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I Was A Contestant On The Big Shot With Bethenny. Here's What I Learned About Facing My Fears I imagined becoming toxic. I imagined being cancelled. It was the most scared I've been in my entire life.

By Nicole Rosé Stillings

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Krista Schlueter/HBO Max

Bethenny Frankel was yelling at me. The cameras were locked on me. We were filming The Big Shot with Bethenny, a reality TV show that just finished airing on HBO Max, and I was the contestant who had just lost control of the situation. Then I had a terrifying realization: Every reality show has someone who's considered the crazy one or the villain, and… I think that person is going to be me?

My mind flashed to what would happen months later, when the show aired, and viewers saw me in this moment. I've worked so hard to build my business as an entertainer who empowers women, and I imagined it collapsing. I imagined becoming toxic. I imagined being cancelled. It was the most scared I've been in my entire life. I broke down crying and ran to the bathroom to get some space (and to wipe the mascara drizzling down my face). Then I asked myself: What are my options? I could push forward, or I could quit. Then I began to think through my core values. I've always prided myself on doing the hard things; my success in life has come from my boldness.

I knew I couldn't quit. So the question then became: How do I move past this terrifying moment, go back into a situation that I felt little control over, and somehow save my reputation and my sanity? Somehow, I just naturally knew what to do.

But before I explain that, let me tell you how I got into this situation to begin with.

RELATED: Bethenny Frankel's Success Starts With Time Management

I spent the last eight years building a successful DJ'ing business, where I flew around the country hosting parties. Then March 13th, 2020, arrived: In one day, as the pandemic set in, I lost every single event contract and sponsorship campaign for the next six months. I knew this was happening to so many other people at the same time, but I still started beating myself up. How could I let my business fall apart so easily, I wondered? I couldn't sleep. I could barely eat. Actually, I could eat… but only Cheez-Its, because that's my stress-eating vice.

Then, out of the blue, I got an email about a new TV show. Contestants would compete to be the second-in-command for a female mogul — but the producers wouldn't tell me who it is. Was I interested in applying? I looked at my empty schedule, and figured I had nothing to lose.

Six months later, after a grueling interview process, the producers called to say I'd be on the show. I was excited, exhilarated, motivated… and also terrified, nervous and apprehensive. I learned that the TV show centered around Bethenny Frankel, who has a reputation for being intense. Was this a good decision for me? Would I do well on the show? I had about 10 hours to decide.

I have a history of taking risks, and of confusing everyone with my choices (myself included). I get bored when things get comfortable, but I get anxious when I go too far out on a limb. It's a difficult balance to strike, but it's largely served me well. It's why I quit a career in advertising to pursue DJ'ing, and it's how I'd built a large social profile by being in-your-face bold. I always wanted to be on TV, but I wanted to do it my way — with a dose of positivity, some control over my persona, and with a group of somewhat grounded individuals around me. But I had to be honest with myself: My dream TV opportunity hadn't arrived. Instead, this very different one had.

I said yes.

I had two weeks before filming. My father always taught me from a young age that knowledge trumps fear, so I did my best to study Bethenny and build out a strategy to win the job. I watched 5 seasons of The Apprentice (because the show had a similar setup, and because Bethenny appeared in one season). I listened to every podcast interview she gave, read her book A Place of Yes, and ordered a new wardrobe for the show. Filming the show could take up to two months, and I needed my business to continue to operate in my absence — so I pre-recorded two months' worth of episodes for my podcast, scheduled all the marketing content, and handed the reins over to my team.

When I arrived on set, I felt good. I'd prepared and studied — now it was just time to have fun, right?

Wrong. Reality TV is unlike any other experience. It is completely uncontrollable, and you have (at first) no allies and no idea what anybody wants. But I was enjoying it at first. Then came the infamous photo shoot — perhaps the most dramatic part of the season. I played the unwitting star.

Here's the setup: The contestants were told to conduct a photoshoot for Bethenny's Skinnygirl Shapewear clothing line. We had very little time to plan, pull the looks, hire the models, execute the shoot, and select the final content. At the 11th hour, Bethenny herself shows up at the studio and says she wants to be included in everyone's shoot — and of course, that made every contestant nervous. I was especially freaking out, because I'd hired plus-sized models to showcase the shapewear's multiple body types — and Bethenny is tiny, meaning I had no clothing for her to wear. This made my ambitious shoot feel almost impossible. What was I to do? I decided I had to stick with my original plan: I'd shoot the "day-to-night" looks with my models and then have Bethenny jump in towards the end with the one piece I was able to scrounge up for her. She got upset that I was wasting her time.

After that… well, you can watch for yourself. It was intense.

This was the moment when all my fears collided. I broke down crying and ran to the bathroom, and started asking myself those questions I described above. What are my options? What are my core values? I decided I couldn't quit — that's not how I handle stress. I needed to push through it.

I realized I needed to be my own best friend. So I gave myself a pep talk. I looked at myself in the mirror and I said: "You're a fucking queen. Queens don't quit. Queens lift each other up and you can rise back to the top. Get back out there and set a strong example for all the other queens who will see this."

I felt so broken at the time, but I knew that if I could find just one little piece of me that could move forward, I could put one foot after another and eventually crawl back up to the top. I knew I'd need a new strategy for this show; the way I was relating to Bethenny and the other contestants was clearly creating enemies, and that needed to change. But one thing at a time, I told myself. I didn't need to fix everything in that one moment. (That would happen over the course of many, many sleepless nights.) For now, I just needed to reaffirm my belief in myself.

So I went back out to the photo shoot. I gave it my all. I decided that, even if I'd become the crazy one on the show, the best thing I could do was buy myself more time to show people who I really am. And it worked. I didn't win the show, but I won friends and Bethenny's respect. When the show finally aired, I received a lot of sympathy and love from viewers. My business was safe. I had grown. It was a victory.

Through this experience, I had the biggest realization of my life: Fear is an illusion. It's a fake wall that we construct and place in our own way. We have control over what we're scared of and what we're willing to face. And best of all, whenever we break through one fear, we level up our lives. We'll never fear the same thing twice. Yes, sure, there will always be new fears to face and new walls to knock down — but the more we do it, the easier it'll become, and the more we hit our stride.

Originally from the Midwest, Nicole Rosé Stillings moved to Manhattan with a dream — and became a world class DJ, podcaster, mindset mentor, and TV personality on HBO Max's The Big Shot with Bethenny. Nicole is an investor and advisor to female-founded companies and on the board of UNICEF NextGen. Named a "powerful woman" by Marie Claire, she has been featured in Vogue, Forbes, WWD, Business Insider, Fast Company, Cheddar, and Bravo TV's Summer House. Nicole's mission is to use her entrepreneurial experience in building a six-figure business to empower the next generation of badass women by optimizing their mindsets and morning routines with her Queens of Creation mentorship and Big Queen Energy podcast.

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