Yes, Destiny: you are beautiful. It’s the rest of us who are ugly

Destiny, you are beautiful. And that’s not an opinion of mine; it is a self-evident FACT. The rest of us out here, though? We’re the ugly ones. And we just don’t deserve you at all…

Maltese Eurovision Queen: Destiny Chukunyere
Maltese Eurovision Queen: Destiny Chukunyere

But before turning to the topic at hand… please bear with me while I indulge you with a small memory from my childhood.

The year was 1977… actually, I can even tell you the precise date. It must have been Tuesday, August 16, 1977. Early evening. I was six years old, sitting in the back of my father’s car – a ‘peacock-blue’ Triumph Herald (to this day, I can still almost smell the leather upholstery) and we had just pulled into a petrol station to fill her up. 

I still remember, with perfect clarity, the man operating the pumps. Huge walrus sideburns. More gold medallions on his chest than ‘Mr T’. Forearms literally crawling with colourful tattoos…

Anyway, you know the type I mean. But the reason I remember him so clearly is that… this man – who looked every inch the epitome of 1970s ‘macho toughness’ – was blubbering away like a baby. And I mean, really like a baby: a flood of tears was streaming down his face; and he was sobbing so convulsively, he could barely even insert the nozzle into the car…

That was my first sight (but certainly not the last) of a grown man in tears. And trust me: it’s not something you forget in a hurry, at that age.

Disconcerted, my father asked him what the matter was. He stared back at us through puffy, misty, bloodshot eyes, with an expression of almost horrified bewilderment. And what he said next will remain imprinted on my memory cells… forever.

‘Possibli għadek ma’ smajtx? Miet il-King!’ (Is it possible you haven’t heard yet? The King is dead!’)

Yes indeed, folks. Elvis Presley had just left the building, for the last time. His lifeless body had just been discovered at his Graceland estate (in circumstances that I don’t care much to dwell upon); and while the precise cause of death would remain shrouded in mystery for years afterwards… it is now generally accepted that he suffered a heart attack, caused by a lethal concoction of (mostly prescription) drugs. He was 42 years old.

It is also understood that he was suffering from a clinical depression… caused, in no small part, by concerns about his weight.

Naturally, however, none of this meant anything at all to me, back then. At six years of age I had no idea who Elvis Presley even was… still less could I possibly have understood what that name must have meant, to an entire generation that had grown up in awe of the immensity of his voice, and his unearthly stage-presence.

And yet: though I will never fully comprehend the sense of grief and loss that so clearly gripped Mr Tough Guy, on that hot summer evening, all those years ago… even I, to this day, feel the tiniest of lumps forming in my throat, to think that a man of Elvis Presley’s undeniable talent and artistic calibre should have ended his short life in such… abject… misery.

And he wasn’t exactly the only one, was he? Nor even the best example, by a long shot. For let’s face it: the entire history of show-business is literally strewn with the corpses of young, talented artists, who met woefully untimely deaths in their relentless pursuit of an unfair, unrealistic, and utterly unattainable body-aesthetic ideal. 

Judy Garland, for instance. Quite possibly the single greatest female voice of her generation – and if you don’t believe me, watch the original ‘A Star is Born’… and WEEP – dead at the age of just 46, after a lifetime of industry-imposed addiction to diet pills. Or the inimitable Cass Elliot, of the Mamas and the Papas: whose cause of death, in 1974, was initially reported as… ‘choking on a sandwich’.

Of course, it wasn’t true at all. But why would that rumour, in particular, have circulated so gleefully at the news of Mama Cass’s untimely passing? Why not, say, a heart attack, a blood-clot, or an undiagnosed form of cancer?

No, it had to be ‘choking on a sandwich’, because… well, just take one look at any old picture of her, and you’ll get your answer immediately. That image fit in perfectly with the stereotype that the media had so cruelly perpetuated about the 300-pound singer, in both life and death.

Yes, of course she would have died just as she was believed to have lived: ‘stuffing her face’. It’s what we all believe about fat people, isn’t it? Their death always has to be a ‘cautionary tale’, about the grim consequences of failure to ever meet society’s arbitrary (and dysmorphic) standards of ‘beauty’…

Honestly, these things make me so angry I could smash my keyboard into a million pieces right now. (But I’ve done it before, and it only leaves me unable to finish articles, so… deep breaths, deep breaths…)

But it all pales to insignificance, compared to what we’ve all just witnessed here in Malta this week. Not content with having hounded the likes of Elvis Presley, Judy Garland, Karen Carpenter and so many others to an early grave… society is now whetting its knives for yet another celebrity massacre.

Only this time, it’s our society… and our celebrity. Destiny Chukunyere. Arguably, the most amazing raw vocal talent this country has ever produced (not counting opera, of course)… currently wowing music critics and professional voice coaches all the world… earning herself comparisons to Aretha Franklin, no less… and what does she get pilloried for here, by a rabid, frothing-at-the-mouth social media lynch-mob?

Why, her choice of clothes, naturally. Destiny, you see, just doesn’t look ‘pretty enough in pink’, for the superior aesthetic tastes of all those ‘beautiful people’ who populate Facebook, and online comments boards. You know: the army of self-styled ‘haut couture’ connoisseurs, who know everyone there is to be known, about how everyone else (apart from themselves, of course) should ever dress, or look like…

I mean… honestly, though. What the heck is flipping wrong with you people, anyway? Is that all you can bloody comment upon? What about her charisma, her smile, the way she effortlessly wins over even the most hostile of audiences, or demanding of talent-show judges – like Britain’s Got Talent, for instance. Or the X-Factor, where – in case you missed it – she simply blew all competition clean out of the water (without, it must be said, even trying that hard)?

And what about her voice, for crying out loud? Does it not even occur to any of you, that what we’re hearing from Destiny is something truly special… the sort of talent that crops up only once in a dozen generations, and that some of us out here – myself included, if you must know – would willingly amputate a limb, just to have even a fraction of it ourselves…?

Has nobody got anything at all to say, about any of that? No, of course not. Instead, we all take turns to publicly humiliate her, on the grounds that she is (and I quote): ‘Fat’. ‘Ħoxna’. Imlaħħma’. ‘Morbidly Obese’…

Ooh, my keyboard came so close to destruction there… might have to invest in a spare, just in case…

But the worst part of it all, is that… the effects are already being felt. Already, there are indications that this remarkable talent – that, let’s face it, we are so very lucky to even have here at all, all things considered – is being conditioned into precisely the same form of slow, cruel torture that has already snuffed out the lives of so many other artists in the past.

Consider her reaction to all that criticism, for instance. “I feel confident in it, and that’s what matters… I feel confident; I look beautiful! I’m very happy with my look; I chose it because I feel confident in it. I can move, I can shake and shimmy…”

Damn, here comes that lump in my throat again. That’s Destiny Chukunyere talking there. That’s Destiny herself, telling us all that she’s beautiful… like we needed to be goddamn told that. Like it isn’t already bleedingly obvious, to anyone with eyes to see, and ears to hear…

And yes; I am fully aware that she probably intended that remark only as an act of defiance; an embodiment of precisely the same ‘female empowerment’ motif that, after all, underpins her entire Eurovision act…

But my ears are far more attuned to the nuances of words, than they are to music (that’s what happens, when you write regular articles for 20 years). And what I hear, lurking deep beneath that superficial veneer of feistiness, is something else. Something quite different.

What I hear, in those words, is Destiny ‘pleading for acceptance’. Pleading to just be accepted for what she is; for what she wants to be; for what she feels comfortable doing, and wearing…

And acceptance by whom, exactly? By other artists? By other talents? By anyone even remotely qualified enough to actually judge her, on what matters most?

My ass. She is pleading for acceptance by a troglodyte army of talentless, bigoted, sadistic and utterly uncultured ASSHOLES, who will never – not in a million years – amount to even so much as a single pink frill on Destiny Chukunyere’s dress… that’s who.

So yes, Destiny. Not that I need to confirm it, of course, but… yes, you are beautiful. And that’s not an opinion of mine; it is a self-evident FACT.

The rest of us out here, though? We’re the ugly ones. And we just don’t deserve you at all…