Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ugly Duckling No More

You have got to watch Susan Boyle sing, if you have not.

Two weeks ago, when I first read about the news that she has become a global phenomenon after her performance at the "Britain's Got Talent " show, I did not give it a damn. Almost every other season of such talent shows would unveil some "sensational singers" anyway. Do I really have to care if they have found another Kelly Clarkson, Jordin Sparks, Jennifer Hudson or David Archuleta? When I looked at Boyle's photos, I was even more sure that I was not interested to know more about her.

My reason was simple: Susan Boyle does not have the star look, at all.

Not just that, Susan Boyle is 47, plump, with unkempt hair, looking frumpy, far from being pretty and with an air of eccentricity.

However, I could not really put Susan Boyle aside as more news and talks continued to flood the media and the Internet.

I decided to watch the video of her performance, just to check out what this big fuss is all about.

At the talent show, she proclaimed that she dreamed of being a professional singer like the famous British West End star Elaine Page and she told the judges that she was going to sing "I Dreamed A Dream" from Les Miserables, which is not an easy number. You could see that the audience and the judges were showing their cynical expressions as if saying, "Oh, please! You are such a joke!"

I joined thousands of other viewers, snickered at her unreservedly. I was totally unimpressed with her overall appearance, even though I kept reminding myself that one shall not judge a book by its cover.

All this while, Boyle remained confident and she kept her smile on, as if oblivious to the audience's ridicule. The moment she opened her mouth, everyone was dumbstruck. All the sardonic grins instantly morphed into expressions of disbelief and even apology. The judges' eyes were wide open, the crowd went wild and by the time Boyle was done with her song, the judges and the audience were giving her a standing ovation.

Boyle became an instant star and I became an instant idiot, flushed with shame.

I was totally unprepared for what I heard and saw. At some point, I was closed to being moved to tears. It struck me hard that I should never have pre-judged anyone based on appearance. I am sure many others, including the judges, felt the same way too.

One of the judges, Amanda Holden, admitted that they had been "very cynical", and that the performance was the "biggest wake-up call ever". Even the usually cynical and blunt judge, Simon Cowell, could not stop smiling from ear to ear.

In the few days following that, her pictures were splashed on the front pages of papers in and outside Britain. She was also offered a seat on the Oprah's talk show and has appeared on Larry King's CNN show.

From time immemorial, people have been obsessed with packaging, especially in the entertainment industry. To be famous, an artist is expected to come with the right face, wear the right clothes, carry the right attitude, say the right stuff and preferably young. In this regard, Susan Boyle is a total contrast. She demonstrated how an ugly duckling can reach for the star without turning into a swan. She removed the deep-set prejudice we all have and showed that there is still so much human grace in this world.

First the audience was booing her at the British talent show and now the world is wooing her like a fairytale princess. By now, her video clips in YouTube would have more than 85 millions hits and it just tickles me to learn that Boyle had not even heard of YouTube before this. It looks like Boyle is set to stage a singing career for herself, just like how she has dreamed for.

Notwithstanding comments and interest hovering around her appearance, or the lack of it, Boyle was not the least bothered. It appears that she was not about to embark on some big time makeover with any image consultant. I believe that she is not going to put her energy on changing what she lacks but rather she will point her focus on where her strength lies.

Smart move.

I cannot imagine Boyle dolling herself up, trying to look like Mariah Carey or some hot puss. She is better off staying the way she is. After all, that is exactly why she is so loved.

The whole Boyle story represents hope. Somehow, it just reminds me of the story in Slumdog Millionaire, except that this time, it is real. May be it is the underdog thing or may be it is our love for fairytales. Whatever it is, Boyle's story is utterly moving.

Indeed, Susan Boyle does not need a makeover. Rather, those people with a stereotype bias mindset are in a great need of mental model reform. It is easy for anyone to spot a beautiful face but it takes real grace to see one's inner beauty.

It takes courage for us to face the world without trying to mask our flaws, however minor they may be. That is the kind of courage Boyle has. She is confident that the world should love her the way she is.

Boyle, oh, Boyle, way to go and continue to be yourself, your true self.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amazing Song