"Carrie Prejean" Types of Moments versus "Susan Boyle" Types of Moments

Neither Carrie Prejean or Susan Boyle have really left the news since they appeared on our screens a few months ago. In my mind they are linked together because of a recent youth group lesson.  A few weeks ago we discussed relationships, dating, sex, purity, etc. in youth group. Early on, we stressed the incredible importance of identity. This led us to society’s expectations. When you talk about expectations, it’s helpful if you describe values, principles and if possible … examples. Most of us know that all our role models are flawed. My dilemma became what kind of a role model do I use when to discuss “beauty”. This line of thought eventually led me to offer a comparison between Carrie Prejean and Susan Boyle.

The world tells us that you would rather look like Carrie Prejean. Having grown in the church and having served in youth ministry for almost ten years, I think I understand the idea of the Christian celebrity quite well.  (In fact, prior to pastoral ministry, I pursued a career in Christian male modeling.  It turned out that I wasn’t “Christian” enough).  Whether it be male or female, there is always some “Carrie Prejean” type being propped before us as a positive Christian role model. My concern is what is the Church’s message to those who don’t look like Carrie Prejean (and what is the message to those who do)?

The world also tell us that even if you could sing like Susan Boyle, you would still rather look like Carrie Prejean. In fact it’s probably better that you look beautiful and sing like Kermit the Frog than have an amazing voice and be considered, “not stunning”. I know there are exceptions to this, male, Italian tenors mostly and those whose talents compensate enough for their looks but I think it’s fair to say they comprise a small minority. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that the world tells us in some way that if you sing like Susan Boyle and look like Susan Boyle than you are better off staying at home and taking care of your aging parents and if you must get a job, it will most likely be an ordinary one. If you still want to sing, consider your church, your shower and maybe even your car but a career in professional music is very unlikely. I told our students that if you wanted a role model from pop culture, consider the moment that Boyle gave us as opposed to Prejean’s. Some students really connected with that. Some didn’t.

Let me explain where I am coming from. I am not necessarily interested in using the actual lives of Susan Boyle or Carrie Prejean, I’m using them more as a caricature. Part of it is an attempt limit objectifying them (which is another story). Also understand that I do not like shows like American Idol or Britain’s Got Talent. Even more, it’s difficult for me to understand the popularity of beauty pageants in general. I’m obviously not alone, otherwise we all wouldn’t have loved Little Miss Sunshine. It blows my mind that there are so many that want to be a part of them. Even more baffling to me are the many women watch these events along side their daughters. You can almost hear the conversations, “Oh, she’s so beautiful.” “Those aren’t real”, “Oh I hate girls that have that look. Reminds me of a girl from high school …” “She has a great smile – she should smile more!”, “OMG, she’s adorable. She should definitely win! Let’s text in our vote.”

To clear up any confusion, I don’t know any men who watch these events. (Feel free to comment if you do, I’ll try not to judge you ;-)  When men want to see scantily-clad beautiful women, they unfortunately have other options that cater to their lusts. So, for the life of me, I do not understand why so many women allow themselves to be objectified by these pageants. While I will admit it was helpful for me to read this article in Chrisitanity Today, it was this idea that finally got me to write this post. To me this Carrie Prejean moment helps support this unhealthy expectation to our identity-seeking teenage girls that this is what they should look like. And if they are Christian, this is how she should respond.

There’s a part of me that doesn’t like any thing about Prejean. These are probably the exact same reasons that James Dobson and hosts of my conservative brothers and sisters like her so much. I know that sounds judgmental and I admit the wrong in my part but perhaps I should clarify. Maybe it’s better to say that I do not like the public persona that I perceive from my television. It seems to me that she wants the attention of whoever will reward her the most. If she were my sister, I’d sit her down and we would have a talk about all this.  To me her plan looked like this:  (1). Be a beauty pageant winner that will (2) lead to a few years of “the good life” that may lead to a career in  (3) modeling or (4) acting or (5) who knows – Sign me up! Insert controversial television moment regarding homosexual marriage here.  (Insert the sound of the metaphorical grinding of gears). “Wait, what? You want me to prop me up front with my blonde hair and Christian upbringing and be an advocate for traditional marriage, uhh sure but, @$%#%, I hope those pictures don’t re-surface … Doh!”

For a moment, let’s pretend she never posed for any inappropriate pictures and let’s forget about implants. What frustrated me was as soon as she defended traditional marriage, she became the spokeswoman for Christian conservatives everywhere. She appeared on Larry King and various talk-shows. Immediately she was flown out to Liberty University to speak in their convocation where she was hailed as a hero. (So help me if Christianity Today puts her on the cover. I will unsubscribe from all their email lists. Not only will I not pay for their print subscription but I won’t even read their free quality stuff. That’ll show’em). Many Christians probably think of her as a Daniel amidst the lions of Perez Hilton and the mean liberal media. It seems (to me) that Prejean didn’t want to be a Daniel (or a Danielle) but probably a movie actress or a model instead for why else would you enter into Donald Trump’s Miss USA pageant? It appears that these girls use the success of these titles to parade around casinos, be guest judges of useless events, model for make-up and hope to break through into the celebrity world. And I suppose that’s ok if that’s where you find the God-given calling of your life to be but as this discussion applies to the girls in our student ministry, I wanted to encourage them to pursue something better.  I want that for Prejean too.

All of us run the risk of portraying our selves in the best possible way that will lead to good rewards. The problem with Prejean is that it led to burn every bridge that she thought she created. Eventually Trump predictably fired her. Why is that each year we have a scandal of the crown of some sort? Uhh, that would be for the sake of Trump’s publicity. The poor billionaire, how hard can it be to find an appropriate Miss USA?

Enter Susan Boyle. The American public has been conditioned to immediately scoff at the mere sight of a person who looks and dresses like this. Especially, if this person enters into the same room as Simon Cowell.

You know the story (and it’s worth watching again). She amazes everyone. We are crying, we are confronted by our guilt of stereotyping and at the same time, we are thrilled about her. It’s unbelievable moment with the perfect song and a great back story.

From the “industry’s” perspective, she doesn’t belong there. But we are so happy she is. I believe she was self-aware enough to realize that and I believe that motivation served her. She refused to be controlled by the stereotypes and the images that surrounded her and for that, all of us were reminded of that.

What I love about it, is that it’s inspiring to all people. Especially teen-agers. And when it comes to our society’s expectations of women, identity seeking teen-age girls, we need more examples like this. I want to be careful that I do not prop up Susan Boyle on too high of a pedestal. News reporting emotional breakdowns indicate that her new found celebrity has been difficult for her. Perhaps it’s best to compare and find inspiration in the moments, as opposed to the people themselves. Perhaps it’s better to say that we need more of these Susan Boyle-type moments versus Carrie Prejean-type moments.


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  2. I’ve seen Carrie Prejean in person and i would have to say that she is just average looking`-“

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