How long does it take to become a doctor of something? Seven, eight years? I’ve been singing in bands since 1992: I figure that by now I’ve got a doctorate in rock with a minor in diva.

But what exactly is a rock star? Since my stint last summer on the network TV show of the same name, I get asked that a lot.

Am I a rock star? Let’s see.

In the early ‘80s, when I was a drug-addled, runaway, A-hole punk rocker living on the streets of Cambridge, Mass., and begging for money in Harvard Square, "rock star" was a derogatory term. It meant you were pretty and talentless–or a sellout. It meant commercially viable, enjoyed by jocks and rich kids, and thus un-fucking-cool. I was a fiercely proud, scumbag gutter slut–and so’s your mom.

By the time I moved to San Francisco several years later and started fronting bands like Flower SF and Dirty Mouth, I fancied myself one of those antiestablishment, screw-the-man singers–until, horror of horrors, I gained some popularity and things got hinky.

Yes, I wanted to be universally adored–but not famous. I wanted to look like all of my scowling heroes who hated fame. Fame and all its trappings keep you from creating real art, maaaaaan! Onstage, I wore garbage bags or filthy granny nighties and combat boots. I painted on sideburns and goatees, sometimes black eyes. I also went naked–a lot. And not the nice-and-shiny, Maxim kind of naked, but a more rutting and aggressive, Clan of the Cave Bear naked. I spat, belched, brawled, push-started the van and humped gear like any grunt roadie. No way in hell was anyone going to call me a rock star–or figure out that deep down inside, I really wanted to be one.

That was my secret shame.

Fast-forward to what feels like 9 million years later: I’m living in Portland and gigging regularly around town with my band, the Balls. After an anonymous fan submits a video to CBS of a Storm & the Balls performance at Dante’s, I find myself on television, Rock Star: Supernova, bantering tit for tat with Tommy Lee and Dave Navarro, and gaining worldwide notoriety simply by doing what I always do–singing and talking shit. At one point, it seemed like the whole world had googled "Storm" and, along with a ton of other Web sites, the Weather Channel crashed.

And everybody called me a rock star. But this time it wasn’t a cringe-worthy insult. In the world of reality TV, the rock-star identity was bandied about as a reward; the term was not only part of the show’s title, it was also the grand prize. It was dangled in our faces. Rock star. Millionaire. Hedonism. Mansions. Public divorces. Rehab. Sex tapes. You knew you wanted it, and you had to break your heart for it.

My fellow contestants and I lived in a Silver Lake mansion, but we rarely had a moment to enjoy it. We sang rock ‘n’ roll on a gorgeous stage with a killer band, but we had to get up at 4 in the mother-freakin’ morning to do it, an hour when most real rock stars were just going to bed.

We formed tight, deep friendships among ourselves, then had to watch as some of us were hurt and even publicly humiliated–and then sent packing. We were flown in a private jet to Vegas to gamble with money supplied by the show. We were given high-end clothes. We were photographed and interviewed. We were liked, loved, hated and stalked.

It was really hard, and saying that out loud sounds utterly stupid to me. I sound like a whining, starving starlet–but it really was hard. I just don’t know how it was hard. Let’s just say it was one of the best moments of my life that I’m grateful to be on this side of.

Thanks to my three-month ride on CBS, I am now a teeny bit famous. I am definitely not rich, but then I have done People magazine-type famous stuff. I’ve been on talk shows, done red-carpet events here and there. I’ve been to the Playboy Mansion and, once in a while, my name appears in a tabloid where I’m accused of salaciousness with other famous people. That’s your basic fame stuff, and yes, it is fun, even if it is a little silly. But fame for fame’s sake is pretty useless.

As a musician, however, this taste of fame is a very useful tool. It has directly affected my work and my ability to sell it. And my work, as it turns out, is myself–not only my tangible wares such as songs, records and videos, but the Storm brand. Yes, it sounds gross, but if I learned anything at rock-star camp, I learned not to take it personally. It’s the artist that people are buying. Apparently, people like my songs, my voice, my mug or the fact that I’m older–or that I called Dave Navarro a bitch. Storm Large is for sale all right, but as far as this business goes, I’m strictly a mom-and-pop operation: a privately owned, yet very publicly traded company. I am my pimp and my best girl and my little trick.

It paid off. At the moment I’m recording my first album with the Rock Star house band. My own group, the Balls, is gearing up for a West Coast tour, then a Canadian jag, then on to New Zealand and Australia. We will also certainly go back to Iceland, where my single, "Ladylike," was the most requested single for an entire month.

Am I a rock star? I’d say, through it all, I’ve always been one. By my own definition, it just means being myself. It’s me doing my very best at performing, recording, writing, cooking, giving tickles, laughing, loving and just being alive. I rock at all that stuff.

Being on television was an exclamation point at the end of one page in my story. It was pretty damn cool to get spit into living rooms all around the world. Who knew that a foul-mouthed woman with huge feet who’s closer to 40 than she’d care to think about would get to dress up all hottie-pants and scamper about on national television while millions of people scoured the Internet for pictures of her boobs?

For that I must throw up the horns, hit the high Rob Halford vibrato and declare that I rule. Oh yeah, Tommy. It’s one word: Rockstar.