If you are amongst those who like a bit of reality television, the name Sami Brookes may sound familiar to you. The 31-year-old X Factor contestant from North Wales impressed the judges with her audition, in which she sang Whitney Houston's One Moment In Time.
Now in the live finals, Sami's receiving criticism because she refuses to be embarrassed about her weight. On forums like Digital Spy, posters have stated that she's a bad role model for kids, with some criticizing mentor Louis Walsh for allegedly discouraging his charge from going on a diet.
But should Sami be embarrassed? Why should her body shape matter? And why should anyone who finds themselves in the spotlight automatically be a role model?
The mainstream music scene can be harsh. These days, image is considered to be as important as actual talent. An artist is more likely to make it in the industry if they have a certain look about them and, yes, this look includes being slim.
Plenty of popular publications carry stories about what celebrities have been seen to wear, if they've lost weight, if they've gained weight, and if, shock horror, they have "let themselves go". In a recent article in the Daily Mail, rock singer Axl Rose was criticized for having gained some pounds. Unflattering images were placed alongside a picture of Axl in his twenties, and they're right, he does not look like that anymore. It stands to reason that he doesn't. The Guns N' Roses frontman is 49 years old now. The accompanying video of the Rock In Rio music festival reveals that, actually, Axl looks to be in decent shape. Even if he wasn't, would it be an issue?
When people listen to a record, or hear a song on the radio, they're basing their like or dislike of the track on the actual music, and the singer's voice. The vocal booth does not discriminate. And when people go to a live concert, an artist's looks are not as important as the bigger experience, which includes the ability of the artist to perform. If the artist happens to be fanciable it may be seen as a bonus, but for most it wouldn't be the overruling factor.
Unfortunately, fat is seen as bad. So, in some cases, is thin. Whilst certain critics may excuse their comments by raising the issue of health concerns, and the subsequent cost to the NHS which affects the tax payer, this stigmatizing of people who don't conform to a certain look or shape appears to have gained momentum in the last few years, and it's uncertain where or when it will end.
If there is any blame to be appointed, some of it must rest with the media, and with advertisers. When even models apparently must be Photoshopped to look acceptable, who could possibly live up to expectations? People are told to buy this, and buy that, because if only you use that certain product, you too will look glamourous. You, too, can fit in. Except that you never, ever do, because you're a real person, you haven't been airbrushed, and other products will always need purchasing to guarantee consistent profit for the manufacturers.
Right now, to be overweight appears to be equated with being lazy, greedy and unhealthy. Sami Brookes doesn't look to be any of those things. She seems like a regular woman with a good voice.
Whilst, for the sake of highlighting the issue, this blog does mention Sami's weight, let's hope that viewers and voters will see past it, and that Sami's success will depend on her performance. If it's a case of talent versus image, talent should win every time.
Follow Kit Marsters on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JKMarsters