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Living with Critics

Pop idol winner Boris Titulaer found himself on the wrong side of the media. Petra Tool, a gifted portrait artist, turns her intense gaze on the dilemmas of success.

There’s nothing more sensuous for me than a male vocal artist giving his all on stage.

When Boris is pouring his heart out in a soulful ballad, pulling his head slightly backwards, squeezing his eyes shut and frowning, I want to halt time. (See full sized image below).

Boris became instantly famous in Holland for winning Dutch Idols in 2004.

One Hit Wonder?

His first single was a number one hit; unfortunately, it wasn’t a ticket to lasting success.

He was, like most Dutch Idols winners, labeled as a commercial one-hit wonder and wasn’t taken seriously by eminent venues.

And his recently acquired teenage fans didn’t always appreciate his original funky and soulful songs.

To make matters worse, though his voice was never criticized, his confident attitude and willpower were.

He was being portrayed as arrogant and pigheaded.

What does it feel like, being the center of so much negativity?

I had a chance to ask Boris, when I met him outside on a cold winter’s day, just before a concert.

We settled down at a sunny spot on a staircase and talked about his rocky career.
He said, “I can get really sad when people are saying things about me that are not true or are twisted. I’ve even been called names, just walking down the street! When you are on TV, you attract all kinds of people. Every artist has lovers and haters.”

“When I get tired of all those opinions about me, I close my eyes, wishing I were back in Spain, at the beginning of my career. When I was singing barefoot in the streets, I didn’t have all these hassles. I was a lot more confident.”

Prepare for Criticism

As you become more widely known, prepare yourself to not only be praised, but also be criticized more frequently.

People will make negative comments on your art, your choices, your appearance and your character.

It’s the flip side of the coin of success. It challenges you to keep believing in yourself, no matter what mistakes you make, flaws you have and criticism you receive.

Give yourself credit for doing this uphill job –your critics are the ones doing the easy work!

There’s no better way of putting it, than Roosevelt did:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or could do better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust, sweat and blood. The man who knows great enthusiasms and devotions, who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, fails while daring greatly.”

Boris to me is that man in the arena, and I’m pleased to see him having triumphs the last couple of years: winning a jazz award, performing at the most respected stages, singing duets with Angie Stone and John Legend, organizing a hugely successful tribute to his idol Michael Jackson…

Will Boris ever be back high up in the charts again?

Critics think he won’t.

But I am counting on him to keep proving his critics wrong.

Petra Tool is a Dutch artist and creativity coach. A gifted portrait artist, she explores the personalities of gifted performers, interviewing them about their talent, passions, the problems they face, their insecurities and secrets of their success. You can find more information on her website: www.petratool.nl/english. Painting: Aching – 50×80 cm – watercolour – Petra Tool Again – 50×90 cm – watercolour – Petra Tool

Useful Sites

The Road to Your Vocalist Dreams

The Art of Petra Tool

Boris on YouTube

  • Chris

    Very well written, Petra!
    Thank you so much for writing this. Contest winners are basically “asking for it” in my opinion… meaning that the luke-warm reviews will come as soon as the initial excitement has settled. And that… can be pretty soon.
    I think even the people who choose to be judges at contests like that (if they are artists) get their fair share of slander.
    It IS hard to make the second “hit” and try to invoke your real personality at the same time, because people expect the same song and the same person that won the contest.
    The label is hard to wash off as soon as enough people have seen and heard you.
    Keep fighting, Boris!

    Chris Tidestrom

  • Thanks, Chris.

    As for Boris: he’s continuing to “do his thing”. He’s recording a new album and is now performing with the Royal Concertgebouw Jazz Orchestra and dr. Lonnie Smith!