The past week has been defined for me by Susan Boyle’s phenomenal performance on Britain’s Got Talent. Can’t tell you how many times I have watched her sing “I Dreamed a Dream” on YouTube, tears streaming down my face every single time. I’m reposting below an entry that I wrote yesterday for my own blog.
Let me just back up a little. As a woman coming of age in the early 60’s, the quest for women’s rights has always been a defining theme in my life. And I don’t know when I’ve ever seen or heard anything more illustrative of that quest than Susan Boyle’s performance a week ago, and the tremendous outpouring of support and recognition she has received in the aftermath. Why this is instructive for us is that Susan defies all the strerotypes of what make women attractive, or acceptable, or smart. She’s just so damn good that the rules will change for her and with her. So here goes . . .
This was the week Susan Boyle captivated the world in her first appearance on Britain’s Got Talent. She’s a great illustration of a whale hunter—going after the biggest deal she can imagine, despite being nervous and unsure of how she would be received. She’s a perfectly lovely woman, natural as can be, dressed in her Sunday best and ready to perform. But since she doesn’t fit the mold of what we’ve come to think of as star quality, no one took her seriously until she sang.
I say Susan Boyle is a perfect whale hunter because when her opportunity finally came, she was ready! She has as beautiful a natural voice as I’ve ever heard. When she took the stage, however, it was clear that she has practiced and honed her talent, as she said “since I was twelve.” Her delivery, elocution, timing, crescendo—all facets of her performance were impeccable. During all the years of her “ordinary” life—caring for her mother, doing charity living with her cat—she was educating her voice and preparing for a day when she could land a whale with it.
We say that whale hunting is 90% process and 10% magic. There is no question that Susan Boyle had some magic—the magic of her voice, the magic of her simplicity and purity, the magic of contradicting the audience’s expectations. But what really put her there was process, and what gave her the bravery to sing before an audience of 3000 people in Glasgow was the knowledge that she was prepared. Just before her appearance, she told the host “I’m going to make that audience rock!”
She does prove that small fish can hunt whales with perseverance, preparation, and guts. More than 26 million views on YouTube last I checked. And every one of those viewers is ready to buy her first CD!
I don’t understand why it was such a surprise that she did well..To me, she looks like how she sung..
Barbara Weaver Smith says
Of course you are right Melody–but I have to admit that I am vulnerable to sterotyped impressions even though I try not to be! Thanks for your comment!