As an American who never got into reality shows, I don’t know much about Britain’s Got Talent. I know people show off their talents in a number of different categories (when I’ve seen references or clips they’ve mainly been dancers, but there are singers too), and that Simon Cowell is on the board of judges because he’s made it his mission to tongue-lash every aspiring performer on two continents.
I also know that this clip made me blub like a maniac. (They’ve disabled embedding but you MUST click that link.)
In a culture that values youth, wealth, and carefully-maintained femininity, this woman is like a cheat sheet for “don’t take me seriously” signifiers. She’s over 40, she’s ungroomed, she’s on the fat side, and her accent denotes low class . As it turns out, she also has learning disabilities and has never been on a date. She flies in the face of what we expect out of a performer and what we, as a culture, esteem in a woman. The judges respond accordingly: they snigger and mock, and her confident posturing just makes her (in their eyes) more ridiculous, more dissonant. Dissonant because confidence and sass don’t compute from a woman who falls so short of the ideal.
And then she KICKS THEIR FUCKING FACES IN.
Check out the look on Simon Cowell’s face when she sings. He looks positively transported. They’re all so overwhelmed they don’t even taste the crow. Because as it turns out, being low-class, being older, being unfeminine, being any number of culturally downgraded things don’t actually keep you from being fucking extraordinary.
Folks, we are all Susan Boyle. Fat or thin, pretty or plain, butch or femme, old or young, abled or not: people will judge us and find us wanting. You can posture all you want, out of genuine confidence or bravado; you can insist that the ideals are wrong, that the goalposts need to be moved, that rational humans can shake off the shackles of cultural expectation. You can talk big and wiggle your hips — for some people, that’ll just make you more of a joke.
What makes people stop laughing — or at least, what makes you stop caring if they do? The discovery that something about you is utterly remarkable. Because it is. It might not be an angelic voice or some other showy talent. It might be humble, even difficult for others to notice. You might not know what it is yet (lord knows I don’t). You don’t even have to realize, right off the bat, how your remarkable qualities elevate you past any backwards beliefs about who you should be or what you should look like — apparently Boyle herself saw that clip and what she saw was “I looked like a garage” (which at least gets points for being an awfully humorous self-putdown). It’s an arduous process and goodness knows we’ve never said otherwise. But whatever it is, once you really know it’s there, once you know how much that means, a smirk from Simon won’t change a damn thing — and you’ll slap that smile off his face when you bust it out.
 Possibly. See comments.