Glee Project's Aylin Bayramoglu on Muslim Stereotypes, Showmances and Adele Worship
Aylin Bayramoglu may have gotten tantalizing close to scoring a seven-episode arc on Glee, only to fall just shy of her goal, but you won’t hear her complaining. The co-runner-up on Season 2 of The Glee Project says that the competition “literally was a life-changing experience” that’s refocused her goals on landing a TV role and becoming a role model for young Muslim women who don’t often see themselves represented positively on the small screen.
TVLine caught up with Bayramoglu to talk about whether or not her Glee Project showmance was legit, how her family reacted to some of her racier moments on the show, and what it feels like to have Amber Riley praise your vocal ability.
TVLINE | So before we take a deep dive into the season, I’ve got to be honest with you: I was surprised you didn’t win Season 2, given your fantastic final performance of “Rolling in the Deep.”
I think a lot of people were shocked.
TVLINE | Tell me about that performance. Obviously, tackling Adele is a tricky proposition. If you pull it off, great. If you don’t, it’s got the potential to be disastrous. Did you consider other songs?
Adele and Amy Winehouse have been huge influences for me musically. And “Rolling in the Deep” was a song that I could really emotionally connect to. It was between that and “The One That Got Away” by Katy Perry, but [the latter song]…it just didn’t fit.
TVLINE | What was it like watching the episode and seeing Amber Riley sitting in the audience, making a face that essentially said, “Uh-huh. She’s killing it.”
Oh my God, that was amazing. Amber is so talented, and I am in love with her voice, and have looked up to her ever since the beginning of Glee. And hearing her say all of that about me was just like a dream. And she Tweeted me and Ali. I was on Cloud 9. It was a true fan-girling moment.
TVLINE | So, let’s take it back to the beginning of The Glee Project. You get there, you’ve got a 1-in-14 shot of being on Glee, and then in the first week wind up in the Bottom 3. Did that shake your confidence?
It was really scary. My confidence was shaken right when I got into the house, alongside 13 other, extremely talented people who were all fighting for the same thing. For some reason I just couldn’t get it together the first week. I think that’s why the mentors were like, “Where’s the fire that we saw in you before?” Being in the bottom, although it was terrifying, was the best thing that ever could have happened to me at that point in the competition, because it re-lit my fire, and I was like, “There’s no way I’m going home today. This is it. I’ve got to prove to them why I should stay.”
TVLINE | Very early in the season, you described yourself as “a spunky, bad-ass, Turkish Muslim,” and continued to repeat essentially the same description on several other occasions. Knowing that in Season 1 of The Glee Project, the judges often talked about whether or not a contestant could inspire the folks in the Glee writers’ room, were you purposely trying to drive home the point that, yeah, there was an interesting character percolating within?
I never really thought about it. Honestly, when I first got on the show, I was like, “What do they see in me? Like, what is so special about me that they want on the show?” And then, the feedback I got in the first week really opened up my eyes to it, and I was like, wait, Ryan [Murphy] is right, there is no one like me on TV. So let me inspire people.
TVLINE | Backtracking for a minute, what were you doing prior to The Glee Project?
I was in college studying vocal jazz performance at Roosevelt University in Chicago.
TVLINE | So this was your first foray into the world of auditioning for a major TV show, or even being on reality television?
Absolutely. This was my break.
TVLINE | We saw a showmance percolating with you and fellow contestant Charlie from very early in the competition. How much of that was a real connection, versus the inevitable result of you guys being isolated from everything and everyone you know, stuck in one place together, and under the intense pressure of the fighting for a spot on Glee under the glare of the cameras?
Being in the house without outside communication, and only being able to talk to each other, that was the spark to the whole thing. But it turned into something totally real. I mean, when Charlie left the show, I got really, really upset. And we still care about each other a lot. I mean he’s totally at my apartment right now, chilling with Lily in the other room. So, it definitely wasn’t fake. I know some viewers said I wasn’t into it, or I was just playing it up for the cameras, but that’s absolutely not true. I was in a different mindset in the beginning of the show, and very focused on winning and being on Glee, but then I just let myself feel this way with Charlie, and it turned out to be something great.