Everyone in my life knows that I have been a HUGE fan of the British rock band Queen since I was 12 years old. I was honored to be included in Bohemian Rhapsodies, an authorized book of true tales from Queen fans and celebrities that was just published! Here is my story in its entirety, unedited. Thanks to the editors for including me!
By Audrey Dimola, New York City, USA
I’m Audrey Dimola, a 25-year-old writer and editor from Queens, New York, and I absolutely would not be the person I am today if I hadn’t become a Queen fan. Queen is a constant in my life that has endured since I “officially” became a fan when I was nearly 12 years old, thanks to fond memories of my dad playing their music all throughout my childhood. In the early stages of your teen years when you’re still figuring out who you are and what you stand for – falling in love for the first time and weathering the bumps and bruises of growing up – Queen, and specifically Freddie, were there to guide me through each and every one of those moments.
As time passed and I started delving deeper into their massive catalogue, watching their videos, and reading up on the history of the band, I was soon living, breathing, and dreaming Queen – and also completely enamored with Freddie. Everything about him – his voice, his style, his beauty, strength, humor, and indomitable spirit – made me adore him more and more. Before I knew it I was watching the videos (on VHS!), so enchanted that I couldn’t help but study his every move. I kept watching, and one day I just couldn’t sit still anymore – I’d close the door, pick up a dog leash or a mini baseball bat, brandish it like a half mic stand, bust out the Freddie moves, and sing my heart out! But all pretty much in secret, however – my family was well aware of my Freddie love, but had no idea I was mirroring his moves behind closed doors.
And then it happened – Breakthru 2001, the very first Official North American Queen Convention was announced! I will never, ever forget how generous my parents were to pack our five-piece family in the car and drive out to Ohio for the convention as a 15th birthday present. To say I was elated was an understatement – after we got to the hotel I could barely sleep from excitement (!), but before I knew it, it was the first night of the convention. I almost didn’t know what to do with myself – packed wall to wall with hardcore Queen fans singing, cheering, watching videos, dressed to the nines, Queen pride in full effect – it was amazing.
Towards the end of the first night, the Mime Contest was going to take place. This was what I had been waiting for ever since I first heard about it months before – the chance to get onstage, perform like your favorite Queen member, and “mime” to 3 classic songs. I HAD to do it, as Freddie! I felt his presence so truly in my life, and I was so eternally grateful for him – all I wanted to do was make Freddie proud. It wasn’t just getting up there and pretending to be someone else – it was my chance to honor his memory and continue his legacy by bringing his performing to life. It was also somewhat daunting when I really thought about it – me, a 14-year-old girl from Queens, posing as the greatest rock frontman the world had ever known… And in front of 350+ wholly dedicated Queenies, no less!
Right before the contest I wasn’t feeling so well – the exhaustion was getting to me, I literally hadn’t eaten anything since that morning (my own fault – I didn’t want to miss anything!), and had been sitting still for the entire charity auction. The worrisome thought crept into my mind that I wasn’t going to have the stamina to put on a great performance – but I just couldn’t do that!
Finally, as they say, it was the moment of truth. Oddly, even though I had been feeling under the weather for most of the time before it, as soon as they announced the Mime Contest and called the participants up to the stage, it was like I snapped into an entirely different frame of mind. All eyes were on us – me and the 7 or 8 other Queenies at the front of the room. It was the first night of the celebration, and seemed like everyone was in the ballroom. Just moments before we were scheduled to start and as the lovely Fan Club prez Jacky Smith was explaining the rules, I had a last minute thought to grab a rolled-up poster from the stage and use it as my mic stand. Meanwhile, my hardy competitor – a fellow Freddie obsessor named Gareth – was channeling Freddie’s Live Aid getup and brandishing a real half mic stand!
Me performing in the Mime Contest at Breakthru 2001!
I grabbed my poster, feeling like nothing was going through my mind but this. I looked out into the rows of excited Queen fans I had never met, many of whom had actually seen them live or perhaps even met the band – all those lucky individuals who had the chance to truly experience the world while Freddie was still around. I was 5 years old when Freddie passed away, and because of my age I had the heart-wrenching reality that I could never get the chance to see Freddie in all his glory, performing right in front of me… But in my heart, the love I had for Queen was overflowing – even though I was younger, even though I had become an “official” fan just a few short years before.
And then – the first roaring chords of “Hammer To Fall” ripped through the room, and without a second thought, I was off. The thing I still remember from those first moments is the look on the faces of the people in the front row – one fellow’s jaw actually dropped when he saw me, and unbeknownst to me, my parents’ jaws dropped, too. They had no idea that I had learned Freddie’s moves like this. And me – I just felt completely and utterly overtaken by the moment. Still to this day, I can’t describe it – I wasn’t thinking about the moves or worrying about the competition. All I felt was the pure, electric energy of my love for Freddie, and the moves, the swagger, the personality just flowed out of me in time with the music that was so much a part of everything I was.
Once the first song ended the applause was deafening. We all shook hands and smiled and I did a regal, Freddie-like bow. The second song was “I Want It All,” the song during which everyone was eliminated by the judges save for 5 of us. The last song was “Keep Yourself Alive,” our final chance to prove ourselves, and then it was up to the audience “Clap-o-Meter” to decide the winners. We were arranged in the order of the random numbers we received in elimination, and I was number 1. When Jacky placed her hand over my head, the audience erupted – I couldn’t believe it. I was beaming, bowing, blowing kisses to the audience in Freddie style, and tried to scream “THANK YOU!” but my voice was swallowed by the crowd. It was absolutely unbelievable. I stood with my poster-mic as the judging continued, and then to the sound of several people calling out “Number 1! Number 1!” and humorously, “One is the loneliest number!” the winners were chosen. “Live Aid Freddie” Gareth received third place, one of the two excellent Roger mimes received second, and… “With an overwhelming lead,” Jacky spoke from the stage, “the winner is – number 1!”
The audience started cheering again and I was absolutely beside myself. I looked to the sky in awe and pumped my fist in the air – I had actually won for my performance of Freddie, and Jacky Smith, who knew the Queen guys personally, was telling me what a great job I did while presenting me with a plaque signed by Brian, Roger, and John! It was totally unreal. As I climbed the steps to the stage my eyes filled with tears at the thought of Freddie and what I had just done. I said my little speech, gesturing to the heavens above and thanking Freddie who (à la “You Take My Breath Away”) “has captured my love, stolen my heart, and changed my life,” as well as my wonderful family, and the entire crowd.
For the rest of the night I was floating, and for the remainder of the weekend everyone knew me as the girl who won the Mime Contest, “mime girl,” or as my favorite – “little Freddie”! At some point during the night a friend I knew from the old QFC online chat congratulated me, looked me in the eyes and said, “Freddie would’ve been proud.” What a compliment – and all the rest I received during and after the convention meant the absolute world to me. Not because I won the competition, but because people I had never met could just feel how much I loved Freddie, how much he meant to me, and how connected to him I always felt.
The next year my parents so generously took us all back to Ohio for Breakthru 2002 for my 16th birthday. Amazingly, I won the Mime Contest again, and a lovely volunteer (who also happened to be a Freddie impersonator!) led the entire crowd of Queenies in singing “Happy Birthday” to me in grand Freddie style. It was absolutely unforgettable, just like meeting Brian in NYC during Summer 2010. I hold so dear to my heart the opportunity I had to thank him in person, although words could never describe everything they’ve done for me…
Still now, as years have passed and so many things have changed, Queen and Freddie are still on the throne of my heart. They bring tears to my eyes just by listening to their music or watching them in videos – tears for Freddie whom I wish was still here, but even more tears of such joy for all they have taught me and everything they remind me of in my life. Even though I’m not the exact same little girl who won the Mime Contest all those years ago, my heart is still overflowing with love for Queen, and “when I look and I find” – I still love Freddie Mercury with every single beat of my heart. QUEEN FOREVER!
Me in 2010 with Queen’s guitarist Brian May and his co-author of A Village Lost and Found, Elena Vidal