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Posted at 9:23 AM ET, 04/21/2009

Susan Boyle -- From Obscurity to Stardom to Unlikely Lightning Rod

By Liz Kelly

Susan Boyle on 'Britain's Got Talent.' (Courtesy of TALKBACK THAMES/SYCO TV)

A survey of the flurry of opinion-making spawned by the "Britain's Got Talent" contestant and Internet sensation.

According to Britain's Daily Mail, the clip of Susan Boyle's "Britain's Got Talent" performance is poised to become the most-viewed YouTube clip ever. As of this writing, the various versions posted to the site have been viewed approximately 100 million times. (The reigning most viewed clip? Comedian Judson Laipply's "Evolution Of Dance.")

But now that the initial novelty of Boyle's out-of-nowhere Cinderella story is getting old, reactions to Boyle -- and the context in which her performance was presented -- are mixed.

Asking why we're so surprised that someone "ugly" could have a beautiful voice, the Guardian's Tanya Gold writes:

Is Susan Boyle ugly? Or are we? On Saturday night she stood on the stage in Britain's Got Talent; small and rather chubby, with a squashed face, unruly teeth and unkempt hair. She wore a gold lace dress, which made her look like a piece of pork sitting on a doily.

In today's Post, Robin Givhan takes on the question of whether or not Boyle should get a makeover. Yes, says Givhan, who argues that a Tim Gunn-style makeover, which would enhance rather than rebuild Boyle, could help her in her ambition to be a professional singer. Thus far, it should be noted, Boyle has said she will not submit to a makeover. Givhan will be chatting live today about her piece at Noon ET.

The Post's Mary Jordan, chatting about her trip to Boyle's hometown of Blackburn, Scotland, takes a slightly less militant stance about Boyle's image:

I think Susan Boyle should do what Susan Boyle wants. Many people feel better when they get their hair done and maybe she will, too. I think what many people are objecting to is the idea that on TV you have to look a certain way, and that her handlers might tell her what she has to look like.

Firmly in Boyle's camp, Daily Beast founder (and ertswhile Vanity Fair editor and Post columnist) Tina Brown likens Boyle's triumphant performance to Hillary Clinton's Ohio primary victory and Sully Sullenberger's landing of a jetliner in the Hudson river. Brown sees Boyle as representative of "invisible women" -- "the unbeautiful 47 year-olds who don't rate a second look and never get a chance to make their point in the meeting."

Television Without Pity writer Mindy Monez disagrees, claiming Boyle's story was tightly-edited for maximum inspirational factor and utterly over-hyped. She cites the show's screening process as evidence of just how manipulated we all were by this story. The lesson being, I suppose, that no matter how good the singing, we were all utterly played by the show's producers. Though Howard Kurtz, writing in The Post, says Boyle's story is stirring despite being as "hackneyed as a Hollywood script."

Speaking of manipulation, Gene Weingarten is polling his readers about this very thing today. Vote your conscience here (scroll down for poll, then it's the third question, past all the George Will denim stuff).

Over at Salon.com, Sarah Hepola tries to get at the crux of why we're so ripe for manipulation/inspiration:

This is because of a particularly grim cultural moment, when recession anxiety and tea baggers and torture memos make for seriously bleak cocktail conversation. This is because that performance is a seven-minute narrative gem of subverted expectations and triumph. This is because online clips of television are increasingly becoming more important than television itself.

On HuffingtonPost.com, veteran stage actress Anne Buelteman writes that while Boyle's performance made for good TV, she's hardly a unique talent:

The point is, Susan Boyle isn't that good. [LA Times writer Amy] Wilentz actually compares her to [Edith] Piaf, which is simply ludicrous -- Ms. Boyle hits the notes all at one volume and smiles most of the way through her sad song, making a single repeated arm gesture.

Has Boyle been overblown? I'll post an excerpt from TWOP writer Mindy Monez (linked above) in closing:

How, Exactly, is She Inspiring? I'm honestly asking. Is it because she has the strength to go on living despite not being gorgeous? That seems to be what I'm being told day and night. How amazing! I know we all already knew this, but the media really, truly is the worst.

Where do you fall on the Boyle continuum? Post your thoughts below...

By Liz Kelly  | April 21, 2009; 9:23 AM ET
Categories:  Highbrow  
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Comments

Her dignity made her inspiring - especially in our undignified, vulgar and rude culture.

Posted by: Amelia5 | April 21, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

I thought she sang pretty well. That said, she's only getting this attention because she's ugly. I know plenty of women who can sing as good or better than her, and no one cares.

To me, then, it rings hollow. It's not an issue of seeing her talents depite her unfortunate appearance, it's reveling in the dichotomy between her talent and her looks.

Posted by: VTDuffman | April 21, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

There's one born every minute.

Posted by: jezebel3 | April 21, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Haven't we all at one moment had the feeling that everyone was against you and then you showed them up and proved them wrong? That is why I loved the clip. That is why I think it is a "feel good" story. I understand its your job Liz, but why does everyone have to analyze it? Just smile, enjoy the fluff. No one is dying here. It's entertainment, for goodness sakes!

Posted by: Osteph | April 21, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

The thing about this whole Susan Boyle kerfuffle, is that an ordinary woman just said "f*@^ it" and took the opportunity, and did a great job. I don't know about makeovers and money and fame, and what all that means to Susan Boyle or to her newly realized fans. All I know, is that Susan Boyle's performance made a lot of people smile and feel good for a few minutes. Given the current state of affairs of the world, Ms. Boyle gave us a wonderful gift, even if it was only a moment.

Posted by: jelo | April 21, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Amelia5.

It isn't Susan Boyle who is ugly, it is us. We are undignified, rude and vulgar.

Granted Susan doesn't fit our rigid values for what is attractive, but maybe it is us that should change rather than her.

Posted by: chocolatetiara | April 21, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

I just think it was refreshing to remind us that talent and intrinsic worth are found in everyone, not just the photoshopped, young and seemingly perfect celebrities that everyone follows. Talent and perseverance is found in lots of places and not just the young. Here's a woman who put her life on hold to take care of her mother and now had an opportunity to show off her talent and she went for it. Whether she is the world's best singer or not isn't the point: it's a reminder that inspiration and talent can be found in everyone, not just the genetically or financially blessed in our world.

Posted by: cdfromwa | April 21, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

She's a hell of a lot more talented than Courtney Love.... but that doesnt mean I care about her either.

Posted by: quintiliusvarus | April 21, 2009 10:16 AM | Report abuse

"I just think it was refreshing to remind us that talent and intrinsic worth are found in everyone, not just the photoshopped, young and seemingly perfect celebrities that everyone follows."

Is it though? Again, this woman is only getting attention because she is *so* unattractive. She's just like the "photoshopped, young, etc..." in terms of extremity, just on the other extreme end of the spectrum.

If it were truly about "finding talent in everyone," it would be an average looking person who could sing (of which there are plenty). But, "Average looking person who can sing" isn't a story. "Pretty Person who can Sing" is a story, and similarly "ugly person who can sing" is a story.

At the end of the day, it's still about showcasing the extremities for "good television."

Posted by: VTDuffman | April 21, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

I just think it was refreshing to remind us that talent and intrinsic worth are found in everyone, not just the photoshopped, young and seemingly perfect celebrities that everyone follows. Talent and perseverance is found in lots of places and not just the young. Here's a woman who put her life on hold to take care of her mother and now had an opportunity to show off her talent and she went for it. Whether she is the world's best singer or not isn't the point: it's a reminder that inspiration and talent can be found in everyone, not just the genetically or financially blessed in our world.

Posted by: cdfromwa | April 21, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

I stand corrected. There are a lot more than one born every minute.

Posted by: jezebel3 | April 21, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

It's kind of like "in your face" to the bullies and those who dismissed her as of no worth.

Posted by: jackdmom | April 21, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

First of all, to VTDuffman, I actually don't think that Susan Boyle is ugly. She looks natural to me. I think we all look a lot more like her than we would like to believe. I am a year younger than her and without make-up and my hairstyle, I probably look it. As to jezebel3, PT Barnum's quote can be used on each one of us everyday of our lives. I am sure that you yourself have fallen prey to the media's manipulation in some other way.

Posted by: cdfromwa | April 21, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

"First of all, to VTDuffman, I actually don't think that Susan Boyle is ugly. She looks natural to me."

That's fine, but you're wrong. She's really ugly. There's nothing natural about it, she's unnaturally ugly. There's nothing average or every(wo)man about her. If she were average, it wouldn't be a story.

Posted by: VTDuffman | April 21, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

I don't think she's unattractive or ugly either. She's suffering from a lack of silicone, hair dye, fake nails, tooth veneers, and botox, and she looks just fine. I would, however, like to take my Tweezerman and have at those brows for just a few minutes.

Posted by: jelo | April 21, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

I just turned around on this in 24 hours. Originally I thought it was inspiring, etc., and am still glad for those who can get that out of it. But the more time goes on, the more I feel manipulated.

If I turned around that fast, maybe there's still hope for Lilo...

Posted by: reddragon1 | April 21, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

For me (as one who dislikes and avoids all of the various TV talent shows), the appeal of Susan Boyle's performance was in her dignity and the audience's "subverted expectations." For anyone -- and especially for someone who has lived a quiet, largely unnoticed life -- to step on stage in front of a large audience, to hear them laugh, to know that they expect a trainwreck, and nevertheless to give it her best effort, would be pretty remarkable. And the instant, surprised response of the audience to her performance just made it sweeter. It's not nearly as simple as saying, oh, so an unattractive person can have talent.

Posted by: Janine1 | April 21, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

I think what is interesting is that if folks are feeling manipulated by this, that they seem to want to turn their anger back on Ms Boyle instead of the show. As if their feeling of first being moved then being manipulated is her fault.

She's simply a woman who took a chance and in the process sang beautifully and moved people.

That it was unexpected and has grown and grown can be explained by a number of things

1. the general tenor of these shows is to mock and humiliate so folks were primed to go that direction, only to be yanked 180 degrees.

2. a lot of people who go on these shows do so well knowing that they are going to be exploited and they seek to maximize their moment by being outlandish in one way or another.

3. most folks hoping to get on these shows may not have significant talent, moderate talent and some showmanship but not significant talent.

4. all these media outlets in an attempt to win ratings take the story to ever increasing levels of hype breathlessly hoping to catch attention and ride the crest of what ever flash in the pan they find, not minding what they leave in their wake.

I'd say if this has given her opportunities to pursue something then fantastic... She isn't to be criticized for what other people are saying or doing..


Posted by: LTL1 | April 21, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

I agree with reddragon. It took me a couple days to view the video (couldn't see it at work and my home internet had gone kerplooey). After all the hype, I was seriously let down.
I'm definitely in the Mindy Monez camp. I don't think she is inspiring at all. She's a frump who can sing, much like my old Aunt Lou. Also, she's got competition now from a 12 year old boy who sings motown. To me, it's more impressive, but it's not as big of a story.
Show me a one-armed master of Chopin or a kid with a fixed cleft-pallate who can play trumpet like Doc Severenson and I'll be impressed and inspired. (I submitted the same comment to Gene's chat today. Let's see if Liz puts it through).

Posted by: eet7e | April 21, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

"Show me a one-armed master of Chopin"

What about a one-armed drummer? Like the dude from Def Leopard.

Posted by: VTDuffman | April 21, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

"[A] piece of pork sitting on a doily." -- Yikes. I'd like to see Tanya Gold at her worst. Go kick a puppy or something, you rude cow.

As for Susan Boyle, I was honestly more moved than Paul Potts. She sings beautifully; don't get me wrong. I just found Paul's voice more amazing and he just seemed so humbled by the audience reaction. (I also saw the Paul clip first.)

But the general clip is the same format -- pre-interview, skeptical judges, an a-ha what talent moment followed by ovation and post-interview how-do-you-feel. You cannot say this clip was "engineered" for more hype value than any other TV show. Please, Mindy Monez. You're an idiot for saying that.

Tina Brown? This is no more about you or Hillary Clinton than Princess Diana's death was about Fran Drescher or George Clooney. You are not the story. Shoo.

Face it. The media is leading the story, not reporting it. And Susan's getting more criticism than Paul did because it's more acceptable for the media to judge a woman's looks than a man's. She is no oil painting, granted. But she's a real human being getting dissected by a rabid press. Let's give her proper due for her talent, and stop the shallow-hal sermonizing from the sidelines.

Posted by: td_in_baltimore | April 21, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

So what if there was media manipulation in this story? We all needed the reminder that there is much more to a person than what first impressions can give. There is beauty that is not physical. And as we see here on this very blog, there is also ugliness that is not physical.
As to the comments that her singing is just average, I would disagree. It was well above average but she only lacks the finesse that training would give. Too bad she has such a late start at it.

Posted by: hodie | April 21, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

So what if there was media manipulation in this story?

Posted by: hodie | April 21, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Legit reporters are supposed to have ethics and not be dang fools.

Posted by: jezebel3 | April 21, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

I listed to the satellite rebroadcast of the Chris Moyles show on BBC Radio 1 this morning.

He couldn't see the fuss. "She's not that ugly. Not as ugly as the lead singer of Franz Ferdinand and look how popular he is!"

Folks, the Brits are laughing at us.

It's a contest, people. Dowdy Brits and stylin Brits love to come together for the match-up. (I mean, they let Jeremy Clarkson host a show on the telly. He could be Susan's twin brother!) So, they are politely asking us if they can give them back their dowdy Scottish lady so that they can proceed with their little contest show.

Posted by: mdreader01 | April 21, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

I first saw this clip before all the journalistic dissections began. I was, and still am, genuinely moved by her performance. It took real guts to get up there and do what she did. I am, however, growing tired of all the hype. What started out as a somewhat innocuous inspiring human interest story has evolved into a parasitic media monster. Sure we all could use a bit of happy news amidst the doom and gloom of the current global situation, but do we have to trample it to death?

Posted by: StuckatWork | April 21, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

You gotta admit that the Susan Boyle story does demonstrate the power of social media. I heard that she also spiked Google hits for the word "gobsmacked."

Tip for future Britain's Got Talent auditionees: When you get backstage, tell the boys that you haven't felt such a rush since the last time you read Celebritology.

Posted by: td_in_baltimore | April 21, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

So what if there was media manipulation in this story?

Posted by: hodie | April 21, 2009 11:03 AM

Legit reporters are supposed to have ethics and not be dang fools.

Posted by: jezebel3 | April 21, 2009 11:13 AM
=========
You lost me at "legit reporters." Legit reporters are too busy getting duped by government officials or the great titans of the banking industry to bother with a Scottish lady in a British talent show.


Posted by: mdreader01 | April 21, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

I had read the story several times before seeing the clip. I refused to be manipulated to rush to YouTube, so when I finally saw the clip on the Today Show, I felt, "is that all there is?" To me it was people making this big deal because Ms. Boyle decided to come down from the bell tower to perform on this show. Sure she's unattrative, I'll grant that, but for the love of dog, she's not some hideous creature that frightens women and children.

Posted by: milesdy | April 21, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

And speaking of Susan Boyle and gobsmacked, get your t-shirts!
http://store.cottonfactory.com/cf-1015.html?gclid=CI-nw6WlgpoCFQdN5QodNCmpFA

Posted by: td_in_baltimore | April 21, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

What was done that was unethical? Is she really lip synching? Did they glue fake eyebrows on her? No and No. They just chatted with her before the performance as they do for all contestants which showed a quirky personality. They showed the judges and audience reaction. Everyone expected her to bomb. If she had bombed, we wouldn't have a conversation like this and we'd all be making fun of her. I see nothing unethical in the fact they showed the real her. If you saw something in yourself that you did not like (and I'll admit that I would have laughed too if I didn't already know the outcome) then they did a good thing exposing our shallowness.

Posted by: hodie | April 21, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

I don't think she's ugly. She's just a regular looking older lady. Looks rather like one of my Aunts, actually. Maybe she could do with a haircut and a wardrobe change up, but so could most of us and so what? If Angela Lansbury took off her make up and didn't do her hair she wouldn't look that great either and you don't hear people calling her ugly.
I think she was very brave to go on this show and for that she deserves a little respect. For the hype, please, can we just let it rest?

Posted by: VaLGaL | April 21, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

"Show me a one-armed master of Chopin"

What about a one-armed drummer? Like the dude from Def Leopard.
- VTDuffman

YES! Exactly. Thank you. Or the one-armed, one-legged, blind pitcher from Radio Days. :)

Posted by: eet7e | April 21, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

So what if there was media manipulation in this story?

Posted by: hodie | April 21, 2009 11:03 AM

Legit reporters are supposed to have ethics and not be dang fools.

Posted by: jezebel3 | April 21, 2009 11:13 AM
=========
You lost me at "legit reporters." Legit reporters are too busy getting duped by government officials or the great titans of the banking industry to bother with a Scottish lady in a British talent show.


Posted by: mdreader01 | April 21, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse


Is Liz a legit reporter? The other WaPo writers who covered this "story"?

Posted by: jezebel3 | April 21, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

It's not whether she is ugly. (She really just looks like a lot of middle class Scottish-English-Irish people.) It's that her voice, while really good, is not what's driving this. If she looked like Taylor Swift she'd just be another cute girl with a really good voice. Maybe great. But not world-class for that kind of music. What really bothers me is the way these things are "created" these days. Is the next famous person going to be some guy who spreads peanut butter over his entire body and sets himself on fire for the YouTube video? I'm already sick of SB, and it's only been a week or whatever. I'm acutally missing OctoMom.

Posted by: rashibama | April 21, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Well said, milesdy. I felt the exact same way, you just explained it better. It didn't move me, I didn't really care about the judges' or audience's reaction. The Paris Hilton presidential campaign video raised my eyebrow higher than Susan Boyle.

Posted by: eet7e | April 21, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

The most-viewed clip on YouTube is Comedian Judson Laipply's "Evolution Of Dance."? Boy, I bet he wishes he'd had a better camera and moved those stupid speakers off the stage when he did that video. He'd be on t-shirts now for SURE.

Anyway, it's time to move on. Susan Boyle is so three days ago. Isn't it time we start talking about Shaheen Jafargholi? Now that boy can SING....

Posted by: td_in_baltimore | April 21, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Susan Boyle gives me hope and makes my heart smile. No snark :( But there it is. I mean, it's true that most of us normal people don't have some previously undiscovered talent. But isn't it nice to think think that the person who's voice you enjoy listening to in church or at local events is really top class?

Posted by: ideallydc | April 21, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Geez people, are we cynical today? How did a happy underdog done good story get turned into such a debate?
"Homely Spinster" (sorry) sings like an angel on british talent show, becomes U-tube sensation. Why couldn't we leave it at that? Why are people feeling cheated and misled?

Posted by: hodie | April 21, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Amen hodie, amen.

Posted by: ASinMoCo | April 21, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

i say let her have her 15 minutes.

if she wins the competition, then she wins. won't make or ruin my day either way.

it's a shame that people define beauty so narrowly.

Posted by: memphis1 | April 21, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Cities like Nashville, Austin, L.A. and NYC have lots of singers who are incredible, and beautiful, and it doesn't really get them anywhere. It's the song for the most part that will make a star. Susan's got such a large reception because she is pretty good, and not what we expect in appearance. None of it will get her any further without a great song.

Posted by: tojo45 | April 21, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

People, people...carm down.

She sang and surprised people...people who thought she was weird, funny looking, maybe ugly. They realized, 'gee, really CAN'T judge a book by its cover.' The show goes on.
End of story. Disengage.

Posted by: pras40 | April 21, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

People, people...carm down.

She sang and surprised people...people who thought she was weird, funny looking, maybe ugly. They realized, 'gee, really CAN'T judge a book by its cover.' The show goes on.
End of story. Disengage.

Posted by: pras40 | April 21, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Another lollipop. They're so dumb.

Posted by: jezebel3 | April 21, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

*shrug*

She has a lovely voice. But the video - where the presenters look straight into the camera as she starts singing and said something along the lines of "didn't expect that, did you?" - said to me that she was chosen for that lovely voice and her non-styled appearance. I'm willing to wager there was at least one other applicant with an equally fabulous voice but less dramatic appearance. It's all in the pre-screening.

I think if Ms. Boyle wants to be taken seriously as a professional stage musical actress, then yes, she needs a touch of grooming. Not plastic surgery, not orthodontia, no major weight loss or anything so dramatic - they could all actually affect her singing voice, so that would be stupid.

But it's not that hard to add a flattering performance dress or two to her closet, perhaps find someone who knows how to cut her curly hair so it doesn't look like an unkempt poodle, grooming her eyebrows and to apply some simple makeup. These small actions will have producers and directors take her exponentially more seriously. Because then it appears she's actually taking her ambitions seriously (if you've never lived with a theater major, you can't begin to understand how they work a good head shot and suck up to their costume designer friends ;) ).

She's not unattractive, not if you look closely. But she needs to look like she made an effort with her looks. It's the adage of how you dress for the job you want. She is not dressing for the job she wants - one look at her idol Elaine Page will demonstrate that.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | April 21, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

"(She really just looks like a lot of middle class Scottish-English-Irish people.)"

Whoa you lost me with this comment. She is not typical of the Irish or Scottish in the looks department.

Posted by: supersonic1 | April 21, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Agreed that Ms. Boyle's performance is not particularly refined. She is a very raw talent at this point, and needs coaching to be sure. But her performance is still inspiring because she represents an everyday woman who got noticed. Most of us spend our lives in quiet obsurity, attracting little attention. It's nice when one of us does good.

Posted by: changling | April 21, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Another lollipop. They're so dumb.

Posted by: jezebel3
----------
Please 'splain...What does that mean?

Posted by: pras40 | April 21, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

She's inspirational because at age 47 she has the strenght to give this a go, even though the odds say that she'll never make it. Not just because she's not a beauty, but because she's untrained, because she's 47 and hasn't yet sung professionally and on and on and on.

I'm sure that there are many undiscovereds out there with as good or maybe better voice, but do they have the willingness to take this risk? She's a reminder that new things are still possible to all of us in or approaching her age and not to give up just because we are approaching middle age.

Regarding her looks, she's unpolished which any undiscovered talent is. It takes money to develop that polish. 20 years ago when I first started off professionally, my clothes, hair cut, eye brows were nowhere near as good as they are now, because I simply did not have the disposable income to even consider these things. All these years later, I do, within the limitations of my budget.

Susan Boyle hasn't paid attention to these things, cause she hasn't needed to and hasn't had the means to. Why are people criticizing her for this? Or suprised by this?

She's been at home caring for her mother for the past 20 some years. A job that hardly required a particular level of polish and grooming.

Posted by: Merlin5 | April 21, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

We were clearly manipulated as were the judges and the audience by the producer. I'm well into middle-age and my standards of beauty are not restricted to young hardbodies, but she is a two-bagger if there ever was one. The only thing I'm amazed at is that she only has one cat.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 21, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

We were clearly manipulated as were the judges and the audience by the producer. I'm well into middle-age and my standards of beauty are not restricted to young hardbodies, but she is a two-bagger if there ever was one. The only thing I'm amazed at is that she only has one cat.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 21, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse


One cat! LOL! Liz has two cats!!! LOL!! What is Boyle's source of income? Inheritance? The dole?

Posted by: jezebel3 | April 21, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

This is more than a 47 year old Plain Jane showing the world her talent. It is about an ordinary person taking a chance on a dream. How many middle aged people have the courage to try to pursue a career that they had long given up on, because they had to pay the rent/raise the children/care for elderly parents? Most people just go on quietly with their lives, living happily, but with unspoken "could have, should have, would have". Susan Boyle chose not to sit back quietly and let the rest of her life unwind. She took control and is an inspiration to all of us - that it is never too late to try, never too late to go back to school or change careers. I don't care how edited or manipulated her performance was - she is a powerful reminder that we have a choice to live passively or actively.

Posted by: pickupsticks | April 21, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

she is a powerful reminder that we have a choice to live passively or actively.

Posted by: pickupsticks | April 21, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

I agree with this, which is much different than the "Cinderella" crap. But I don't really know enough about Boyle, or frankly, care.

Posted by: jezebel3 | April 21, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

jez
But I don't really know enough about Boyle, or frankly, care.

Yet you cared enough to post 7 times already in the past 3½ hours. Wow.

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | April 21, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

So what if there was media manipulation in this story?

Posted by: hodie | April 21, 2009 11:03 AM

Legit reporters are supposed to have ethics and not be dang fools.

Posted by: jezebel3 | April 21, 2009 11:13 AM
=========
You lost me at "legit reporters." Legit reporters are too busy getting duped by government officials or the great titans of the banking industry to bother with a Scottish lady in a British talent show.


Posted by: mdreader01 | April 21, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse


Is Liz a legit reporter? The other WaPo writers who covered this "story"?

Posted by: jezebel3 | April 21, 2009 11:37 AM
==========
I'm not the one holding a story about a British talent contest to the same level as the Iraq war and the financial crisis.

Posted by: mdreader01 | April 21, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

jez
But I don't really know enough about Boyle, or frankly, care.

Yet you cared enough to post 7 times already in the past 3½ hours. Wow.

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | April 21, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

7 SAP alerts. And you took the time to count 'em! They're so dumb.

Posted by: jezebel3 | April 21, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

chasmosaur said : ". . .she was chosen for that lovely voice and her non-styled appearance. I'm willing to wager there was at least one other applicant with an equally fabulous voice but less dramatic appearance. . . .
I think if Ms. Boyle wants to be taken seriously as a professional stage musical actress, then yes, she needs a touch of grooming.

which is it-- should she maintain her "dramatic" appearance, or submit to grooming that normalizes her? Isn't there a risk that the normalizing will disappoint as being the obvious, hackneyed Cinderella ending all are expecting?

Posted by: captiolhillmom | April 21, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Pickupsticks--don't mean to snark on you, but your statement is very interesting. It takes on a whole new meaning with just one little change. See me out---

"This is more than a 47 year old Plain Jane showing the world her talent. It is about an ordinary person taking a chance on a dream. How many middle aged people have the courage to try to pursue a career that they had long given up on, because they had to pay the rent/raise the children/care for elderly parents? Most people just go on quietly with their lives, living happily, but with unspoken "could have, should have, would have". SARAH PALIN chose not to sit back quietly and let the rest of her life unwind. She took control and is an inspiration to all of us - that it is never too late to try, never too late to go back to school or change careers. I don't care how edited or manipulated her performance was - she is a powerful reminder that we have a choice to live passively or actively."

Posted by: NOTpickupsticks

Posted by: mdreader01 | April 21, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Whatever else you might think or say, you must admit that Susan Boyle has more talent than Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton, maybe even as much talent as JLo....unless you consider a Latina Bubble Butt = "talent".

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | April 21, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Instead of a BKD we seem to have a real SBD going here.

Sas, make of that what you will.

Posted by: jes11 | April 21, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

capitolhillmom:

Drama created by the producers. (Unless she is incredibly savvy and dressed this way to attract the attention, to which I say "Brava" and I really want to sit down and have tea with her Machiavellian self.)

This was manufactured drama - it *is* a reality show. Because the producers know the value of putting someone unpolished with raw talent in front of the cameras, I assure you.

Ms. Boyle has received an insanely lucky break, one that many talented (possibly more talented), actively working stage actors/actresses would kill for.

If she truly wants to be a professional stage actress and capitalize on this amazing opportunity, she needs to pay attention to her grooming. Because directors and producers of West End shows have a large pool of phenomenally talented artists to choose from - many of whom who understand that they need to present a certain visual style.

Sure, she can sell CD's or MP3's based on this exposure. And if she decides just wants this brief little bit of confirmation of her talent and hopefully earn some cash from it to ease her existence, then don't bother with the makeover. It's counter-intuitive in that respect - people love her because of the way she looks. If she changes that, then it's not true to this particular moment and performance.

But if she has long-range professional goals as a musical stage actress, then she needs to think and act like the professional she wants to be.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | April 21, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

NPR's Talk of the Nation is discussing whether or not she should get a make-over. We, as a nation, have truly jumped the shark.

Posted by: milesdy | April 21, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Instead of a BKD we seem to have a real SBD going here.

Sas, make of that what you will.

Posted by: jes11 | April 21, 2009 2:22 PM |

--------------------------------------------
As long as it's not the kimchi SBD that ditz left around the bench press machine at the gym the other night.

Gad!!! Jeeze!!!!

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | April 21, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I find the whole ugly/not ugly kerfluffle pretty interesting, as there are SO MANY rock stars I consider to be hideously unattractive (for the record, I do not consider Susan Boyle unattractive in the least; she's just natural and regular, not plastic and fake from head to toe, which is refreshing). I like them for the music they make, not what they look like.

If these folks weren't rock stars, they wouldn't be dating models or so-called "beautiful" celebs: Mick Jagger, that short little hobbit Ashlee Simpson married, those odd Madden brothers, Tommy Lee (ew) and all of Motley Crue, the lead singer of Guns 'N Roses (even before his disastrous plastic surgery), pretty much ANY metal band member, Adam Duritz ... the list is endless.

Posted by: Californian11 | April 21, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Californian, with the exception of Ashlee Simpson (though she is questionable), everyone you mentioned are men?

Posted by: milesdy | April 21, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

I enjoyed Ms Boyle's performance; she has a great deal of raw talent that she can really build on given the opportunity and enough hard work.

I would have enjoyed it more had I not been surrounded by sources telling me how completely inspirational I was going to find it. See? See how inspirational it is? Aren't you crying at all the beauty and inspirational-ness?

I 'unno. The whole presentation just feels like a Lifetime movie to me- kind of fakey and contrived. Do I blame anyone for the Boylemania? No; it's reality TV, and people get a kick out of it. There's just something about our treatment of it that's making me itchy.

Posted by: Bawlmer51 | April 21, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Now you've done it, sas. I can take hodie calling me a whiner because I feel manipulated. It isn't the first time I've thought about the night before, and then feel, I don't know, so "used."

But when you start dissing "Latina Bubble Butts", you are covering dangerous ground. --to the extent thtat that's possible. I even like Michelle Rodriguez, loudmouthed bi bridesmaid or no. As some of the pro-Boyle posters point out, "talent" is varied in the amount and type that is given. And Latinas have some very appeling talents.

Posted by: reddragon1 | April 21, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Californian is right-there are scads of hideously ugly rockstars out there. Mick Jagger being the King of Hid. Patti Smith is also a not-too-attractive performer (tho a brilliant songwriter).

Posted by: jelo | April 21, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Californian, with the exception of Ashlee Simpson (though she is questionable), everyone you mentioned are men?

Posted by: milesdy | April 21, 2009 3:08 PM
---------------
Having had a moment or two more to think, let me add the following:

Janis Joplin
Janis Ian
Lulu Roman of Hee Haw fame (if you want some real inspiration, click this link below)
http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2008/feb/02/hee-haw-star-lulu-beats-problems-weight-low-esteem/
Cass Elliot
Chrissy Hynde
Joni Mitchell

Posted by: mdreader01 | April 21, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Californian11

I'm with you on the ugly rock stars. WHY do otherwise successful models date them? I mean, I get Ashlee Simpson - she and her little husband have equal talent/looks. But Ric O'Casik married Paula whats-her-name - and he was old in addition to being unattractive.

Posted by: Amelia5 | April 21, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Hey! I LIKE Latina Bubble Butts. However (Butt?), that doesn't mean that a Latina with a Bubble Butt is talented, unless the Bubble Butt itself is the "talent". While I like looking at a Bubble Butt, I certainly would not want to be anywhere in the vicinity when it "sings."

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | April 21, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

"Californian, with the exception of Ashlee Simpson (though she is questionable), everyone you mentioned are men?"

milesdy, I can't think of a single unattractive woman + attractive man pairing. Unattractive train wreck Amy Winehouse was with an equally hideous husband (and Amy was cute before she went off the rails). Men, no matter how hideous, have no problem getting women if they have $$; women, not so much.

Posted by: Californian11 | April 21, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

sas, OK then. You have good taste. Metaphorically of course.

Posted by: reddragon1 | April 21, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

sas,

Don't worry. I know you were typing tongue in cheek.

Posted by: reddragon1 | April 21, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

NPR's Talk of the Nation is discussing whether or not she should get a make-over. We, as a nation, have truly jumped the shark.

Posted by: milesdy | April 21, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Does this mean we're soon to be cancelled?

Posted by: hodie | April 21, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Californian, you are so right. Even stories about ugly women have a very cute girl playing the ugly girl (America Ferrera as Ugly Betty).

Posted by: hodie | April 21, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Cat and I saw her video on about day two, before all the hysteria and coverage got so overblown. Mr. Cat is a musician and we are Idol watchers. We saw the video that had the lyrics to the song posted in the information box. We were BOTH a bit weepy at the end.

Why? Brits are notoriously tough and nasty on everyone, and it was great to see those eye-rollers in the audience get converted. The lyrics to the song -- and probably why she likes it -- seem very autobiographical for Susan, so her triumphant finish was pretty moving. Is she the greatest singer ever? No. But she's good, and it was brave to put herself out there.

I'm already on record that she should take advantage of the "makeover" offers--a good colorist and stylist for the hair, some decently cut age-appropriate clothes that flatter her, a tweeze and some makeup all would make her look like she has pride in herself without changing her essential small town self. Makeover is the wrong word, it implies too big a change--just freshen up a bit, it's not selling out to the fashion gods.

The more coverage this story gets, the more cynical people get, and it's kind of sad. I'm going to stick with my first impressions.

Posted by: sorcerers_cat | April 21, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

I enjoyed her performance. It takes a colossal pair of cajones to appear in public and sing. I give her credit for that.

What I find disappointing is that human natures seems to prevail and the oh so jaded and fickle public is now set to pull her back down.

Give her her moment in time. She earned it. If it turns out to be more than a moment and she gets a late career, hurrah for her. There are far too many people who are shoved by-the-by because they aren't gorgeous or willing to compromise themselves, or, more so, CONNECTED. I mean, what in h*ll is Tori Spelling, or the Karsashian morons - Paris Hilton et al? Untalented no-bodies BUT they have big teats or are willing to show them (and other body parts) or have a family name and use it.

I say, leave this woman alone to go as far as she desires to go. No one has the right to p*ss on her parade.

'nuff said.

Posted by: itsagreatday1 | April 21, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Wow, the more I see jezebel3's comments, the more convinced I am that she is quite the bitter old lady. Every comment revolves around "why are you covering this story?" Why jezebel, do YOU even bother reading celebritology? I realize that the point of trolls is to just say whatever is contrary to the dominant flow of conversation and sit back and laugh at the reaction and I really questioned even bothering addressing her. But it has to be said. If I wanted to read Debbie Downer comments 24/7, I'd check out the comments section of an illegal immigration story. Lighten up and get over yourself.

Posted by: lafilleverte | April 21, 2009 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Give her her moment in time. She earned it.

Posted by: itsagreatday1 | April 21, 2009 4:42 PM
============
But PLEASE, for the love of all that is auditory, don't let her sing "One Moment in Time."

Posted by: mdreader01 | April 21, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Manipulation by the media? That's what media has been intended to do for centuries--whether poetry, or art or music. Just 2 examples--Charles Dickens & Ludwig von Beethoven. Dickens had some novels serialized in the newspapers, & Beethoven was one of the first to organize & self-promote paid concerts of his works instead of relying on government subsidies (patronage from a king or duke or whatever). If you want manipulative, read "A Christmas Carol" or listen to the "Ode to Joy" in the 9th Symphony. Many consider them works of art, some are bored by them.

What amazes me is that I haven't seen anyone yet in the print media that realizes that 7 minute clip is TWO performances, not one. The obvious one is Susan's beautiful singing, but the second is the story told by the producers through the camera and the audio. It's intended to rise beyond factual reporting as a work of art, and it does, in my opinion. If we had seen nothing but the camera on Susan, singing the song, would this clip have gone viral even in countries that can't speak English? I think not. Would it have inspired worldwide comments about ageism, beauty, persistence in your dreams, hope and courage? Again, I think not.

There is a theme repeated over & over in this 7 minutes: Initial impression, a moment of epiphany, and tranformation. It starts with Susan herself, then the judges, the girl in blue, and finally the whole audience. And in many cases extends to us as well.

I'm a bookkeeper at a multi-media production company, so I've seen how much talent & hard work goes into this craft--deciding which shots to include , how long to hold them, how to make transitions, how to separate the singer's voice out of the background noise of applause so it can be heard. Dissing them as if they were robots is as bad as dissing Susan for her appearance. When they get it right, as they did in this clip, they can touch people as much as any other artist. We admire symphony orchestras; why not production teams?

Posted by: maryjo2 | April 21, 2009 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Susan Boyle's demonstration of dignity, confidence and beautiful execution of her performance - while facing a tomato throwing audience- is one for the record books.

Posted by: Sigmonde | April 21, 2009 7:13 PM | Report abuse

Yes, the producers knew she could sing and they sent her out there because it is their JOB to create great TV. 90% of the time, producers get it wrong -- based on the crap that's on most of the time. This time, they got it right. They created a great TV moment that has been viewed millions of times on you tube. They knew good and well people would laugh at her and that her singing would shut them up. Big deal and so what if you feel manipulated. The point is that we all love an underdog and they gave us one we can cheer for.

Posted by: DCFem | April 22, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

The amount of content on this "issue" is ridiculous! Isn't there anything in life more important to which we can direct our attention?

Posted by: lskloven1 | April 22, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

I have read some of comments of those who think that Susan Bolye. Some suggested it was Simon's doing. Some said she was only noticed because she was not glamorous and there fore surprising, and on and on with other petty, picky nonsense.
Most of us simply just love to hear her sing. Less that a few weeks ago almost no one knew who she. Today, (in only a few days) she has captured to attentions of tens of millions of people from all walks of life, of course, from the petty folks who somehow think they are something special because they think they are somehow wiser--they are in the know."
Of course these small minded people would see little of signicance in that very obvious fact of teh amount of people who have been so resoonsive to Susan.
I pity those poor souls that so are small and contortered. They must a horrible self-esteem problems.
Susan Rocks!!!

Posted by: anders1 | April 23, 2009 4:00 AM | Report abuse

Responding to Anne Buelteman, ["The point is, Susan Boyle isn't that good....Ms. Boyle hits the notes all at one volume and smiles most of the way through her sad song, making a single repeated arm gesture."] She's untrained, for Pete's sake! But I don't think Boyle did sing it all "at one volume," though I would agree her delivery was fairly full-on. That worked for me, as well as her triumphant smiling: she knew she was defying odds and expectations, including perhaps even her own. And I found her arm gesture somehow touching; it was awkward, unpolished, yet felt like she was reaching out to us and inviting us into her poignant moment. One of the things I really like about karaoke (both as audience & participant) is how ordinary-looking people leading ordinary lives summons up the courage to stand in front of an audience and share their raw talent. And what I really like about Susan (and karaoke) is that the singers routinely do not gussy themselves up--they drop in the corner pub, as they are, and share their inner selves. So, for me it's not at all about the beauty of her voice versus her "homely" appearance--she's lovely and I hope to God she doesn't deface her beautiful eyebrows. It's about lack of pretense. Maybe the same reason I like watching pre-dress dance rehearsals, with dancers all in their individualized ratty threads, rather than the slick final productions. I'm very inspired by her: her gentle boldness, her hopefulness, her lack of guile.

Posted by: NoRocketScientist | April 24, 2009 9:06 AM | Report abuse

...and, of course, I love her very beautiful nature-given voice. May I suggest for your second song, Susan: "Where Am I Going?" (sung by Barbara Streisand, on an album of 12 different pop-jazz singers, sold in the supermarkets sometime in the '60's). That would be one of my song choices if I were brave & talented enough to be Susan, singing in front of a world audience.

Posted by: NoRocketScientist | April 24, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

I am following the controversy about media manipulation, Susan Boyles talent and her common appeal for some days now, and I still don't get it.
Does Ms Boyle represent all of us and was presented this way - no, why? Most of us lived a less restricted live and had or took more chances.
Does her talent represent all of us with our hidden talents? No, why? Most of the audience doesn't have such a specific talent or call.
I listened to her presentation several times, and compared it with professional presenations (okay, I got a littel obsessed) and I found her presentation unusual touching and more interesting than most. She did not deliver all in one tone or presentation - she started the song on high volume, as many karaoke loving performers do, but she still was able to deliver the full crescendo the song requires, and showed a stunning talent for timing. This performance was exceptional. And since this is a live show, nobody could predict how well she would deliver.

For all I see, she is a nice lady who took this show by face value: A talent show to give amateurs with no other access to the entertainment industry the chance to perform in front of an audience and make connections. The attraction might be that this little clip showed something simple and real. Which touched our hearts unexpectedly in the midst of canned reality show business.

Posted by: kaspra | April 24, 2009 8:54 PM | Report abuse

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