Wonderful surprises, even on reality TV

We saw Ratatouille again last weekend at the little $3 movie theater in our neighborhood. It was just as charming the second time around and all the food details just as dazzling. And Marion and I were both struck just as much by its core message: Anyone can aspire to greatness. Greatness can come from anywhere. A powerful message about expectations, of ourselves and of others.

That message was driven home again this week when my coworker Matt introduced me to Paul Potts. Well, introduced is one way to put it—another way to put it is Matt barged into my office and insisted I look at a YouTube video. I’ve done the same to him, so I’m not complaining. Especially not after watching Mr. Potts.

Paul Potts is a thirysomething mobile phone salesman from Cardiff, Wales. He’s a shy, unassuming man, a bit on the pudgy side with bad teeth, even by English standards. So imagine the surprise [with more than a slight undercurrent of dismay, I’m guessing] when he told the judges on Britain’s Got Talent that he planned to sing opera.

I don’t watch reality TV, but I understand how much of it works—it’s hard to escape when it passes for news on morning news programs. I’m sure the judges and the audience expected this to be one of those comic relief moments that they all secretly crave: The earnest salesman in a bad suit falls flat on his face.

Instead, this happened. This first video was Potts’ first appearance on the program. Watch the judges and the audience reaction shots. And watch the contestant’s own reaction later backstage—so touching. Whatever your thoughts on opera, watch this. It will make you feel very good.

After that wonderful moment, I had to see more. And YouTube was only too happy to comply, with more than two dozen videos. Next is his final appearance on Britain’s Got Talent. The judges are effusive in their praise, even the famously snarky Simon Cowell. And Paul Potts deserves every bit of it. He has since appeared on the Today Show in New York and is making his first recording back in Britain.

Anyone can aspire to greatness. And greatness can indeed come from anywhere. Thank you for reminding us, Mr. Potts.

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4 Responses to “Wonderful surprises, even on reality TV”

  1. grandma Says:

    Paul’s record has been out for over a month now (end of July) in the UK.
    It went platinum in the UK, Australia and several other places

    The American version went on sale yesterday. But Americans are for the large part ignorant of this guy. However he’ll be in Manhattan at noon today, and on a Regis show and Oprah. (opera on Oprah!)

    If you look at the comments on the Youtube site, you’ll find incredible numbers viewed the video, and the comments are by people who have followed since June when this video was first up.

    After all this time, Paul still causes what was coined goosebumples (combo of goose bumps and goose pimples).

  2. Terry B Says:

    “Opera on Oprah”—how funny! Thank you for this fabulous update. Obviously I didn’t check the dates of the YouTube videos. It is absolutely wonderful to hear what success he’s enjoying.

  3. Kirsten Says:

    Oh my!!!!!!!!!!! Somewhere in my travels to NYC and Vegas I (in likely a drunken haze) someone told me this story and I was dying to check it out. THANK YOU for finding it for me. AMAZING!!!

  4. Terry B Says:

    Amazing is a perfect word for it, Kirsten. One thing I’ve thought about since discovering Mr. Potts is the fact that, thanks to him, there are millions of people who might not otherwise even think about opera actually buying it and listening to it.

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