Sunday, April 27, 2014

The story of Kevin Skinner and how we judge people by their appearance

Kevin Skinner
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

I am a lover of music, and so I have followed some of the episodes of America's Got' Talent, Britain's Got Talent, American Idol and other reality TV shows across the world, including  some in Ghana, but the story of Kevin Skinner has touched me even deeper and left me thinking.

I will tell you about Skinner pretty soon.

And in all these shows the saying that 'do not judge a book by it's cover' always comes up. It comes up when the judges would treat a contestant with contempt, show disrespect and sometimes disgust, over the contestants looks and appearance, and then suddenly all that would change in a moment.

Ruben Studdard was ridiculed for his body size and his dad was forced to come to his defence. I remember the look on the faces of the judges when Susan Boyle first showed up on stage.

In all these cases, these individuals proved everyone wrong about who they truly are and how gifted they were when they started to sing.

The story of Kevin Skinner was not any different. When he appeared on stage wearing worn out clothes and a worn out cap turned around with a heavy Kentucky accent he was derided and scorned.

The audience went into an uproar of laughter when he said he worked as a 'chicken catcher' who was unemployed at the time.

The stereotypes of beauty forced on everyone make people reject or treat others with derision simply because these individuals do not fit into their mold, rightly or wrongly of what is 'beautiful' and therefore 'acceptable'.

But these individuals went on ahead of everyone else in the things that mattered most in those competitions and excelled. Studdard won the competition and Susan Boyle became a household name after her performance.

Skinner when he sang Garth Brooks 'Tomorrow never comes', blew everyone away and he went on to win the 5th Edition of America's Got Talent and received the $1 million prize money.

Fact is, we almost always tend to forget that no one chooses how they looked when they were born and not many people choose the situations that they are in. Many try to change their circumstances but do not always succeed, and we can't blame them.

Some people in their struggles to change their looks just so that they could satisfy other people's 'expectations' of what is 'beauty' have spent and continue to spend millions of dollars to undergo plastic surgery - sometimes with some repercussions. Some become hooked onto the procedure for the rest of their lives.

We must bear in mind that people don't choose their genetic make-up, and for that matter how they looked. Some people can't afford to fix their physical shortcomings because they don't have the money or as a matter of fact, they can live with it and so they do. It is therefore up to us to accept these people for who they are, just as human as we are or it could be our loss if we turn our backs to them because they do not fit our view of 'attractive'.

We all certainly do have our flaws, but are simply afraid to admit them, and it appears like one of the subtle ways we try to mask our own inadequacies is to amplify the 'shortcomings' we see in others.

I never knew the Skinner story until this week and watching the video drew tears to my eyes.

Skinner is a great musician, perhaps even greater than most other musicians who rose up the ladder quickly because of their looks and connections.

Until we put ourselves in other people's shoes and treat them with empathy, our not too 'perfect' or even warped view of beauty, would smother our humanity and make us mistreat others - in spite of the fact that we would want to be accepted and treated nicely by others.

Maybe if we learn to teach ourselves to treat others as we want them to treat us, we would be more humane towards each other, and our perceptions of beauty wouldn't stand in the way.