Kelly Bancroft says she “gets Susan Boyle,” the YouTube sensation and newly minted megastar of Britain’s Got Talent. They come from former industrial towns devastated by unemployment, they both have lovely singing voices, and they both think a makeover isn’t necessary.
Kelly is one of my dearest friends, going back to my college days, and she’s got quite a bit of talent herself, as a writer and vocalist. We’ve kept in touch over the years and visit whenever we can. So when I started asking folks to do video essays for us at TIME (including old pal and Science Comic Brian Malow, columnist Mona El Tahawy and author/journalist Katherine Lanpher), Kelly’s name immediately came to mind. She’s a lovely writer, who has recently taken to the essay, with great success, I might add. Her essay Boob Suit, was recently published in jmww, and she won the non-fiction prize in this year’s MUSE literary contest.
In her video essay about Susan Boyle, Kelly takes on our societal urges for makeovers, and it is a nicely crafted argument, well presented (and skillfully edited by Jim Fields). Kelly told me her only regret (aside from not smiling in her on-camera presentation — she was too nervous, she said) is the use of photos of her from high school and college. One of them is from a production I was actually in: They’re Playing Our Song, the last show I did in Youngstown before I got all serious and became a documentary filmmaker in Texas (then Atlanta, then New York). In the video, as she describes how Susan Boyle followed her dream to the Britain’s Got Talent stage, Kelly stands on the stage of Ford Theater, where I trode the boards in various productions when a student (and dabbling actor) at Youngstown State University.
It was good to see her in familiar territory, and lots of folks on staff have had so many nice things to say about the essay.
Oh, and the on-camera parts of the essay were well-shot by Dan Mizicko, my cousins’ cousin.