Anchor Marco Werman speaks with the BBC's Paddy O'Connell about Britain's pressure-filled version of American Idol. The show is called "Britain's Got Talent" and the pressure on audience favorite Susan Boyle has risen to the point that she's had to move to a secure undisclosed location.
This text below is a phonetic transcript of a radio story broadcast by PRI's THE WORLD. It has been created on deadline by a contractor for PRI. The transcript is included here to facilitate internet searches for audio content. Please report any transcribing errors to email@example.com. This transcript may not be in its final form, and it may be updated. Please be aware that the authoritative record of material distributed by PRI's THE WORLD is the program audio.
MARCO WERMAN: This next item is somewhat of a cautionary tale about the dangers of meteoric celebrity. Susan Boyle, as you may recall, is the amateur singer who has been performing on the Television show â€œBritain's Got Talentâ€. Six weeks ago, Boyle was a church volunteer known only to her family and friends at her local pub in Blackburn, Scotland. The catty headlines and media frenzy around her have sent her into such a tailspin, she's gone into a safe house to, well, keep her sanity until she can return home to Blackburn. The finals are tomorrow, and the BBC's Paddy O'Connell will be watching. And Paddy, I should point out that even The World has been a party to the feeding frenzy, but what has happened to Susan Boyle, Paddy?
PADDY O'CONNELL: Well, one of the judges has been speaking about this. Piers Morgan, the former tabloid editor from the UK who I think is known in the US to your listeners, he's been saying she's been distraught and has broken down in tears, partly because among the interest of course comes unwanted interest. There's been great warmth shown to her, particularly from United States, where people have really warmed to this story of such a beautiful voice. You know, others have been unkind and others have had unwanted attention for her. And in the middle of this, I think she had a rout with some tabloid reporters and I think she just felt the pressure. And it's pretty sad on the face of it.
WERMAN: Is the program â€œBritain's Got Talentâ€ taking care of her? Do you get a sense that they're really concerned about her fate?
O'CONNELL: I haven't spoken to them but you can be sure there's a debate about that. There are people who say that she needs to be removed, even if she won't go, because as we know, talent is one thing â€“ but in these talent shows, humans do become ingredients. They do become chess pieces, and you have to hope that someone has put her best interests first. I mean, I think you know, she has warmed the hearts of many people, and perhaps if she knows that message, that's enough.
WERMAN: Paddy, I want you to indulge me real quick while I run this Susan Boyle sidebar by you. China's version of these televised talent contests is called â€˜Happy Girlsâ€ and Happy Girls has its own Susan Boyle. She's a 79-year-old woman named Wu Baiwei. She's the oldest contestant in the current edition of Happy Girls. And to show you how happy she is, Paddy, I want you to hear her rendition of â€œOn Songhua Riverâ€, a patriotic song about China's World War II era invasion by Japan. Wu Baiwei, singing there. She's one of the top contenders for the â€œhappy Girlsâ€ crown. Those finals happening in July on Chinese TV. And Paddy, like Susan Boyle, Wu Baiwei says she didn't really know what she was getting herself into with this contest. So I guess we've kind of got the battle of competing ladies here?
O'CONNELL: Yes. I mean, also, I mean there's something to do with perception, as well. If you remember the Olympic Games in Beijing, there was a little idyllic girl singing, but in fact it materialized that the voice belonged to someone who's deemed to be not so cosmetically appealing. Now, one of the interesting sidebars to all of this is the idea that one of the reasons that we the public have become excited in the West, and maybe with Wu Baiwei's story -- she's 79 -- is some kind of assumption that we can't â€“ we're surprised when people can sing who don't have toothpaste smiles and pencil bodies squeezed into lycra on toothpaste commercials. Well, a lot of people I know, they say, you know, â€œthe media needs to get over itself. Come and meet my Mom singing in the bar. We know people can sing. It doesn't relate to their appearance. You guys get over yourself.â€
WERMAN: Amen. The BBC's Paddy O'Connell. Thank you.