Saturday, April 18, 2009


It is all over television these days – reality shows where rudeness, crudeness, cruelty and arrogance runs rampant. I do not watch them. Which is why the moment I saw a news story about Susan Boyle it immediately captured my attention. I found the video on YouTube and watched Susan sing. Tears streamed down my face as I listened to a pure, angelic voice come from a person who looks like an average, frumpy middle-aged woman from the countryside. That’s the point – frumpy does not mean there is no talent. Yet in today’s world it is expected that one must be beautiful to have talent or intelligence. Mama Cass could not make it on the music scene today.

On “Britain’s Got Talent,” this good lady, because of her looks, was prejudged as a loser the minute she walked onto the stage. It was disheartening to see 3,000 people in the audience roll their eyes as they welcomed the middle-aged lady with snickers and disbelief. Many of these same people don't have the talent or the courage to set foot on that stage.

But her inner beauty and talent shown forth from the moment she started singing "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Misérables. At the end of her performance, she got a well deserved standing ovation from all. Judge Piers Morgan told her "When you said you wanted to be like Elaine Paige everyone laughed at you, but no one is laughing now. …It was stunning!" When you make Simon smile with pleasure, you have accomplished something. Some good does come from these reality shows after all.

It had not occurred to anyone that she might be a great singer. Why?

In our society only the beautiful are expected to succeed. Some studies say we humans are predisposed to equate beauty with goodness and that only the beautiful "deserve" fame. It sometimes seems as if you have to be attractive just to simply deserve common every day respect – if you are overweight (or what is considered overweight in our anorexic society), beyond your prime, or don't wear expensive clothes, people look past you as if you do not exist.

This brave soul stepped onto a national (now international) stage and was greeted as a public joke. This is the point where most of us would just walk away and go hide - yet she didn't. After a few moments of eye rolling by Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden, and Piers Morgan and an audience of 3,000 on the reality show "Britain's Got Talent," who were all prepared to ridicule Ms. Boyle once she sang; the angel courageously opened her mouth and started singing.

She knocked them off their feet.

As a 47-year-old Scottish spinster who spent her life caring for her elderly parents, Susan is unemployed, unmarried and, according to her, "never been kissed." She isn't glamorous on the outside, but she is a lovely woman who took care of her family in their time of need, just as millions of unglamorous people do each and every day. Although many may have spent money on fancy clothes at some point in their younger years, life hit them with full force – suddenly sweats or blue jeans seem to be the outfit of choice. Going to the gym to keep that youthful figure becomes less and less important until it becomes just a nuisance. When you wake up one morning to discover you gained 50 lbs, you may care somewhere deep down inside, but the pounds won’t budge so you get on with life.

This is the reason why this story has struck a chord with so many millions of people around the world.

It is wonderful when something good happens to a person like Susan – especially when they deserve it. It is wonderful to watch a middle aged, rounded woman with little or no makeup in an old-fashioned dress go on stage and beat the ridicule and prejudgments with one of the most beautiful voices you will ever hear.

"Susan Boyle is the ugly duckling who didn't need to turn into a swan; she has fulfilled the dreams of millions who, downtrodden by the cruelty of a culture that judges them on their appearance, have settled for life without looking in the mirror," wrote Miranda Sawyer, of the Daily Mirror, "No woman gets to perform publicly unless she looks like Mariah Carey. If you're a female singer, you are required by showbiz law to appear sexy at all times. Poor Madonna and Kylie are desperately keeping up appearances, holding back the years with Botox and face-fillers just so they're allowed to continue with their careers."

I cried when I first heard her sing because she reminds us to hope, to never lose track of our dreams, to keep putting one foot in front of the other no matter what others say or think.

This is a true Cinderella story. A star has been born. Susan has said that she has no intentions of changing the way she looks. Whether she will leave a dent on our prejudices about age and appearance remains to be seen. Susan’s dream is about to come true as all of us plain everyday folk cheer her on.

Please watch her amazing performance: