The Susan Boyle Phenomenon

The Susan Boyle Phenomenon


The Susan Boyle Phenomenon
It was the iconic American Dream — an individual triumphs against all opposition, ridicule and adversity, and proves the naysayers wrong. It was certainly a dream, but not an American one. When unprepossessing 47-year-old Scottish “spinster” Susan Boyle took the stage at the highly popular televised Britain’s Got Talent show, the derision was palpable.

Frumpy and “old” by contest standards, and certainly the opposite of the appealing pretty face, there were hoots and laughter from the audience. Professional cynic, Simon Cowell, one of the panel judges, raised his eyebrows and smirked. The highest expectation that anyone had was that this would be another unwitting clown to mock, to deride. But when Susan Boyle opened her mouth on the first bars of “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables, an improbable overnight star was born. Now, with well over 100 million YouTube views of her performance, appearances on talk shows and her photo on the cover of People magazine, people can’t stop talking about her.

Awash as we are in the flood of celeb gossip and media cynicism, it is not only her diamond-in-the-rough talent that made such an impact. There are a number of “late bloomers” in the entertainment industry — Kathy Bates, Morgan Freeman and Steve Carell are a few that come to mind. But it was also her poised demeanor in front of a gigantic TV audience, a critical panel of judges and the jeers of a tough live audience that also made such an impact on this woman, who, until that moment had only performed for her church. It was her tenacity in hanging onto a vision when no one believed she could or deserved to win.

Susan Boyle, unemployed, unmarried, living in Blackburn, an industrial town of fewer than 5,000 people, had a dream that transcended all conventional wisdom. She kept her vision, despite the odds and, given her one chance to break out from the stereotype — which did not reflect her inner self — she was able to communicate her talent and vision to the world.

In this cynical society and times so in need of hope and inspiration, Susan Boyle’s triumph caught the imagination and hearts of the world. Wherever this success may go from here, Susan Boyle will still have had the last laugh.

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