YouTube as Ambassador: How a blond from Boston wowed the Arab World

If there were any question about whether or not YouTube and social media were helping bridge divisions between cultures, I’d say the verdict is in. Jennifer Grout, a rather white woman from one of the whitest and most WASPish corners of America, came within the width of a blond hair to winning Arabs Got Talent, losing out only at the last minute to a Syrian dance troop.

The other performers in the finalists all performed songs and dances with Western influences, but Jennifer happens to love traditional Arabic songs, so that’s what she sang. Many Arabs criticized the contest for allowing Jennifer to perform at all. But a far larger audience, people from throughout the Arab world, praised her for crossing cultural lines and celebrating Arab traditions, demonstrating again the universality of music and the power of today’s media.

It was only a few years ago in the span of human civilization when the only gesture one country could make towards another was through some stiff diplomat (no offense, John Kerry). Now the gestures can be made with the lilting melody of an Arabic love song, sung by a Bostonian, and experienced by everyone, everywhere.