The year was 1999 and it was one that Megan Alatini will never forget. The South African born-singer was 23-years-old when she was hand-picked to be part of an all girl group in a new reality TV show called Pop Stars.
Every step of the way, singers were filmed by a television crew. And Alatini laughs thinking back to the moment that changed her life.
“That was a wonderful feeling and experience," says the Auckland-based singer.
"I felt like such an idiot because I started crying...I was so elated and I was thanking my family like I was at the Grammy Awards!”
Alatini’s tears are forgivable. She was filmed for a show that was the first of its kind in the world - a TV show looking for singing sensations.
Pop Stars was a precursor to the popular X-Factor and Idol shows, but the show that launched Alatini's career became an international franchise.
Everything about the show was new and Alatini agrees that at times it felt more like an experiment. But she has a lot of fond memories associated with the show that ultimately changed television history.
And while being part of a show that was finding its own feet wasn't always easy, she got to share that experience with four other girls in the band: Keri Harper, Jo Cotton, Carly Binding and Erika Takas who she is still friends with today.
For a pop band, establishing an identity can be pivotal to success. And TrueBliss were dead-set on making an impact. Alatini laughs now, recalling how they resisted the 90s baggy jeans and grunge look of the day, opting instead for glam glitter and sparkly Bindis.
“Usually girls would have one bindi on their forehead and they might have two on the side of their eyes. I decided to go the full haul and had them all above my eyebrows and in the middle…”
Alatini was taking a leaf from some of her drag queen friends, but says she ended up looking pretty tragic.
“We had a really, really great team who looked after us beautifully. And it wasn’t actually the choices of the stylist sometimes that were not so wonderful, it was actually us thinking that we knew better,” she says.
But the glamour and over-the-top Bindis weren't to last.
“I was really disappointed that the concept for the show was taken over to Australia, rather than us as a band. So we were a bit disappointed about that,” she says.
The girls hopes and dreams were dashed, and they broke up in 2000, just a year after the show premiered.
But it wasn't all bad. TrueBliss had a number one hit with the song, Tonight. And while they never achieved international success, the experience made Alatini more resilient and opened doors to opportunities she would never have had otherwise.
Following on from Pop Stars, Alatini was cast in Cloud 9’s TV series The Tribe. She had a stint on Dancing with the Stars and has also been a judge on New Zealand Idol, and says it's important to take the good with the bad.
The question is, would she do it all over again?
Megan's response is clear cut: "Stupidly, I would say yes!”
Pop Stars relaunches on New Zealand screens in 2021.
Find out more about Megan Alatini and her experience in True Bliss and Pop Stars on RNZ podcast, Eyewitness.