Who is Susan Boyle?

If you’ve turned on the TV in the last week, you’ve likely seen her — a plain looking older Scottish woman with a microphone in her hands and a crowd of people on their feet. She’s Susan Boyle, a singing sensation from the small village of Blackburn, Scotland, and she’s burst onto the scene after an audition on the British TV program “Britain’s Got Talent”.

Her story is as riveting as her performance was on both the British television show and her recent appearance on CBS’ Early Show. Deprived of oxygen at birth, Ms. Boyle endured a childhood of teasing — she had learning disabilities and an admittedly “unglamourous” appearance.

2009 Britains Got Talent Singer Susan Boyle

Boyle tells of being teased well into adulthood for speech and motor difficulties related to her difficult birth. Let’s be fair, Susan Boyle is more than just plain — her face is a bit scrunched up, and her eyes rarely widen past slit level. Still, when she opens her mouth, there’s no denying her courage, her ability, and her gift. Ms. Boyle says she lived with her mother her entire life, until her mother recently passed away, and used her mother’s death as inspiration to audition for Britain’s Got Talent, no matter what the skeptics said. Her performance?

As soon as Boyle hit the stage, there was an audible laugh from the huge crowd, and the three British judges (including American Idol’s notoriously sour Simon Cowell) made pained faces. Perhaps expecting a repeat of the now infamous William Hung performance (you remember — the “She Bangs” guy? the one who couldn’t sing but somehow found his 15 minutes of fame after appearing on Idol?) the judges braced themselves for what they expected to be an awful performance.


The show’s setup didn’t do her any favors. Susan, dressed plainly, informs the show’s pre-audition interviewer that she is “nearly 48, unemployed but still looking.” She goes on to mention that she lives with her cat, named Pebbles, and has “never been kissed”. Any skepticism on the part of the viewing audience at home would soon be wiped away, and Ms. Boyle boldly states before taking the stage: “I’m going to make that audience rock.”

Back to the stage. Cowell puts his trademark sneer on his face and asks her old she is. Susan responds “I’m 47″ and does a little hip grind before adding ” . . . and that’s just one side of me.” Cowell and the other judges look at each other with pessimism as the audience roars with laughter. To make things worse, when the judges find out she’s going to perform the song “I Dreamed a Dream” from the musical Les Miserables, they shift uncomfortably in their seats. This song is quite difficult, and would be easy for an amateur to butcher. Expectations couldn’t be lower.

By the eight word of her song, the mood in the theatre shifts dramatically. Ms. Boyle has a beautiful voice, bold and stunning, clear and pretty. The cameras show Simon Cowell’s reaction first — he actually smiles, raising his eyes and shifting forward to pay attention. Amanda Holden, Cowell’s fellow judge and British television star, nearly bursts into tears, her face a picture of surprise and happiness. Piers Morgan, the final judge on Britain’s Got Talent and best known to American audiences as the English judge on America’s Got Talent, is shown laughing, looking around at the audience and clapping — the woman hasn’t even gotten to the second line of her song, and it clear to everyone what her fate will be. At the end of her audition, two of the judges (Holden and Morgan) are near tears, and Cowell can’t hide his shock. The crowd, still on its feet, cheer wildly much to the delight of Susan Boyle. The judges all agree — yes, she will move on to the next round.

Susan Boyle is not just the latest British singing sensation — rumor is she’s already signed a contract with Simon Cowell’s company, Sony BMG — she is a true inspiration to people around the world. A Google search of her name reveals over 2 million results — her fan base on the web is huge, with people on message boards saying things like “Elaine Page’s voice is tinny compared to Boyle’s” and “I’ve listened to her version of the song [I Dreamed a Dream] 200 times in the last couple days”. It seems that this plain unknown Scottish woman has shot an arrow into the heart of a web community that is typically very judgemental and suspicious of “new talent”.

Susan Boyle made her first appearance “to American audiences” recently on CBS’ Early Show, performing an acapella version of the tune she sang for her Britain’s Got Talent audition. As an added surprise, the hosts of the Early Show brought in Patti LuPone, the Broadway star who originated the peformance of Ms. Boyle’s audition tune, to give Boyle advice and encouragement. LuPone had plenty to say, praising Boyle for her “pluck” in choosing one of the more difficult Broadway showtunes as her audition piece. LuPone pointe dout that the song is very difficult technically, especially the dynamic ending, which Boyle nailed in her audition. After all the positive energy from Patti LuPone, one of the co hosts of the Early Show asked Ms. Boyle how she felt — her response? A humble “That’ll do”.

Having overcome learning disabilities and problems from birth defects, Ms. Boyle is poised to finally realize her own dream, while encouraging other people who may have similar problems to realize theirs. Without saying a word about her disabilities on camera, she has become an inspiration to those suffering with similar defects.

Susan Boyle says she’s wanted to be a professional singer since the age of 12 but was never given the chance. Susan Boyle’s performance was unexpected, and videos of her singing have become downright viral — one video on Youtube got well over 11 million hits in just four days. There is no doubt that Ms. Boyle’s successful audition on Britain’s Got Talent was a proper tribute to the memory of her mother.