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Toni Nagy Headshot

The Voice (and Face, and Body, and Style)

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Beauty may be only skin deep, but it is a great way to get ahead in the entertainment world. Considering that actors make a living from their flawless faces being projected on massive screens in high definition, there is some perverse logic to this madness. Yet in the music world there was a time when raw talent was your ticket to success. You could be gritty-looking, but if you could sing, you could have a career. Since MTV (and given the historical fact that video killed the radio star), this Hollywood standard of beauty has become the norm in the music business as well. The result is that fewer talented people rise to the surface, although they are lovely to look at.

The Voice is a reality show that is actively looking to combat the prejudice of attractiveness. The initial audition process is with the judges having their backs to the contestants. Those trying out cannot be critiqued by their looks, but only by the appeal of their voice. This is a noble effort to combat a very real dilemma in not only the music industry, but also in society in general. Of course every culture has a standard of beauty, but in a multi-cultural population, having just one ideal is detrimental. We have come to prioritize Hollywood perfection to such a degree that it is corroding our collective psyches. Little girls dressing like women, eating disorders, debilitating self-esteem issues, racial tension, are all symptoms of a culture obsessed with the myth that being a specific type of beauty makes you a better person. Although this works just fine for the big industries of the beauty businesses, it is not empowering to the people desperately trying to fit in.

I commend the good intentions that go into The Voice, and although I am even a fan of the show, I am not convinced that a person's throat is their most valuable body part in the end. After the judges have their blind auditions, they then get to see the person behind the voice. So yes, anyone has a chance to get on a team regardless of how old, young, skinny, rotund, but eventually these elements will come under the microscope as well. Of course, this is not deliberately a beauty contest, but the judges don't live in a vacuum and are still seduced by the current status quo. The question of who is the most marketable has to come into play.

As the process of eliminating contestants proceeds, it becomes obvious who is going to stay and who is going to go home. The show is organized in such a way that the members of each of the teams battle their fellow team members to become their coaches' number 1 pick. Then, the last four contestants will battle each other in a final competition to decide who will become the winner of The Voice, which will happen Tuesday May 8. Yet as the team members compete to win, all these other components of what they look like and how they present themselves start to impact their staying power.

Of course the judges never say, "Well, you are just not as cute as your competitor and your derrière is a little too boxy for my taste," but they are not blind and do seem to judge the overall package. This unintentional judgment falls under the category of "confidence." The sexier people do have a more commanding presence on the stage, and, for a viewer, it is hard to disagree with that. There were of course some exceptions where talent did surpass the longer legs, but the final four are all good-looking, skinny, young, with swagger, style, captivating eyes, and dreamy smiles.

It is not The Voice's responsibility to counteract a deeply embedded cultural premise, but we cannot deny the influence of beauty on the show. Their efforts to deflect us from this type of thinking are valiant, especially when you consider just how they captivate you with the stories of these people's lives. One example is Jamar Rogers, a man who is HIV positive and a recovering meth addict. Rogers had one of the most infectious personalities on the show, and it was impossible not to be inspired him. But, as irony would have it, what made him the full package was not only the fact that he overcame such adversity: he also had charisma. He looked like a star.

Whereas The Voice may not be a totally bias-free model, it does show revolutionary intentions. And because social media facilitate each contender to build an authentic fan base, I do believe that, regardless of looks, the show provides prospects for those who take advantage of the opportunity. Perhaps what is most refreshing about the show is that by getting involved in their stories you realize that all four final contestants are decent people who just want the chance to live their dreams.