A group of friends and I decided we would go to Austin. We paddle boarded, took pictures in blue bonnets, and walked on South Congress, where we blew most of our money and ate at three different places. We ended up stopping for cupcakes near a street performer when we got a taste of how weird Austin is.  

There weren’t enough tables for us to sit down at this cupcake place, so we went off to a sidewall. Then one of my friends said, “Juliana, I think that guy is singing about you.” However, we came to the conclusion that he was singing about a woman in yoga pants sitting alone at a table when his lyrics went “I don’t want to be sleazy, but those pants make you look easy.”

She was very uncomfortable and invited us to come sit with her. We went over and started chatting to ignore the street singer. When a woman on crutches with a neck and leg brace walked towards the cupcake stand, the singer decided it would be funny to sing “gimpy limpy” as she came closer. It was pretty rude. She started getting more and more upset until womp; she fell to the ground. I helped her up and my friends comforted her and tried to calm her down. She just kept asking, “Is he singing about me?”

That was the moment I decided to walk up to the street performer and nicely ask him to stop singing. All while still eating my cupcake (let’s not forget why I was there). He was very defensive of his music, but I was not having it. He stopped for a split second as I walked away from him, then he started strumming his guitar and walking toward the woman with crutches. I got in front of him and told him to stop. Then the cameras came out from every angle.

The entire thing was staged.

Have you ever seen “What Would You Do?” That was the TV show I ended up on. The host, John Quiñones, walked out grinning ear to ear with his camera crew to interview us and hand us his new book. Everyone was a hired actor.

The whole experience was ruined for me.

I felt manipulated. I wanted to cry.

Not only were the actors provoking me to do something about the situation, they almost made it impossible for me to not do something.

The whole experience was unsettling. I had no time to think about the words coming out of my mouth, or process what had just happened, or think about whether I wanted to be on TV or not. It all happened so fast.

My friends were so blown away and so excited; it felt like the best thing to do was sign the release form so that they could be on TV. But I should have listened to that small voice inside me that said not to sign the paper. I had no control over how the producers would spin the episode or edit voice clips, and that scared me. Secretly, I hoped someone else would come along that day with something much more interesting to say or done something way more heroic. The fact that I had been manipulated into doing something I would have done regardless just didn’t feel right.