Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Janet's X Factor makeover? It's not a head start

County Tyrone singer and X Factor contestant Janet Devlin

What has The X Factor done to Janet Devlin? Week one of the live shows and the 16-year-old has already fallen victim to a ghastly makeover.

Gone are the naturally blonde, cascading tresses that so reflected the 16-year-old's ethereal beauty, truly unique singing voice and enchanting other-worldliness.

In their place bright red locks that, at best, look like a ham-fisted attempt at turning her into some sort of stage Oirish colleen and, at worst, a cross between Rebekah Wade, the Duchess of York circa 1986 and Nicola Roberts.

Janet has gamely tried to make the best of it, saying that she is delighted with the new look and has always wanted copper hair. Yeah, well, we've all sat in the hairdresser's chair, insisting that - gulp - no, we really like it, honest, weirdly anxious to make our torturer feel better even as we frantically count up the number of days we can spend in hiding.

Let's be honest, at this stage in the game Janet can hardly come out and rail against the X Factor style gurus who have, of course, an unfortunate track record when it comes to makeovers. No, she's got to work with these people.

But what were they thinking? Some local style gurus have applauded the look but I suspect that must be more about not being seen to talk Janet down, than truly believing the hair dye is a good idea.

As I've said before - and as Janet's stunning performance on Saturday night only confirmed - this teenager really does have 'star' written all over her.

But what millions have already fallen in love with is the magic of a young girl who has it all - amazing voice, beauty - and yet genuinely has no idea how wonderful she is.

The fact that she has been 'discovered' in Gortin, a quiet village hundreds of miles from the metropolis, quietly writing her own songs and practising her singing, is surely what the X Factor is meant to be all about. That once-in-a-lifetime chance for someone with raw talent but no contacts.

With predictable rancour, some online critics have sniped that Janet's modesty and nervousness are bogus, an artifice aimed at winning more fans.

But that's obviously bunkum: what young girl from a little village in Northern Ireland isn't going to be overawed by the circumstances she now finds herself in, whether that's singing for Kelly Rowland in Miami or finding her feet in the X Factor house or singing live on the most watched show on TV?

When Janet talks about her home village it is with a gentle affection; it's a place where very little happens, just like hundreds of others across the UK and Ireland. But it's home.

The X Factor has a schizophrenic attitude to the sticks. It loves the idea of roses blooming among barren slagheap hills, but also loves to poke fun at hicks who aren't as slick as city folk like them.

But for all the X Factor's determination to portray it as an oddball spot where even the sheep are trying to escape, still there's nothing wrong with being an Okie from Muskogee 'a place where even squares can have a ball'.

Though that is not to say that Janet isn't coping with it, for another part of her charm - or her "journey" to use X Factor parlance - is her determination to succeed. Up until that job lot of hair dye, everything about Janet has been the real deal. But there are odd signs appearing elsewhere.

It was noticeable on the results show at the weekend that the other successful acts didn't rush to embrace her when she joined them.

Only a couple rose to greet her. Let's hope the nasty remarks made by Kitty Brucknell - that Janet was such a shoo-in to win the show, that there was no point the others even competing - weren't actually typical of the whole bunch.

And let's hope that X Factor isn't up to its traditional mischief - setting someone up as the runaway favourite only to knock her down.

We may be hillbillies in Ulster, but we are watching y'all very closely.

Y'hear?

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