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Modern Beauties: Susan Boyle and Connie Culp

May 6, 2009 - Betsy Bethel
First, it was Susan Boyle, the 47-year-old Scottish spinster who stole the show during "Britain's Got Talent" with her jaw-dropping rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream."

The audience members and judges reacted with disdain to the frumpy-looking Susan's unexpectedly saucy behavior and her bumble-headed responses to Simon Cowell's questions prior to her performance. She said she's wanted to be a singer since she was a wee girl but never got the opportunity to perform for a large audience. This, she said, is her dream come true. Cowell skeptically bid her on with it.

Then, she sang, and the Western World went ga-ga. We fell in love with Susan Boyle. She has her own Facebook group, and you can now buy I (heart) Susan Boyle T-shirts. This songbird in buzzard's clothing has reminded us all — in a concrete, in-your-face way — that God does not discriminate when he assigns gifts, and that we should not judge others on appearances alone.

It gives me the chills (in a good way) just thinking about it.

Now, the Ohio Valley's own Connie Culp is making headlines with a similarly inspiring story. The first face transplant recipient in the United States, Culp hails from Unionport, a small Jefferson county town between Steubenville and Cadiz.

Connie, who is 46, showed her face to the world yesterday for the first time since her husband blew it off with a shotgun five years ago in a Hopedale bar before turning the gun on himself in an apparent murder-suicide attempt. Thomas Culp is serving a seven-year prison sentence.

I cannot fathom the hell Connie must have endured prior to the shooting, assuming her husband was abusive prior to that fateful day in 2004. Nor can I comprehend what she has suffered since ... a freakish disfigurement, 30 operations, including a 22-hour one in which surgeons re-built 80 percent of her face using someone else's.

What I do understand after seeing Connie at the Cleveland Clinic press conference yesterday is that she has a message of hope for women everywhere, and I hope it spreads.

Connie was a nice looking woman before. After the shooting, she was so disfigured that a child in a grocery store once called her a monster.

With the face transplant, she now has two eyes to see, a nose to smell, lips, tongue and teeth to taste and eat. Yes, her face is stiff, and her speech muffled. She has some extra skin hanging from her chin. She still might attract stares from strangers.

But my hope is these people will be pointing her out and saying, "That's that amazing woman who had the face transplant!"

Why "amazing"? Of course, I don't know her personally. But I am inspired by her because she is a survivor. First, she survived domestic abuse. Second, she survived the disfigurement ordeal. She has mustered the strength to stay the course despite some tsunami-like weather. In my opinion, she should be as popular as Susan Boyle, and sharing the same message worldwide that appearances are not everything.

In an Associated Press article, Culp said she indeed wants to help foster acceptance of those who have suffered burns and other disfiguring injuries. "When somebody has a disfigurement and don't look as pretty as you do, don't judge them, because you never know what happened to them," she said. "Don't judge people who don't look the same as you do. Because you never know. One day it might be all taken away."

I say Connie has a reason to rejoice, because although she will never look the same, her life has been given back to her!

Rejoice, readers, because no matter what you look like, it's what's inside that counts. Be kind. Be generous. Be faithful. Love each other. Use your talents to serve others. When you do these things, you are beautiful in the eyes of not only those around you, but of the One who made you.


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Blog Photos

In this Thursday April 16, 2009 AP file photo, Susan Boyle, whose performance on the television show "Britain's Got Talent" wowed the judges, poses singing with a hairbrush at her home in Blackburn, Scotland.