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A little while ago, on a UK program called “Britain’s Got Talent”, a rather plain, slightly dotty, socially-nervous individual got on stage and within a few seconds, blew the World away.
That individual was called Susan Boyle.
To this day I feel sorry for her … not because of her looks or her uneasy manner … but for the way the World has – and continues to – treat her.
Without doubt she has talent, however I can’t help but feel that if Susan was better looking not only would the World’s reaction to her have been different, but so would the level of her success – and it seems her record company agrees because to accompany the launch of her first album, they’ve used a visual that reminds us of her ‘plainness’ as well as another image that is seemingly there to reassure us that we don’t have to worry, “the freak is less freaky these days” so we can openly buy her music.
I believe the reason Susan made such an impact is because we’ve become a society who believes talent is in some way linked to attractiveness – mainly driven through media and advertising influence – so when some dumpy lady came on stage, we’d already had the expectation she couldn’t possibly amount to much and then, when she proved us all wrong, we felt a level of amazement and guilt that transformed itself into hype, acclaim and record sales.
So am I saying talented but ugly people have a secret weapon in their quest for fame and fortune?
Well I don’t know if it’s a secret weapon, but if they manage to achieve mass exposure [which let’s face it, is very unlikely and difficult] then it is quite possible they will attain a level of impact that goes beyond their level of talent … even though if that happens, you can be sure they’ll be given an almost immediate makeover [to be more 'acceptable' to the masses] and will never achieve the level of success as someone hot – who has less talent – will get, which is another example of societies inherent prejudice.
Whilst adland has always said it has the power to change opinions and behaviour – it might be nice if for once they did it in a way that not only encouraged people to buy/consider PRODUCT X, but also helped change the inherent prejudices that exist in society so ugly people aren’t viewed as talentless, men aren’t viewed as stupid and darker skinned women [in Asia] aren’t labelled as coming from ‘peasant’ stock.
[Are you listening Unilever? Just because you have Dove doesn't escape the fact you profit from exploiting the fears of millions of women with your 'Fair & Lovely' disgrace]
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