A Singer Called Her Home Country Guyana ‘Poor’ on American TV. Should the Guyanese People Be Upset?

Screenshot of Lisa Punch performing on the ABC show "Rising Star" via YouTube.

Screenshot of Lisa Punch performing on the ABC show “Rising Star” via YouTube.

Singer Lisa Punch‘s success on the ABC show “Rising Star” has not gone unnoticed in her native Guyana. Punch, who recently migrated to the United States with her family, qualified for the second round of the competition after viewers voted for her rendition of Whitney Houston's “How Will I Know” during the premiere episode.

Punch recorded several songs back in Guyana before leaving, and Guyanese have cheered her on from afar. But after she called Guyana “poor” during an interview with the show's judges, some Guyanese have also criticized her on social media for not presenting the country's best face to the world. 

The singer told the judges, “Guyana is a very beautiful country, and it’s also a poor country. The reason we moved to America is because our grandmother wanted a better life for us.”

Guyana, which sits on the northern coast of South America, is indeed home to a beautiful landscape, including tropical rainforests and spectacular waterfalls. The small country struggles with poverty, however, and many of its skilled workers leave to find employment elsewhere.

In light of the flak, others came out in Punch's defense. Andrew Kendall analyzed the burden being placed on Punch by her countrymen and women in the online publication “Insight”: 

As Guyana loses its talented youths to greener pastures because of less than ideal planting ground for some aspects of the arts, are those artists bound to take Guyana’s hopes of being a tourist destination into mind and represent it in a way – sometimes with prevarication – that makes it seem an idyllic paradise? Or as artists do we allow them to share their truth despite how far from the ideal it may be?

Lisa Punch has always been praised for her sincerity and authenticity and one wonders how sincere it would have been for her to pretend her journey to Rising Star had been one without incident. Would we have even liked her more then? As an artist, she can do little else but carve a space for herself in the world by telling her own, personal story.

Videoblogger Anndis Fraser said that Lisa Punch was just being true to reality:


Writer and cultural activist Ruel Johnson praised Punch for persevering through difficult circumstances. “What got her to where she is today is sheer hard work, incredible individual talent, unstinting support from her mother and friends, and belief in her own ability to make it,” he wrote. “Instead of decrying her on the basis of some bullshit, delusional positive patriotism, we should be thanking her for acknowledging us at all when this place as a community of people and laws did nothing special for her.”

On Facebook, engineer Clayton Ashford Davenport Lambert saw nothing wrong with what Punch said. “Guyana is a damm [sic] poor country. We may be rich in resources but because of poor governance we live in poverty and a lot of Guyanese leave for betterment,” he wrote.

Support for Punch and excitement about her appearance on the TV competition was strong on Twitter:

Guyanese artist in Brooklyn Abdullaw felt Punch was just stating the obvious:

Guyanese singer Jackie Hanover pointed out a great irony of some of Punch's critics:

In the end, it seems Punch has more fans than detractors — even President of Guyana Donald Ramoutar wrote on Facebook that Guyana is proud of her. However, some will still likely place “the burden of representation” on her as she advances in the competition. The next episode of “Rising Stars” will be on broadcast on ABC on Sunday, July 6 at 9:00 ET. 


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