When Susan Boyle, the unlikely Britain's Got Talent contestant, stunned Simon Cowell and the rest of the world with her angelic voice, the incongruity of her appearance made her even more enormously captivating.
Before she launched into her rendition of "I Dreamed A Dream", no one watching suspected that the gifts of a singing star were hidden inside the frumpy, frizzy-haired package of a 47 year-old spinster from northern Scotland. People in general, and talent scouts like Cowell, don't expect in these sophisticated times to find talent of a world class variety so completely undiscovered and completely camouflaged. Most people with showbiz capabilities and aspirations today make it into the hands of an agent or manager long before hitting middle age. The inner beauty of Susan Boyle is the stuff of fairytales like Shrek, where a gorgeous princess called Fiona is trapped inside an ogre's body.
Now of course in Fiona's situation, when the cartoon character gets the opportunity to shed her ogreness forever, and "look" like a beautiful princess 24/7, she chooses to remain an ogre on the outside in order to be true to herself or something like that. The audience applauds her brave decision and she lives mostly happily-ever-after with her ogre husband, Shrek.
However in Susan Boyle's case, the singing sensation made her first mini makeover moves last week, dying her grey hair brown, cropping off some of her frizzies and trading in her shapeless housedresses for tailored separates and a poppy print dress and pumps. And honestly, she couldn't look more thrilled in her photos to be undergoing the beginnings of a swan-like transformation.
Nevertheless, there have been howls from her new fan base. She's no longer "authentic" is one common criticism. "It's the contrast of her soaring voice with her unassuming appearance" that makes her "special" is another. She won't be "just like us" anymore is the general drift of the concern and that that will render her less appealing.
I say to these critics: you don't walk in Susan Boyle's shoes, whether they are clunky or stylish.
Just as the frumpadump dress she wore on "Britain's Got Talent" didn't diminish her spectacular vocals, neither will an eye-popping print dress take away from them.
It's a fact: no woman chooses to be unattractive. The excitement of a transformative makeover has a long history — fairytales and other stories that pre-date Shrek are full of them, like Cinderella, The Ugly Duckling, and Pygmalian.
Susan Boyle deserves to enjoy her moment, and anything she wants to do to enhance her appearance will not erode the quality of her singing voice.
Let's not forget that for every popular singing star in Hollywood whose natural beauty is part of their appeal like Britney, Mariah Carey and Rihanna, there are examples of talents packaged in less conventional bodies. Think of American Idol's Kelly Clarkson, who was also frumpy and pudgy when discovered. Barbara Streisand was a "funny girl," Bette Midler's looks were unique and k.d. Lang dressed like a kooky cowgirl. None were by any means classically beautiful and yet all have enjoyed big careers and undergone various makeovers.
So to those grousing that Susan Boyle colored her hair and that now makes her "inauthentic," give her a break.
She's waited 47 years to show off her totally authentic singing voice. Let the woman revel in her Cinderella makeover — she's earned it!
For more on Susan Boyle, follow Bonnie Fuller at twitter.com/bonniefuller.
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