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Susan Boyle

  b. 1961 | Scottish singer

At The Bottom

Now she was alone in the world for the first time in her life.

When Susan Boyle’s mother died at the age of 91, the 46-year-old woman from Blackburn, Scotland, fell into a deep depression and secluded herself in her home for days at a time.  She had been caring for her mother since her father passed away in the early 1990s, and now she was alone in the world for the first time in her life.  Her eight siblings had all moved away, and the eccentric Boyle was now supposed to fend for herself despite having a minimal education, almost no work experience, and a personality that could best be described as kind but odd.  Singled out as a child for being “slow” — she did in fact suffer from learning disabilities and never performed well in school — Boyle had been called “Susie Simple,” a nickname that followed her into her adult life.  She did not have many friends, but she did attend church and sang in the choir, something her mother had introduced her to when she was a girl.  Boyle’s mother had indeed been her greatest musical fan and believed her daughter had an exceptional voice.  Now, however, with her mother’s passing, Boyle didn’t have the same enthusiasm as before.  For the next two years, she barely sang a note.

At The Top

Looks of amusement turned to stunned amazement...

By the time Susan Boyle had finished singing “I Dreamed a Dream” — one of the best-known songs from Les Miserables — the studio audience for the television show Britain’s Got Talent had erupted into a prolonged, deafening roar.  The show, which features ordinary Britons performing for a live audience and a panel of judges, usually included a performance or two that was so horrid as to be unwatchable; the audience that evening clearly had expected Boyle to be one of those performers.  When she stepped out onto the stage, the awkward, plain-looking woman elicited chuckles and rolling eyes as she explained that she hoped to be the next Elaine Page, referring to one of England’s best-known musical actresses.  When the music began and Boyle started to sing, looks of amusement turned to stunned amazement as she delivered a nearly perfect performance that left at least one of the judges wiping tears from her eyes.  Boyle’s remarkable performance was broadcast throughout the world on television, and video clips were viewed  millions of times on sites like YouTube.  A little more than six months later, Boyle’s first studio album came out and became the world’s biggest selling album of 2009, even though it was released the last week of November.

The Comeback

You just have to keep going and take one step at a time and one day you will make it.

Boyle’s mother had always encouraged her to audition for a program like Britain’s Got Talent, but Boyle had a hard time imagining herself in a televised talent show.  Almost two years after her mother’s death, Boyle was still grieving, but the idea of making her mother proud gave her the incentive she needed to audition.  “I realized I wanted to make my mum proud of me,” she explained, “and the only way to do that was to take the risk and enter the show.” In the weeks prior to the audition, Boyle practiced in her bedroom — the same one she’d grown up in — by holding a hairbrush in front of the mirror.  After several weeks of practice, the day of her performance arrived.  She knew she didn’t look like an aspiring star, but that didn’t matter to Boyle.  “I expected people to be a wee bit cynical,” she says. “But I decided to win them round. That is what you do. They didn’t know what to expect. Before Britain’s Got Talent, I had never had a proper chance. It’s as simple as that. You just have to keep going and take one step at a time and one day you will make it. You just don’t give up.”

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