Quick Hit: Who CARES if Susan Boyle gets a makeover or not?

April 24, 2009


A friend of mine just tweeted: “Susan Boyle gets a makeover. At last.” And then linked to this article. It’s a piece of crap, for many reasons. But I want this to be a short post with one main point, so I’m only going to highlight the most important thing. The article talks about how Susan Boyle has now died her hair, and got new, supposedly more fashionable, clothes.

“Susan Boyle, the frumpy “Britain’s Got Talent” sensation, has had a makeover. Boyle, 47, dyed her tangled gray hair a rich brown, and ditched her “drab dresses” for more fashionable attire. It’s heartwarming to see that having the opportunity to share her “beautiful voice” with millions has given Boyle new enthusiasm for life.” [emphasis mine]

When exactly did changing your looks to conform more to society’s standards of beauty become the same as a “new enthusiasm for life”? I’m not faulting Susan Boyle if she felt pressure to change her looks. Lord knows no one can talk about her WITHOUT talking about her looks. But I am faulting society for basing a woman’s worth, or at least part of it, on her looks. It doesn’t matter, apparently, how talented you are, unless you at least somewhat fit the description of what society thinks a woman should look like. No one is talking about Susan Boyle’s voice without simultaneously¬† talking about her looks and how “frumpy” or “drab” she is. It’s sending the message that her talent isn’t worth anything unless she were better looking.

I know I’m going to get at least a couple comments saying, but it’s not bad to be more attractive if she wanted to update her look. No, it’s not. But it is bad that everyone is judging Susan Boyle – and her worth – based in part on her looks, rather than JUST on her talent. Her looks shouldn’t matter, people.



  1. Society has a preconceived notion and you can’t fault them for that. Part of the reason that babies survive is because they are cute.

    The media talks about her looks so much and is surprised because that is the “general public” reaction. Instead of fighting that, let’s all as a collective society shift our focus to her talent and her new lease on life (if that’s what she calls it).

    • I agree we should focus on her talent. But she’s not calling her makeover a new lease on life – the author of the article is. And that is what isn’t ok. Choosing to conform more to make society like what you look like is rewarded by people saying you “have a new lease on life”? What? that makes no sense.

      • My intentions were not to reward Susan Boyle for changing her looks, nor were they to encourage to change to society’s norms.

        I agree with you on the fact that her looks shouldn’t matter first. And, I can think of multiple reasons as to why her looks are the sensation.

        When you first look at a person, you look at their looks first and then you judge them. As much as we like, that is part of human nature. It’s almost a safety mechanism (do you go up to the creepiest guy at a party first? or once you hear about his good deeds?)

        News channels continue to talk about the looks bit because perhaps they have a demographic that agrees with that, or that it appeals to the general public or maybe because another news channel said that. Or maybe, because they are just summarizing what youtube comments have mentioned. We are a society that judges people on their looks because that’s the easiest thing to judge before the talent (singing in this case).

        When I mentioned new lease on life, I meant that in good faith for her – I intended to say, I hope she feels different and she did it more out of choice than pressure that leads her to a better place hopefully.

  2. OMG! I totally agree. I feel like the whole thing with Susan Boyle was that OMG! Someone who isn’t drop dead gorgeous has an amazing voice? WHAT A STORY!

    We’re so look-obsessed in this culture that it’s disgusting. Whether you’re beautiful by society’s standards or “frumpy” like Susan Boyle, your looks, as a woman, are a part of your worth. And, it seems that we can’t talk about Boyle without mentioning how FRUMPY she is. It’s like because everyone likes her even though she’s not a typical Hollywood type, it’s okay to keep talking about how gorgeous her voice is in comparison to her outside package.

    Like – how about this: she’s just got a kick ass voice that didn’t get noticed for way too long? End of story. Then again, that wouldn’t have attracted millions of people. Tragic.

    • OMG! Despite being ugly she is so incredibly talented! Yep, that’s the message I’ve been hearing everywhere. We do have a totally looks-obsessed culture and it’s really sad that her supposed “frumpiness” has become part of her narrative.

  3. Amen! Seriously, the fact that her talent is amazing almost BECAUSE of her “drab” appearance should be a huge wake up call to our society that we care way too much about appearances. Especially women appearances. Because ugly men can be talented and no one thinks twice. An “ugly” woman is attractive and we all scramble to YouTube to check out this rarity. It’s ridiculous.

    And I love her hair color.

    (What would be the best is if Susan’s old hair color and style caught on and became like “The Rachel” from the 90’s. That’d be great if we all walked around looking like Susan Boyle pre-makeover. I’d love it.)

    • I think gray hair is distinguished! I mean helloooo, has anyone seen Anderson Cooper? Gray hair is totally doing him a huge favor. Apparently, it’s not as cool for women to have gray hair…

  4. Good Post, Nisha. I’ve never heard of this woman, so I don’t know what she used to look like, but what I do know is that how one looks on the outside has nothing to do with anything else.

    If this woman is an amazing singer, or an amazing anything else, we should be celebrating that, rather than the fact that she now polishes her nails.

    On the other hand, if she wants to update her appearance, thats up to her, but we (society) shouldn’t value her MORE now that she looks more fashionable. Unfortunately they don’t let me make the rule… Americans are obsessed with looks and youth (in women, especially) and it is up to us to change that (kudos to you for giving us a chance to vent!!)

    I’d like to think that a person’s value has more to do with what they offer the world and not what the F*$#%! they look like.

  5. Totally true. We really shouldn’t judge a person by the way they look, and even the judges at Britain’s Got Talent did so, wrongly. The truth is we all do it, even though we say it’s wrong. We judge people, wrongly, by the way they look. It should be their inner strength and talent that matters. But I think this whole thing is remarkable primarily because people realized they were wrong to judge her by the way she looks; and therefore, it moved and taught a lot of people to think differently. We all have that reaction whether we want it or not.

    I totally agree with you, though, that society shouldn’t expect her to change the way she looks and get a makeover. It’s a societal construct and it influences people negatively.

    And another thing. We shouldn’t discriminate against people because they don’t have talent, either. Everyone is a human being with feelings and dreams and hopes and desires. Everyone deserves some sense of dignity, even if they don’t have the looks OR the talent.

    • YOur last point is so true — I’ve heard a few people say, well, what if it turned out Susan Boyle didn’t have an amazing voice? Then would she just be unimportant? Sadly, she probably would.

  6. I agree with everyone about not conforming and never judge a book by its cover. Here’s a thought I had. Maybe she never had the money to dress the way she desired. Maybe she wanted to dye her hair, but couldn’t afford to. Maybe this new found fame brought money and ability to indulge in wishes and desires to which she was formerly forced to say no to. Maybe I am wrong. I haven’t read the articles or been following along. I heard her sing, and she is fabulous. I care about her singing and that’s it, but I just wanted to throw a thought out there. Ok, done rambling for now.

  7. I’m not surprised she got a makeover either by force or by choice, as it isn’t uncommon for people who live in rural areas to change by choice once they move on to more populated urban areas.

    What bothered me were the comments, prior to the makeover immediately after her performance, on how she’d look great if she groomed her eyebrows or got more stylish clothing, as if that voice was not enough somehow. How silly we are.

  8. Ditto your comments. We live in a warped society when people care more about beauty than talents.

    We think, “sure she can sing, but she doesn’t look half as pretty while singing. So I don’t want to ‘see’ her sing”

    It’s sad.

    – Swagger Essentials

  9. What if susan was not a woman, but a man. Would you still have felt compelled to write about it?

    • No, because the public reaction to a man in this case would have been different. That’s exactly why I write about it- because of the way women’s look are such a huge part of who they are in the public eye.

  10. This makes me angry. I am not sure if this was pressure she received from family/friends or from the insane amount of press she has been getting, but I think she held character with who she was (prior to the makeover). That’s part of her allure. She was so totally herself when she got on stage and sang that night, it doesn’t matter what she looks like, but her beauty was internal and her so is her talent.

    Our society is so driven by the media and I know how hard it is to often be influenced, but all I hope is that she did it for herself. I don’t know why (ironic timing?) but I hope that it came from her and it wasn’t to impress or please others…easier said than done, but I agree with you wholeheartedly here Nisha.

  11. If Susan was a man I believe everybody would still talk about his ‘drab’ look but they would not in the same breath expect that a makeover would be imminent. Because Susan is a woman it was a matter of time not choice before she was herded into the tiny parameters of what is expected of a woman; exceptional grooming at all times.
    There is nothing wrong with a woman dressing to feel and look good if it is a natural extension of herself and her femininity. I agree Nisha, deciding in advance that a beautiful voice should accompany a beautiful appearance is the remnants of the sexual oppression we are still fighting to change. Appreciation of a woman’s beauty should be the true beauty of her form and soul not how closely she resembles a size 0 model.

    • Exactly – if Susan were a man I’m sure looks would still be talked about, but not nearly as much. Looks are always talked about more with women.

  12. Completely agree. Can’t we just be amazed by her talent, without trying to force her into our cookie cutter expectations for celebrities?

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