Is anyone surprised that Susan Boyle cracked?
A couple of months ago, no-one had heard of the plump, bushy-browed lady who lived alone with her cat, Pebbles, and volunteered at the local church. A woman who not only dared to dream of a different life, but sing about it as well. Initially hostile, audiences and judges were swept off their feet, including the millions that watched her performance on YouTube.
Susan Boyle has experienced 15 hellish minutes and then some. Now she’s paying the price. So many long for the patina of stardom, but the cost is high – public adoration, humiliation and desecration – and they must do it without the attendant minders, spin doctors, psychologists and personal trainers to boost the flailed ego that Hollywood stars know is essential.
The scrutiny SuBo (the nickname bestowed upon her by fans), has endured since first stepping onto the stage and swinging those hips, has been intense. From the moment she opened her mouth and that voice soared, we invested in Susan and her dream, understanding that if she could fulfill hers, then us ordinary folk had a chance too. We shared vicariously in her triumph. Susan came to stand for all those who, for whatever reason, were denied opportunities, in life, relationships and careers. She became a beacon of hope in a world that tends to offer mostly false ones.
From being the darling of the world press, however, Susan quickly became its target as tantrums and tears were reported and read. But is anyone surprised? Poppies that dare to raise their vibrant heads above the field inevitably get cruelly lopped. Even poppies who for years were left to seed and didn’t ask for the kind of elevation they received.
From incredulity and excitement about this middle-aged dreamer, to taunts and even, during judge Piers Morgan’s rapturous analysis of her final performance, hissing and booing, Susan Boyle has been on a roller coaster. She thought that in entering Britain’s Got Talent, she was playing one kind of game only to find that, somewhere during the competition, the rules changed and she was immersed in the fame game instead.
Her sexual life was exposed, the fact she was deprived of oxygen at birth – the kind of minutiae that used to be reserved for biographies of famous people was now water cooler talk. When she had her eyebrows plucked, hair styled and wore a new outfit, it made global headlines. Suddenly, Boyle was depicted as having had a ‘make-over’ as if this lovely, dowdy woman with a sense of humour was afflicted with a big head. Her raised voice and swearing were also reported as symptoms of either a rampant narcissist or a personality ill-equipped to handle stardom and therefore undeserving.
How unfair is this? We put this woman on the Petri dish of celebrity, magnify her every word and moment and wonder why she doesn’t appear so wholesome or appealing any more.
Celebrity or even the desire to have your talents recognised is, in this YouTube eats Twitter world, not for the feint-hearted or even those with a big heart. Susan might be on track, as runner-up, to earn (as the pundits predict) somewhere in the vicinity of $20 million, certainly she’s already a household name. But the truth is, her private dream has become a very public nightmare.
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