From Our Listeners

Listeners Divided On Susan Boyle, Makeovers

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Talk of the Nation received a flood of letters from listeners debating the segment on whether Britain's Got Talent singing sensation Susan Boyle should get a makeover. Also, graphic designer Dane Ault shared the real story behind the Heinz 57 varieties.


It's Tuesday, the day we read from your letters, e-mails and Web comments.

We could devote a full show to the e-mails that poured in about our segment with Washington Post Pulitzer Prize fashion columnist Robin Givhan on whether or not the "Britain's Got Talent" sensation Susan Boyle should get a makeover.

Steve Anderson is a drama teacher in Tucson, Arizona.

I completely fell for Susan Boyle, he wrote. I thought she was adorable and her singing, while not necessarily the strongest performance I've ever heard, was stunning. I cried. I am troubled by the notion that to become a star, you have to look a certain way. Can't we be over this already? Do we constantly have to teach our youngsters that one must be skinny and have perfect symmetry in order to be considered beautiful? Every image one sees on TV, magazines, et cetera tells a young lady she's not good enough just as she is. Well, she is, period. I think it would be fantastic if Susan Boyle became a huge success with her eyebrows fully intact.

But Brad(ph) in Tampa demurred.

What we have with Ms. Boyle is a disconnect. Her appearance is incongruent with her talent. Audiences don't expect her to undergo plastic surgery, but they want to see the same effort in her appearance that she puts into her singing.

And of course, many of you made the point, this listener did while musing on pop star makeovers.

Who's been famous without a makeover? You don't know any? What about Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, Chuck Berry, Rod Stewart, old man Rolling Stones? Hmm. I see a trend here. They are all male. That from Christine(ph) in Atchison, Kansas.

And we must also report that since our broadcast, Susan Boyle appeared with her eyebrows shaped, her hair colored and she wore a jaunty leather jacket.

Our segment on the brands we know and love started a discussion on one of the great branding mysteries of all time - the origin of the Heinz 57 Varieties.

When our guest Scott Montgomery threw it out to all our listeners, most of you guessed pickles. But not listener Dane Ault in Portland, Oregon.

As a guy who has spent way too many years as a graphic designer designing grocery ads, I know what the 57 Varieties are. The number 57 was chosen arbitrarily because the number five was Mr. Heinz's lucky number, and the number seven was his wife's.

And just to add to Dane's correct answer, Heinz got that idea while riding on a train in New York City in 1896. He saw a sign advertising 21 styles of shoes, which he thought was marketing magic. Although Heinz was manufacturing more than 60 products at the time, he began to use the slogan 57 Varieties in all his advertising.

And one last anecdote, our segment with celebrity writer Shelley De Angelus yielded this romantic story, despite the Lawrence Welk mention.

I managed a twofer with an autograph. When I was young, my parents always idolized Lawrence Welk. I managed to find out how to send a letter to Mr. Welk and ended up getting a letter and picture back to the great surprise and enjoyment of my father.

Fast forward many years, when I was on a blind date discussing music, I made a joke about having to watch Lawrence Welk every week with my parents, to which my date perked up and said that he, too, had to do the same thing. When I mentioned that I had a signed photo and letter back in my house, it turned to love. We'll be married 16 years in July.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from