CNN Senior National Editor
The Susan Boyle phenomenon is what educators call a “teachable moment.”
Just look at the reaction of the audience of the British television program as Boyle steps on stage. Boyle’s is a face that you wouldn’t notice twice walking down the street, a newspaper said, certainly not one to raise expectations.
But when she opened her mouth to sing jaws drop en masse.
Remember the adage about not judging a book by its cover?
Well, the audience in the auditorium (and no doubt also the viewers at home) pre-judged Boyle based on her appearance. And appeared stunned by the quality of what they heard.
"It wasn't singer Susan Boyle who was ugly on 'Britain's Got Talent' so much as our reaction to her" was the headline above a piece by Tanya Gold in the British newspaper the Guardian.
“Is Susan Boyle ugly? Or are we?” Gold wrote at the start of her commentary.
The Daily Beast
Admit it, when you first started watching the YouTube clip of Susan Boyle standing on the stage of the U.K. TV show Britain’s Got Talent, a smile came over your face. Not, I suspect, a smile of expectant pleasure that you were about to hear the second Elaine Paige, who Susan declared was her hero. But a smile of expectant horror and amusement at what I think most of us assumed would be about to happen—that, let’s face it, Susan’s singing might be rather more akin to that of a noise made when a lobster is being slowly boiled alive.
As one of the three judges on that show (I also judge America’s Got Talent), I can remember the moment like it was yesterday.
We were at a big theater in Glasgow, Scotland, back in January.
It had been a long, hard day at the audition coalface, with very little talent on display.
Then Susan bounced on stage, full of tartan bonhomie, and the reaction was instantaneous: 3,000 people laughed their heads off, me and my co-judges, Simon Cowell and Amanda Holden, stifled a chuckle, and the clear message from our collective expressions was "This is going to be a car-crash performance of epic proportions."
And then Susan Boyle began to sing.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with