There’s a new album being released today, by a woman whose name we’d never even heard just 11 months ago. You probably remember when you first saw the video of her stepping onto the stage at an audition for “Britain’s Got Talent.” Maybe you saw it on television. Maybe a friend said, “You have to watch this on YouTube.”
The 47-year-old woman, who lived by herself with her cat in Scotland, was overweight, with frizzy gray hair, overbearing eyebrows and an open, somewhat naïve face. She had on a new dress and high heels for the occasion. As she walked to the center of the stage and was interviewed by Simon Cowell, you could see the judges’ skepticism. Cowell rolled his eyes when Boyle said that her hope was to be a professional singer. Amanda Holden nodded. Piers Morgan gave a little chuckle. The audience went wide-eyed and sarcastic when Boyle said she’d like to be as big as British singer Elaine Paige. They laughed at her, and not in a good way. It was as if the entire auditorium was collectively, silently making fun of Boyle.
And then she sang.
You remember this, too. Because you had been judging her on appearance, too – what kind of voice could this frumpy, somewhat misguided woman really have?
We’ve all had that kind of a moment. A moment when we are being made fun of, judged for the wrong reasons, laughed at. A moment when, if we are not careful, we will start doubting ourselves, duck back down, and say “Oh never mind, I didn’t mean it.” A moment when fear and peer pressure makes us turn away from trying something. A moment that can paralyze us with both potential and anxiety.
“The minute she walked onstage we all, and the audience, completely judged her on her appearance and everything else. And I hate saying that,” Holden told Access Hollywood in a later interview. “We judged a book by its cover, unfortunately, and we’re all very cynical.”
Susan Boyle took her moment. She showed us all. She sang “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables, and after the first few lyrics soared from her, it was as if the world stopped for just a second. The judges were agog. Cowell’s eyes opened in pure, delighted surprise.