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Posted at 10:25 AM ET, 06/ 2/2009

Are We to Blame for Susan Boyle's Breakdown?

By Liz Kelly

Friends gathered in Blackburn, Scotland to watch Susan Boyle compete on Saturday's 'Britain's Got Talent' finale. (Getty Images)

Susan Boyle -- spinster, aspiring singer, Internet sensation -- was hospitalized Sunday for exhaustion after failing in what she may well have viewed as the defining event of her life -- the reality TV talent show "Britain's Got Talent."

If Boyle's sense of self sounds skewed only consider what the 48-year-old Scot has been through in the past several weeks. She rose from obscurity to the dizzying heights of celebrity -- at least YouTube celebrity -- with her impassioned delivery of "I Dreamed a Dream." In a bit of TV manipulation the likes of which should be given some kind of award, she became a symbol of hope for every older, overlooked average schlump harboring a hidden talent.

Boy was she talented, we said. Too bad about the whole homely thing. Before Boyle's performance was 24 hours old, debate raged about her weight, her eyebrows, her teeth and her general inattention to matters of grooming. She was called "frumpy," "maternal" -- even "ugly" -- and her status as a post-menopausal virgin was trumpeted around the world. Offers from stylists and labels poured in, offering free makeovers and clothes. But, others claimed, Boyle should remain as is -- defiantly untouched by the whims of fashion and the phony polish of the entertainment industrial complex.

So she was damned if she did -- or didn't. A woman who found herself suddenly in the spotlight was paralyzed by opposing critics. Even her decision to pluck her eyebrows and color her hair made headlines.

Still, she met most of the criticism with a smile and an offhand remark.

"That was just to tidy myself up a bit, like any other female would have done," she told Oprah.

And, as Boyle prepared for the final, the inevitable happened -- we kind of forgot about her. "American Idol's" Adam Lambert loss turned our heads slightly before we were utterly whiplashed by the onslaught of "Jon and Kate" news. We needed something new from Boyle if she was to remain on our radar.

Which is why we shrugged at her "Britain's Got Talent" loss and quietly accepted her into the more familiar territory of reality TV upstarts gone bad when she was observed having a public epithet-laden meltdown in London last week.

Now Boyle, chewed up and spit out by the same machine that thrust her into the spotlight, is hospitalized -- suffering from exhaustion and, says her brother, anxiety. Despite our hopes that she can get past this rollercoaster of an abberation in her otherwise quiet life, a small part of us wonders if this monster of our own creation will cling to the taste of celebrity she's had -- which at the best could be a record deal, or at worst surrendering herself to reality TV.
What do you think?

By Liz Kelly  | June 2, 2009; 10:25 AM ET
Categories:  Celebrities, Insta-Polls, Reality Check  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Bruno/Eminem MTV Award Incident Staged; Susan Boyle Suffered Anxiety Attack, Says Brother
Next: Susan Boyle Not Exploited, Says Reality Show Judge; Paris Hilton Searches for New BFF in Dubai


I voted "no" since I'm a big believer in the idea that each individual has to take responsibility for their own self esteem, self image, and their decisions.
That said, the microscope of attention she received would certainly have heightened any doubts she had about her talent, her appearance, and could contribute to an acute sense of despair once she fell out of favor with the fickle public. That's where your own self esteem kicks in. It seems obvious she needs work on that.
At the end of the day, this is a highly publicized talent show. She did very well and should be happy with her results. After all, she's the second most talented person in Britain.

Posted by: pras40 | June 2, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Susan Boyle does not have a problem. She is a woman who, when faced with overwhelming anxiety over life changes and stress, checked herself into a mental health facility. She didn't

- begin a drug addiction (Lindsay)

- start drinking and ranting about other people's spirituality (Mel)

- cheat on a spouse (Jon)

- get face lifts, tummy tucks and launch a reality TV 'career' (Kate)...

So she sounds plenty sane to me and she'll be just fine, particularly if she can launch her new career on her terms and at her own pace.

If we are to blame for Susan Boyle's breakdown, then I guess we are to blame Heincer's mosquito bites on "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here" and for Susan Lucci breaking her foot on "Dancing With the Stars"

Posted by: mdreader01 | June 2, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

thank you for this article on susan boyle. hits the proverbial nail on the head. i felt there were some very unkind remarks about her on yesterday's blog, including one about the size of her behind. i would suggest people take a good, long, hard look in the mirror before they make such unkind remarks about others who are "normal" people and not press seeking celebrities like paris hilton and her ilk.

Posted by: frieda406 | June 2, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Second place, coming from no-where, is not exactly shabby. I suspect that Ms. Boyle will get her record deal and all that. This is not by any measure a failure.

That said, this has been a tremendous amount of pressure for anyone to undergo, and if she has not found herself equipped to handle it perfectly that's not very surprising. Talent alone has never been the only requirement for success, and people who have spent years building careers have also struggled with the stress and attention that come with it.

I hope Ms. Boyle will find advisors and friends who will provide a safe haven for her while she also takes this wonderful opportunity she has been given to "make it" at last.

Posted by: raisinmountaineer | June 2, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

She's probably better off in second place because she'll have more control over her own destiny.

I can recall a few times when I've been so exhausted I had a public meltdown. Stuff like that can happen to anybody.

Posted by: memphis1 | June 2, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Why do you say that she failed? I don't see any failure here: it took enormous courage to stand up in front of that audience and then to keep standing up while much of the world stared at her and analyzed every aspect of her body and behavior. So she didn't win first place: would you tell the kid who took second place in the Scripps Spelling Bee that he is a failure?

Posted by: newbie2 | June 2, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Agreed: I don't see failure here. I see simply a second-place finish. She's upset, and the huge onslaught of fame had a lot to do with it because it undoubtably raised her expectations and anxiety level. She strikes me as an introvert. As another introvert, just simply having eyes upon me raises anxiety. She wants those eyes when she's onstage, but when she's just out running errands? Ugh, that would be both unexpected and very difficult to handle.

I would like to see her return to her life, with a one-off record in the works, maybe a few interviews lined up, and adopt the healthy attitude that those weeks on TV were one wild roller coaster that has ended. She'll always have a story to tell, and hopefully a little more money in her pocket.

Posted by: DCCubefarm | June 2, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

I blame Liz because last week I asked for the transatlantic call in number, which if we had all had, we could have made her win.--just kidding.

If Ms. Boyle (or anyone else) had any issues to begin with, I'm sure they were magnified by her rocket to fame.

As opposed to Heincer, who wanted to leave I'm a Celebrity right away, in part, because they wanted to keep getting some regularly. That's kinda when I turned the channel.

Posted by: reddragon1 | June 2, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Slow news day?

Posted by: bs2004 | June 2, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

fr pras40:

>...That's where your own self esteem kicks in. It seems obvious she needs work on that. ...<

It's obvious that YOU need work on minding YOUR OWN business. Ms. Boyle has a very fine level of self esteem, and a gorgeous voice.

Posted by: Alex511 | June 2, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Uh oh, could a BKD be in the works? Looks like some of Boyle's Boils are popping out to the surface.

Posted by: MStreet1 | June 2, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Really, Liz. Spinster? What century is this?

Post-menopausal? Really? Has someone checked for evidence?

You failed to mention the nonstop papparazi who glommed onto her and have been making her miserable for nigh on two months. Who wouldn't crack?

Posted by: mwallace8831 | June 2, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

"It's obvious that YOU need work on minding YOUR OWN business."
Posted by: Alex511 | June 2, 2009 12:05 PM

Oh my goodness. That's hilarious. Bless you.

Posted by: pras40 | June 2, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

If Ms. Boyle (or anyone else) had any issues to begin with, I'm sure they were magnified by her rocket to fame.

Posted by: reddragon1 | June 2, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Yup. Liz has a dog and TWO CATS. OMG!

Posted by: jezebel3 | June 2, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Seeing how people in her village say that Ms. Boyle was prone to angry outbursts, something of an introvert, and by her own admission, a 48yo virgin, Ms. Boyle appears to have enough issues to keep a psychotherapist busy for years. Shove the old bag in front of the limelight, shower her with praise and condemnation, and then have the paparazzi follow her around like flies on a 48yo virgin dumptruck and it would make anyone snap.

We should be thankful she didn't win. She'd probably eclipse Britney in both girth and cringe-worthy news.

Posted by: DisposablePet | June 2, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

The only thing I felt really bad for her about was the constant drumbeat about her being "ugly" and especially the pressure to remain frumpy despite offers of hair and makeup and clothes (which pretty much ANY woman would take advantage of--I know I would, and I've got a head start on Ms Boyle in the grooming department). Even the most realistic person (meaning the mirror on the wall isn't a magic mirror) would have to feel bad amid a constant chorus of how unattractive she is.

Fortunately the competition is over. She came in second (good for her!) and will doubtless get a record or stage offer. The paps will find or manufacture a new sensation--you can't tell me they'll stay camped out in her tiny Scottish village for much longer than it takes for her to go home.

Posted by: sorcerers_cat | June 2, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Look, to go from living your entire life quietly, hardly socializing and having most people ignore you to suddenly be the center of attention of MILLIONS of people is highly stressful.

Imagine thousands of people ripping apart how you look. An angry outburst or two and feeling lots of anxiety is a very human response.

Posted by: cmecyclist | June 2, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

This whole episode was so drawn out and sadly predictable: from the moment she became a YouTube sensation to now. People have been acting like lemmings, except that she's apparently the one who gets shoved off the cliff. Resist groupthink, people.

Posted by: goodwinc | June 2, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

I have no sympathy for Boyle or any other contestant in these moronic shows. If she didn't know any better, then someone close to her who cared should have warned her that she was being used. As for the producers, stars, and all the idiots who watch this crap, you should be ashamed of yourselves.

Posted by: adrienne_najjar | June 2, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

It wasn't fair how the media portrayed her as having a "meltdown." She is not a celebrity. She has never dealt with this level of attention before at anytime in her life.

She is a simple woman from a Scottish town whose only dream is to sing for The Queen.

How shallow can people really be. And when those in the media themselves have a "meltdown" I'll be right there on site to report it.

Posted by: info40 | June 2, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

While Susan Boyle came in second place in the overall competition, she was nonetheless the top-rated singer this time; no criticism of Diversity implied, but Boyle was never vying to become a street-style dancer.

If "American Idol" is any guide, second- (and lower) place finishers may well still have excellent career prospects. Maybe Boyle will at least be spared the worst of the hoopla now, so she can concentrate on her singing career and, yes, even sing for the Queen someday. I wish her only well.

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | June 2, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Blame Canada.


Oh, hi Byoolin.

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | June 2, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse

No one could have been prepared for the onslaught Susan Boyle faced as a contestant on Britain's Got Talent.

I wish her well.

Posted by: cfow1 | June 2, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse

I'm thinking the Queen would rather hear Susan Boyle sing than watch Diversity perform.

Posted by: mdreader01 | June 2, 2009 6:02 PM | Report abuse

She's got a rare and very good low-Alto voice. Beyond the hype is that foundations.

If I ruled the world she'd get to leave Simon Cowell tout suite; get a not-too weasley business manager (if there is such an animal); work with a good music director & musicians; put out a CD of jazz standards (her "Cry me a River" on that charity CD is sublime) and perform at small concert venues in nearby Edinburgh. And then see.

A monthl-long 18-city tour with BGT sounds hellish.

Posted by: dadada | June 2, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

We are absolutely to blame! A few days after her viral-video-worthy performance hit, my boss breathlessly showed us how wonderful she was! My mother INSISTED "Simon will make her a star!" And I quickly learned that I had a very unpopular opinion--that she was getting all this attention because she is unattractive.

I know it sounds mean, but EVERYONE has been cruel to her by being so condescendingly shocked that (gasp!) she actually has a talent! Wow, you're homely AND YET you can contribute in some way?! Amazing! Good for you! The editing of that show and the subsequent media onslaught is what is truly insulting to her.

She has a truly lovely voice, and is clearly talented, but if her voice was coming out of any number of "pretty" girls, thousands of which try out every year for these shows, she would be told by Simon (who I usually appreciate for his honesty) that she is forgettable.

I wish her well, because she's been condescended to and insulted by (in a very subversive way) the whole world. I hope she gets a chance to prove herself worthy of selling records, but I have a lot of doubts that the likes of Simon Cowell will work hard to steer her towards long-term stardom.

Posted by: jweddel5 | June 2, 2009 7:49 PM | Report abuse

Yes .

Posted by: julia923 | June 3, 2009 8:13 AM | Report abuse

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