Susan Boyle looks back on a magical 11 years since she shot to fame on Britain’s Got Talent

''Nothing can prepare anyone for what happened.''
Loading the player...

It will be a special but strange moment for Susan Boyle when she walks out on stage at Glasgow’s Armadillo auditorium in March as part of her UK tour.

The last time she was on that stage was almost 11 years ago, when she was auditioning for Britain’s Got Talent.

Little did the budding Scottish songstress know that her life was about to change forever. Nobody could have predicted that the clip of her spine-tingling rendition of I Dreamed a Dream would go viral and bring her instant worldwide fame.

“It will seem very surreal to be on that stage, the place where it all began,” says Susan (58).

Susan came second in the third season of Britain’s Got Talent.

She recalls being very nervous when it came time to get up in front of the judging panel, which included the show’s infamously harsh creator Simon Cowell.

“I didn’t know what to expect, but I went on for a good time and a good giggle, and the good giggle has turned into something very nice, so there you go.”

Her life since that day in April 2009 has been “unbelievable, a giant rollercoaster”, Susan says.

There have been incredible highs, such as recording eight bestselling albums, performing for two different popes, and meeting some of her musical idols. She has made a lot of money – she’s estimated to be worth $45 million – and travelled the world.

But there have also been low points, including struggling to handle the intense interest in her, having a public meltdown at an airport, and falling out with family members.

But today Susan, who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s, says she has learned to cope with her extraordinary lifestyle.

“Nothing can prepare anyone for what happened. One minute you’re sitting on your couch watching the show and wishing you could do it, and the next moment you’re on that stage.

It felt like I was in the epicentre of a huge whirlpool at first, but you reach a stage where you can handle it. Everything is no longer so frightening.”

There were times, however, when she wondered what she’d got herself into.

“Suddenly everything you do is watched and picked apart. It felt quite suffocating, almost as though I was an act in a freak show, and that hurt. It was incredibly difficult to come to terms with for a time, but the positives have far outweighed the negatives.

“I’ve travelled around the world to places I never dreamed possible in my lifetime, I’ve met childhood idols, performed with talented artists, and it just keeps getting better and better. I can honestly say I am enjoying myself now. I don’t worry that it could all end tomorrow, I just enjoy the moments.”

She believes that her success came at the right time, and doesn’t wish it had happened earlier. “I do wish that my mum and dad had been here to see it all,” she adds.

“I think they would have been very proud and very happy.

“But I have always said it happened at the time it was meant to. I wouldn’t have been ready if I was younger.”

While being in the public spotlight has had a profound effect on her, becoming wealthy hasn’t changed her at all.

She did buy a “posh house”, but never felt comfortable there, and soon returned to the former council house in the village of Blackburn in which she had lived all her life.

Her habit of always being careful with money has stuck, despite the millions in the bank.

“Life before Britain’s Got Talent was incredibly hard,” recalls Susan.

“I’d been the sole carer for my elderly mother, money was incredibly tight, and I struggled to pay the bills and buy food. It was a pretty miserable experience. I’m not a big spender because for 47 years I didn’t have any money, so I like to save it for a rainy day.”

Susan bought a “posh house”, but ended up moving back to the council flat of her childhood.

In the meantime, the sun keeps shining on her brilliant career.

Last year she released her album Ten and starred in America’s Got Talent: The Champions (she got fast-tracked to the final but was eliminated).

She had to pull out of Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions because of scheduling conflicts.

She has no plans to slow down anytime soon, she says.

“I intend to keep going at a steady pace, to continue making albums and making people happy,” she says.

“I’d like to carry on to my mid-sixties, so that’s a wee while away, another six or seven years.”

And her short-term ambitions?

“I’d like to learn to ride a bike. I’ve bought a bike and I’ve been practising on an exercise bike while I’m watching television.”

As for the present: “I am happy and loving every minute of life – bring on the rest.”

Related stories

Get NZ Woman’s Weekly home delivered!  

Subscribe and save up to 29% on a magazine subscription.