More often than not, women who reach the apex of pop-music fame take on a persona that's either tough or sexy.
Over the decades there have been black-widow types, like Pat Benatar, rough enough to eat your soul. And then there are supple crooners, like Jewel, more than willing to blend a little cleavage into their chorus.
Ingrid Michaelson doesn't fit either mold. She's no riot grrrl. And she's no glamour puss. Michaelson is just a Plain Jane who still lives with her parents on Staten Island and until last year taught theater to kids in her neighborhood after school.
Now she's known as the voice behind "The Way I Am," a catchy two-minute single celebrating love that accepts the good, the bad and the ugly.
Her lack of pretense is challenging fans to accept Ingrid Michaelson the way she is. At 29, her preferred beauty aids are eyeglasses and lip gloss. Her fashion sensibility is straight out of Target. Her natural smile is blissfully ignorant of cosmetic dentistry.
And that's a beautiful thing, because Michaelson deserves to be famous for something that's not skin deep. She's gifted with a fantastic ability to sing.
Singing is a neglected art in pop music, and Michaelson reminds us what an amazing instrument the voice can be. Her 2007 release, Girls and Boys, succeeds because the production is smart enough to keep Michaelson's singing front and center. Much of "The Way I Am," for example, is embellished with only a mellow bongo and a restrained bass.
Michaelson's path to commercial success came by way of TV. Her music has been featured on Grey's Anatomy. "The Way I Am" was the soundtrack of an Old Navy ad before it became a staple of FM radio.
The decline of the recording industry is propelling average people into the musical limelight. There are fewer Madonnas, and in the future there will likely be more Ingrid Michaelsons.