Saturday, 19 November 2011

Out Loud Living

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Reading an interview with Susan Boyle in the Big Issue* reminded me of a couple of home truths I'd lost along the way. Although I didn't follow her meteoric rise to fame as closely as some, it was impossible to miss at the time. Two years on, the interview is a bit of a recap with updates thrown in, and I was struck by two things.

I love the fact that Susan Boyle seems to have a deep sense of self. She talks about being grounded in the village where she was born and brought up, she seems to have surrounded herself in her professional life with true friends and trusted supporters and - most of all - her non-conformist ways are well and truly intact if the interviewer is to be believed:

Boyle, has become so cosmically symbolic of 21st century popular culture that the first thing that strikes me as I’m greeted by her in her £300,000 ‘posh house’ she bought in her hometown of Blackburn to celebrate being worth more than £11million (“money isn’t important to me” she tells me later) is how unbelievably like Susan Boyle this round smiley woman is.

All the quirks that have become almost mythical traits of the celebrity are there from the moment of meeting, from the giddy outbreaks of minxy hip-flicks and peels of cackling laughter, to that machine-gun West Lothian brogue, usually delivered at great pace and overwhelming volume.

I also love the fact that she put herself out there, and in doing so enriched a lot of people's lives and became even more herself. Her vocal talent is completely mesmerising, but the interview makes it clear that she took more than a little mockery at other auditions, not just in the opening moments of the well-known Britain's Got Talent one. 

Susan Boyle definitely didn't find awe and adulation first time round. I'm sure it would have been easy to settle for a lonely, light-under-a-bushel existence. Maybe she could have even justified it by saying that the whole youth-centric, hyper-sexualised pop music culture isn't her thing. But by being brave enough to engage with the industry, and with us - the audience, she's changed something for the best in our times and (the interview suggests) is the better for it personally too.

So thank you Susan Boyle for the reminder that with a sense of self and a little courage great things can happen.

* The Big Issue offers homeless and vulnerably housed people the opportunity to earn a legitimate income as street vendors selling a weekly entertainment and current affairs magazine.

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