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It Boyles Down to the Word “Talent”

So Britain has another ‘underdog’ to cheer on. Susan Boyle is a similarly unlikely ‘star’ as Paul Potts was when he sang his first song on the “Britain’s Got Talent” show, although she seems to be less shy and tries to overcome her insecurity with some awkward moves. But the powerful ‘ugly duckling turns into beautiful swan’ motif takes hold of the audience once more when she starts to sing.

Susan Boyle on YouTube

Tamar Abrams writes a very sensible comment on Boyle’s appearance at the HuffingtonPost site: Susan Boyle: Talent Without Judgment.
First of all, she analyses the amount of surprise that her voice causes:

The problem is that recognition of her talent is directly proportionate to her lack of good looks and youth. What does it say about the civilized world that our expectations for greatness are diminished when people are unattractive and/or old? It’s no mystery why American Idol screens out any would-be singers over the age of 30. We are a nation obsessed with youth. [...]
The results of this obsession with looks stare back at us from the covers of magazines and from our TV screens. Women of indeterminate age with lips resembling those of guppies, people who smile only with their eyes because the rest of their faces are locked into place, women with husbands the age of their grandfathers.

Abrams recommends a more natural view of age and its signs, and a look at people that includes what is behind their outward appearance:

I, for one, believe that every line on my face was hard-won and adds to the character that is me. If Joan Rivers resembled something more human and closer to her age, I would like her just as well. And if Susan Boyle stays just the way she is – overgrown eyebrows and all – she will still sing better than her own idol, Elaine Paige. Talent and intelligence and heart are all internal; they don’t rely on plastic surgery to sustain them. Looks fade, the years pass and it is a process that is natural and appropriate. Let’s applaud Susan Boyle’s talent – not in spite of what she looks like, but because it’s an amazing talent.

Update:
Also worth reading:
Susan Boyle – the Golden Ticket of Reality TV (NY Daily News)
and
Demi Moore: “Susan Boyle Moved Me to Tears” (Times Online)

Second Update:
ITN News tells the story of Susan Boyle’s amazing success story around the globe, including an interview with judge Amanda Holden (16th April 2009).

Third update (18 April 2009):
Now there is an article at the New York Times web site, too: Unlikely Singer Is YouTube Sensation.

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