Courtney Preston often told interviewers that she came out of the womb singing, but that was not in fact the case. The real answer felt too personal. Her mom was a small-time singer/songwriter who would sing her little girl to sleep every night with the same little song:
My little baby’s got a heart like an ocean / Endless and honest and pure/ My little baby’s a little love potion / people can’t help but adore.
Courtney soon had the song memorized, and wanted to learn others as well. At the age of five and a half, Courtney told her mom that she wanted to be a singer. So, her mom entered her in a talent show in their native Lexington, South Carolina. Courtney came in third place, but wasn’t the least discouraged. She continued to participate in talent shows and pageants across the state. At the age of twelve, Courtney claimed first place at the Lil’ Miss Sweetness Pageant, and garnered the attention of an L.A. talent scout.
Before she knew it, she was cast in a T.V. show that got broadcast to every kid’s television in the country. She became a household name almost overnight, and kids had her face on backpacks, and t-shirts. During this time, Courtney’s mom made sure that she stayed on top of her schooling.
“Education is #1,” her mom said. “You have to learn to handle all this money you’re making.” So, Courtney reluctantly did her English and math homework between takes.
Courtney’s mom also over saw her daughters recording career. She made sure that Courtney only sang age appropriate songs about first loves, crushes, and frenemies. So, when Courtney’s mom collapsed on set, Courtney’s whole world was turned upside-down. Courtney rode in the ambulance, and sat by her mother’s hospital bed for three days. Her mom was in a coma, but whenever Courtney sang her heart rate went up.
“My mom has a heart like an ocean / Endless and honest and pure/ My mom is a little love potion / Oh, she makes my spirit soar,” Courtney sang. On the last note, her mom’s heart rose for the last time. Courtney attended the funeral, and then went unheard.
For months, rumors flew around that Courtney was a mental case, and went through several unsuccessful stints in rehab. So, when Courtney suddenly released her third album, and revealed her new image, the press went wild. Courtney was “new” and “brash.” Her eyes were heavy with makeup, and her skimpy outfits clung to a body nearly ten pounds underweight. Her singles had changed, too. They had titles like “Kiss my Neck” and “Yank me Back.” Some people enjoyed “this” Courtney. Some tabloids said she was “taking control of her life,” and some young fans thought she was a “rebel.” None of these sources witnessed Courtney crying in her dressing room every night.
This destructive behavior came to a head on Courtney’s eighteenth birthday, when she was driving home from her party, ran a red light, and got side-swipped by an oncoming car. One second she saw the hadlights, and the next she saw was looking into her mother’s eyes.
“What has my baby done?” her mom said, brushing hair from Courtney’s forehead. Courtney pulled her mamma into a tight hug.
“I’m not sure,” Courtney said pulling her mom into a hug. “When I was little, and you sang to me I thought I knew who I was.. Without you beside me, I don’t know who to listen to.”
“Listen to yourself,’ said her mom, “You’re better than who you’ve become.”
“But everyone expects something different from me.”
“I might have lied to you a little growing up,” said her mom, “I had an opportunity to sing professionally, but I chose not to take it. Your mother was too scared to reach her potential, to be a role-model, because I thought that meant I had to be perfect all the time, but that’s not true. A good role-model is someone who tries their hardest to be the best person she or he can. You’re braver than I was. You can handle the pressure. I know you can. So stop sabotaging yourself. There are kids out there who are looking to you for guidance.”
“What if it’s too late?” said Courtney.
“It’s not. Everyone loves a good comeback.” said her mom. Courtney’s vision faded to white, and she awoke in a hospital bed. She suffered a broken arm, and a few scratches, but nothing that wouldn’t heal with time. Cards, gifts, and flowers filled the room.
“I have a heart like an ocean,” Courtney sang, “Endless and honest and pure/ I am a little love potion / people can’t help but adore,” and she decided to repeat this song until she believed it.