Ryan Seacrest awoke to the sounds of birds chirping at 3:30 A.M.
His eyes snapped open as he reached his hairless arm out to shut off his alarm clock, which emanated with the sounds of nature, so foreign in this part of Los Angeles.
Ryan wiped the crust from his eyes, rolling out of bed and planting his feet firmly on the plush carpet. The next move he made in one swift motion—bending his knees, scooping his arms up into a V, taking a deep breath, and repeating in reverse, letting his breath out.
He reached in the drawer to pull out his toothbrush, waiting as long as possible to make eye contact with himself in the mirror. Looking in the mirror had become nightmarish.
The Ryan Seacrest we know from TV, has a flashy white smile in the middle of his perfectly moisturized, manicured, and symmetrical face. But what Ryan Seacrest himself sees in the mirror is something akin to Dorian Grey’s portrait.
In the mirror, Ryan saw eyes eternally enshrouded in dark circles. His lips were dry and cracked. His hair was greasy and full of dandruff. His forehead was burdened with deep worry lines, and his face in general just sort of… drooped and pulled around his mouth. Sometimes, at this hour, before he stuck himself with his magical, vitamin-infused “Hollywood” needle, he regretted selling his soul to the radio DJ gods.
No, that came later. His dream, and first love, was radio. Ryan Seacrest had wanted to be a radio DJ since he was 8 years old. When he was 16, he interned at a local radio station and felt the dream becoming a reality.
At 19, frustrated with his minimal exposure as a dime-a-dozen college radio DJ, Ryan held a midnight seánce in his booth. He called out to the radio DJ gods and all of the hosts before him. He reached deep into his soul and bared it all into the microphone, broadcasting it on the spirit world’s frequency.
When he woke up the next afternoon, he felt a powerful hum coursing through his body, starting from his vocal cords. It worked… The next day, he packed up and moved to Hollywood to pursue his divine destiny: to be the number one DJ in L.A. and syndicated nationwide like Casey Kasem!
Although he landed a radio show, he was quickly seduced by television—the lights, camera, action—and the energy of a live audience. He started small, hosting a variety of off-brand game shows.
With that one show, Ryan himself became an American idol. And before he knew it, he was off to the races, landing a partnership with E! and a gig as the new host of New Year’s Rockin Eve. He was not only a television personality, but also a producer, breathing life into the dragon that would become the Kardiashian clan.
He had made it. He more than made it, he owned it. He was the ultimate host!
But Ryan Seacrest was exhausted. No matter how many new projects he started, he was always chained to the radio—his show had become number one in L.A. just like he’d dreamed it would, and he took over for Casey Kasem as the host of American Top 40.
Ryan had idolized Casey Kasem as the model for his future career, and finally, after being in the business for a decade, the week before he was set to take over American Top 40, Casey Kasem met Ryan at the studio, ready to pass the baton.
“Ryan Seacrest, as I live and breathe!” Casey said in his familiar, friendly voice. “You’ve done well for yourself, my boy.”
“Mr. Kasem!” Ryan gushed as he fit his hand into Casey’s outstretched one. “It’s truly an honor.”
“Nonsense! Call me Casey!” he said as he draped his arm over Ryan’s shoulders and guided him into his booth. Ryan looked around with a grin on his face.
The show America listened to. He had made it! He took a seat at the mic as Casey shut the door.
“How does it feel, Ryan?”
“It feels great, Casey. Listen, you’ve really been an inspiration to me. I’ve wanted to be a radio DJ forever.”
“You’re a bit more than that now, aren’t you, Ryan?” Casey chuckled. “Look, we don’t have much time so I just want to give you a bit of… advice,” he paused. “I can see that it’s too late for you. You traded your soul long ago.”
Ryan shifted uncomfortably in his seat trying his best to fein confusion as his heart raced a mile a minute. He had never told anyone about what he had done all those years ago. How could someone he’s never even met know the truth?
“Don’t worry, Ryan. I know your secret because I have the same one” Casey revealed, slapping a hand on Ryan’s knee in an effort to make him feel at ease.
“I was young once too. I had ambitions. I was impatient. But look at all I have achieved,” he said with his arms outstretched. “Look at all you have achieved!” He continued after a moment, gesturing toward Ryan.
“The radio DJ gods only take souls of those they know have the drive and the talent inside them already. But it does come with a price, my boy, a price I’m sure you have not yet felt. You’re young now, but in a few years you’ll start to see it, to feel it.”
“See what, Casey?”
“You will be chained to this desk forever, Ryan. No matter how many other gigs you get, you will never escape the radio gods. You’ll be in here forever, until your body gives out.”
“And what you’ll see, young Ryan, is that the features of your face will start to wither away. Your flesh will become more elastic and sallow. Your exhaustion will spread across your face plainly like a virus, sucking all of the life away. But when you speak, it’s returned to its glory. Because your voice is part of what you promised to the gods. And that is why you can never leave this desk.”
“Then why are you leaving?”
“Because I re-negotiated my contract to include voice over,” Casey said with a smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth and a twinkle in his eye. “I’ll be playing Shaggy in Scooby Doo until my last dying breath, but that’s something I can live with. I’m too old to run myself ragged anymore. I can’t play this game the way you can.”
Ryan stared into the microphone, feeling it’s power coursing through him.
“Beware of biting off more than you can chew, Ryan,” Casey said, placing a friendly hand on Ryan’s back as he got up to leave. “Be sure your life in the spotlight is worth it.”
That conversation had flooded back to him many time over the years—haunted him, even. He would often pause—when he had to go from shooting his morning show to broadcasting the radio show to the editing room to the red carpet, while shuffling to endless meetings that were so hard to keep track of that he needed three different assistants, while traveling for American Idol—and wondered if it was worth all the hardship, if he should have given up his soul so easily.
Next to him on the counter, his phone rang. It was Kris Jenner. Ryan took a deep breath, taking in one last look of his slumping face, shot himself with his Hollywood needle, and answered the phone.
“Kris!” he shouted, a smile plastered to his face, “I assume there’s ratings bumping drama brewing or you would not be calling me at this hour.”
Ryan admired his own smile in the mirror while half listening to Kris prattle on about Khloe’s latest feud.
His life was somewhat nightmarish to be sure, but who was he to deny the world this smile?