a senior at MC and employee of Faith Promise. Mitchell’s story of standing up for his beliefs on reality television have proved as an inspiration for many young people, evident in the number of his fans swarming the halls of Faith Promise church to receive his autograph.
The young musician plans to continue his ministry and appear at many more similar concerts across the country. Maryville students and others should take note of Mitchell’s story. If Mitchell could walk away from national television and pass up a chance to be on a mainstream hit series, like “Glee,” because he was so confident in his beliefs, then why can’t all young people not worry what others think? All young adults should be empowered to embrace his or her personal opinions without worrying about what others think.
Lose the high school stereotypes, stand up and do what makes you happy. So “stretch your mind,” and rise above social expectations, just like Mitchell.