The Sins of Susan Boyle

By now you must know that Susan Boyle, the Scottish singer who was catapulted to stardom by the reality TV show Britain’s Got Talent, did not win the competition.

Miss Boyle became on overnight sensation seven weeks ago when a video of her debut BGT performance was released to YouTube. The clip’s been seen over 100 million times, downloaded over 20 million times, recruited millions of fans, and likely earned a fortune for Simon Cowell via a revenue-sharing deal made between himself, Sony BMG, and YouTube (a half a cent per play is a typical figure for such deals).

Boyle’s rise to stardom was swift but not smooth. Her critics have described her as too old, too fat, too frumpy, overexposed and unstable. A few, such as Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno, have even speculated that the very exposure that seemed to insure Boyle’s win in the competition did her in at the end. The show’s fans simply got tired of her, and in an age of music videos featuring young performers who expose more skin than talent they couldn’t let a plain-looking middle-aged woman win a hip youth-focused talent contest.

Did Boyle know the jig was about to come up? If she didn’t know what to expect going in she must have quickly learned what it felt like to enter a room preceded by her girth and her frizzy gray hair. She also learned the brutal logic of appearances that meant she walked into a wall of prejudicial stereotypes long before she had an opportunity to reveal herself as an individual. What she didn’t learn was how to hold back elements of herself and when and how to adopt a disguise when doing so would’ve been advantageous. She chose to dance with the devil before learning how to call the tune.

We at AHM doubt Susan Boyle’s fifteen minutes is over. She has a good voice, and the media coverage surrounding the finale of Britain’s Got Talent focused more on her second place finish than on the winner, Diversity, a hip-hop dance troupe. Odds are you’ve never heard of Diversity before now and odds are you will forget them by this time next week. Miss Boyle’s fan base has already been created, what remains to be seen is whether it will remain loyal.

I thank Lisa Appignanesi for providing me with the inspirational insight to write this article.