There are probably very few people in the world who have not heard of Susan Boyle, a lady from Scotland, whose video now has been seen by multiplied millions of people around the world. I am included in that number. Someone directed my attention to the work, and I cannot tell you how many times I have watched it since the first. It is riveting…jaw-dropping. I could not find a site that allows embedding, but please click on this link and watch an incredible showing of talent. Then come back here and let’s talk about something.
After watching this video, especially the reaction of the judges and some of the audience before she sang, it struck me how peculiar it is that the expectation of her talent and performance seemed to be strongly influenced by her appearance. How has come to our minds the concept that extraordinary talent and ability will always be housed in a body beautiful, or in a suave and debonair demeanor? (A personal disclaimer: Probably because I am 70 years old and because I lean toward conservative dress myself, I did not find her appearance particularly unusual or unsavory, nor do I think it odd that rare talent rests in such a person.) Such thinking puzzles me. The mindset of the judges seemed to reveal thoughts that talent is connected with beauty, or at least with fashionable clothing, youthful appearance, modern hair styling and thinned eyebrows. Note eye-rolling and smirkiness before they heard her sing.
My favorite part of the video is when, mere seconds into her performance, the audience as one, rises to its feet, cheering and clapping, and the judges’ faces morph from sarcasm to shock to recognition and, finally, admiration. They at last understand they are in the presence of genius, of Susan Boyle who is gifted with an incredible, magnificent voice.
My case here is not that Susan Boyle was rejected because of her appearance; quite the opposite is true, for once the audience and the judges heard her soaring voice, the way she looked and dressed and acted were secondary. My question is: Why, at the first, is talent thought to be connected to beauty and to a certain hair or clothing style?
Appearance does matter, I know that, and quite honestly I, like many people, am attracted to beauty. When I see a strikingly beautiful child or adult, I sometimes stare (try to do it discreetly), and often I analyze my own thoughts: What is it about a slight difference in the curve of a face or the lay of eyes or the nose shape on a person that causes us to declare beauty? So I understand the appreciation of beauty–in people and in nature. What I do not get is how it can be thought that talent or ability is connected to the visual appearance of persons, and why merely looking at them, I would express sarcasm or skepticism concerning their abilities.
Taking the issue of appearance a bit further, though this is much different, is the story of Connie Culp who in recent days has come forward to reveal that she is the person who has had a complete face transplant. I’ve brought pictures and links to the full story and think you will find this intriguing.
I’m interested in your opinions about this subject. How important is appearance to you? Be honest. Would you be more attracted to Connie as she appeared before her gruesome injury? In all honesty, I believe I would be, but I don’t think I would expect her to be more or less talented depending on which face she presented. Appearances are definitely important. I look at the multiple images of Connie and she does not look to be the same person. But she is. (Although surely this experience has changed her in many ways.) Her basic personality, intellect, gifts and abilities are still the same. When she speaks, her sense of humor and delightful nature still shines.
CLEVELAND (AP) – Five years ago, a shotgun blast left a ghastly hole where the middle of her face had been. Five months ago, she received a new face from a dead woman. Connie Culp stepped forward Tuesday to show off the results of the nation’s first face transplant, and her new look was a far cry from the puckered, noseless sight that made children run away in horror.Culp’s expressions are still a bit wooden, but she can talk, smile, smell and taste her food again. Her speech is at times a little tough to understand. Her face is bloated and squarish, and her skin droops in big folds that doctors plan to pare away as her circulation improves and her nerves grow, animating her new muscles.
But Culp had nothing but praise for those who made her new face possible.
“I guess I’m the one you came to see today,” the 46-year-old Ohio woman said at a news conference at the Cleveland Clinic, where the groundbreaking operation was performed. But “I think it’s more important that you focus on the donor family that made it so I could have this person’s face.”
Up until Tuesday, Culp’s identity and how she came to be disfigured were a secret.
Culp’s husband, Thomas, shot her in 2004, then turned the gun on himself. He went to prison for seven years. His wife was left clinging to life. The blast shattered her nose, cheeks, the roof of her mouth and an eye. Hundreds of fragments of shotgun pellet and bone splinters were embedded in her face. She needed a tube into her windpipe to breathe. Only her upper eyelids, forehead, lower lip and chin were left.