The remarkable Susan Boyle: vulnerable phenomenon

Susan Boyle: the fair tale begins ...

I, like many people, am a sucker for the underdog. So, when a short, overweight woman with a bad perm and frumpy frock stepped onto a stage in 2009 in front of the somewhat gladiatorial audience of Britain's Got Talent (BGT) I feared for her.

I saw the bored cynicism of the judges sitting on the panel in front of her, heard the sniggers from the audience and watched them turn to one another in scandalised, and what frankly appeared to be bitchy, disbelief. The whole attitude in that youthful auditorium was one of 'how dare such an old woman with so little to offer in the way of looks appear in front of us'.

The woman was Susan Boyle and after gamely trying to hold her own against Simon Cowell with a bit of arch banter, she began to sing ...

Susan Boyle: middle-aged superstar.
Susan Boyle: middle-aged superstar. | Source

When the sniggering stopped ...

When I originally wrote this hub I included a video here of Susan’s emergence onto the world’s stage at a heat of Britain’s Got Talent. I have since had to remove it as the company who made the video has blocked it from being used by the public.

However it is still on YouTube here and I urge you to look at the reception she got when she walked onto the stage … and the difference with how she left the stage after singing. Human nature got a big wake-up call.

You haven't heard of Susan Boyle?

Maybe you haven't heard of Susan or her singing although this is hard to envisage as the media has a somewhat overpowering love affair with her, even to the point of familiarly calling her Subo.

Inexplicably she lost the final of Britain's Got Talent 2009 to a dance troupe called Diversity (ever heard of them? Nope, thought not) but despite this minor setback this was the seminal moment in Susan Boyle's life and her future success was, and is, assured. Or at least for as long as her fragile disposition can cope with the relentless intrusiveness of fame.

A delicate vulnerability.

For there is so much more to Susan Boyle than the determined little spinster that stood upon the stage on that momentous occasion.

Born in 1961 in Scotland, the youngest of nine children she was deprived of oxygen for a brief time at birth, an unfortunate event which has left her with mild learning difficulties. As a result of this she was bullied at school and left with very little in the way of qualifications. Singing was her consolation and her practise mostly took place when she sang for her local Catholic church.

As she grew older she took singing lessons and started to sing at karaoke sessions, even appearing once at the prestigious Edinburgh Festival. But despite singing in many small competitions and laboriously saving up to pay for the recording of her own three track CD, Susan was still ignored by the professional music companies. It would seem that looks were the main requirement, talent not necessarily being needed.

It is interesting now to imagine the chagrin of the recording companies who turned her down simply because they did not see her potential. It is a lesson they may never learn, their shallowness being so deeply ingrained.

Keeping the faith with her talent.

The disadvantages that Susan had to cope with until that defining moment on BGT make it all the more remarkable that she not only succeeded but also that she so steadfastly kept the faith with herself. She followed her dream until she made it, not many of us can say that.

The remorseless price of fame.

Such fame however came at a cost. Always emotionally delicate Susan was admitted to the Priory, the famous private psychiatric clinic, the day following the final of BGT suffering from exhaustion and stress. She stayed for five days until she felt strong enough to face the media and the public once more.

It is BGT judge Simon Cowell's contention that she did not know how to cope with not winning but this analysis seems to be a simplistic reading of the problem. He needs to realise that not only had she given her all to BGT, pinning all her hopes and dreams on that one final shot, but in her innocence it must have seemed to her that she had lost everything she had tried so hard to achieve all her life. How wonderfully wrong she was.

What does the future hold for Susan Boyle?

Because of her unfortunate start in life Susan may always be a vulnerable person, despite her large and fiercely protective family. It still remains to be seen if she can cope with the trade off between fame and personal freedom.

She will always be at the mercy of over-enthusiastic fans who appear to stalk her and who leave her nervous and frightened but her emotional make-up is part of who she is and, most possibly, part of what makes her singing so intensely moving.

She will always be at the mercy of the criticisms of the less talented. For instance the disrespectful verbal attack on her by Ricky Gervais who, as his own 'comedic' star wanes, has taken to desperately sneering at the vulnerable in our society in an attempt to appear funny. Such graceless attacks always say far more about the attacker than the person attacked which fortunately Susan is astute enough to recognise.

But really it's all about the beauty of the voice ...

Susan Boyle's voice needs no fulsome praise from me or anyone else ... it sings for itself. She does not bellow, she does not shriek, she does not run up and down the octaves in a show of virtuosity that the song does not require.

I, for one, greatly respect her for the fact that she was unwilling to just roll over and die as the rest of us plain janes are expected to do. She demanded respect for her voice if not her looks, and she got it.

It cost her emotionally but she did it and now her simple dignity continues to carry her forward. She will never be young or beautiful, she may never be slender but she will always have that voice.

Susan Boyle dreamed her dream ... and continues to do so. She is quite simply ... a phenomenon.

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Comments 39 comments

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

Angie, A nice hub on an interesting woman. The looks on the audiences faces at the beginning of the video are so disdainful and disrespectful and that's even before she's begun to sing. Good luck to her - her detractors can rattle their jaws as much as they like, she's proved herself again and again to be more than a one hit wonder and whilst her type of music is not my cup of tea, I respect her obvious talent and wish her well on her fame, she deserves it.

Voted up.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Thanks for this comment and the vote, Jools ... I'm not usually a lover of this sort of music either but strangely I like it when she sings it. Just can't explain why.

I do hope she can keep it all together, bless her but I have my doubts ...


TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

TIMETRAVELER2 4 years ago

Angie: What a wonderful article! I LOVE Susan Boyle, but was not aware of the many details of her background. To those who mock her for not being ideally beautiful, I can only say this...she IS beautiful...for her character, her grace, her ability to persevere and, of course, her remarkable talent. Thanks so much for this one. Voted up and awesome.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Bless you, TT2 ...

I just love it that Susan has broken the 'looks barrier' and I love it that her success is one in the eye for all the shallow and exploitative people out there.

Many thanks to you too for the vote and the kind words.


TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

TIMETRAVELER2 4 years ago

Angie: You deserve them. Your work is exemplary and always is a joy to read.


ytsenoh profile image

ytsenoh 4 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

Angie, Susan Boyle was very phenomenal. It was very tearful to see her come out on stage, as you write, and then the real sound of music flow from her lungs. Lots of shallow people in the world, Miss Angie. Thanks again for writing this.


truusbuist 4 years ago

Your remarks on Susan's voice are perfect pitch,it does sing for itself, unbelievable strong and warm at the same time.

Thanks for bringing Susan's life,her belief in her own talent, her courage and her voice to the attention in your blog.

Susan has inspired many people all over the world, in that she is also a phenomena..


aussie lassie 4 years ago

Whilst I may agree with some of what you have written, I assume you are aware of, The Susan Boyle Musical-I Dreamed A Dream, which is currently touring regional theatres in the United Kingdom-which has received rave reviews wherever it has so far appeared.

The part of Susan Boyle being portrayed brilliantly by Elaine C. Smith and a wonderful cast.

How many singers are you able to name that have a musical based on their life whilst they are alive and that have the added bonus of Susan appearing in the finale of some of the performances.

Standing ovations for the whole cast and Susan herself-I recommend the Musical to everyone and hopefully some of the prejudices regarding Susan will fade away as Susan continues on her journey as a professional singer.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

@TT2 - aw, shucks!

@ytsenoh - I agree, there was something very moving about this little woman standing there on the stage in the face of obvious censure. She knew it and still she sang her socks off ... admirable!

@truubuist - it really is something else isn't it - Susan's voice? It has a 'young' quality to it. I think it was given to her as compensation for her shaky start in life ... both things are what makes her a one-off.

@aussie lassie - thanks for reminding me about Susan's life story musical. I did know about it and think having Elaine C Smith portray Susan is a master stroke. I'm really not a fan of musicals or shows but for this one I will certainly make an exception. It's a real rags to riches story ...

Thanks to all of you for being so kind as to comment on this hub. As for Susan ... it's obvious that many of us will continue to support such a funny and courageous lady in her career. Good luck, Susan ...


Betty. Skaggs 4 years ago

Susan is every woman. love her grit, talent and true beauty. She is who she is !!! I love her for being just being Susan.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Couldn't agree more, Betty ... I bet she has never realised how many women admire her achievement.

Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment on this piece ...


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 4 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

A lovely warm and uplifting hub, Angie.

I was there on the first showing of BHT (of course I was) and can remember that sneering, patronising face on that young woman. And the black tights and the "and that's not all of me". Of course I can remember it. I have seen that video so many, many times,

But nothing will ever create that frisson I felt when I first heard her sing. I was astounded, and I still am, and when I trawled around and heard her first self promotion of 'Cry Me A River'... wow!!

And thank you for your comments on Gervaise. That man is a waste of space. I don't like his sense of humour, and what's more, eh's a spent commodity.

Thank you!


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Hello dear boy ... thank you.

I really find her so spirited and her story so inspiring ... let's face it we all know people who could be 'up there' with the greats if they only got ... or took ... the breaks. Her story gives me hope ...

Don't get me started on Gervaise ... I have never liked his humour of discomfort ... I may be in the minority but frankly as far as I'm concerned he's a never has-been.

Political correctness may get on our nerves sometimes but it's primary purpose is to protect the vulnerable from crass people like Ricky Gervais.

End of rant.

On another tack I have bought your book and am presently sniggering my way through it ... it really is a creative masterpiece, m'dear ...


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 4 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

Angie, thank you. i really do appreciate that. I know a lot of it is familiar, and let's face it, you and Lettice have trodden that very same path.

I hope you will allow me to use your dear creation Lettice Rogers-Allbody, of course) when I add a few tales from Twilight Lawns.

My next little venture is going to be somewhat iconoclastic, but if the Ewbie can do it and get away without a stoning, or being taken to the stake, then why not I?

Fancy setting a well turned ankle and foot on the bottom step of the tumbril with em?


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 4 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

I meant "me" not "em", but you know what my typographical skills are, don't you?

Once again, thanks for buying the book. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy.

I would love to imagine you going onto that site. The royalties are a bit steep, but it's exposure that means a lot to me, and I know that you like the idea.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

TL - will definitely consider using Smashwords ... and re: the warm and fuzzy ... probably just a fur ball.

Of course you can use Lettice ... after all everyone else has.

Not too sure about the tumbril thingy ... I may well have been there in another life and am not toooo keen on repeating the experience just yet. I think I'll just eat cake and watch the others.

oh and FYI ... the well-turned's are not as well-turned as they once were. x


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 4 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

Lettice says that compared to Betty, she's almost Gloriana the Virgin Queen.

But that's all rumour, because I have a feeling that when Lettice went on that Art Trip to Cornwall, she took rather a shine to Tom Mould.

I seem to remember that Tom had a pet name for Lettice:

"My Little Woolly Jumper".


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Steady, TL ... steady!


thost profile image

thost 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

Great Hub Angie,

Susan Boyle inspired so many people to believe in themselves. I was actually thinking of entering Britain’s Got Talent after I saw her audition, but....... Well done, I will vote this Hub up.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Hi thost ... thank you for those kind words and the vote.

And you're right, Susan does inspire people to believe in themselves, which is a good thing.

Unfortunately such self-belief isn't always limited to those with genuine talent.

So many of those who believe they have talent really don't ... embarrassingly.

I look forward to seeing you on BGT! (As someone with talent, I mean ... lol!)


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 4 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

Ah! BGT. What crimes are committed on your name.

But I must admit that Pudsey, who won with Ashleigh this weekend, can have my vote.

Call me shallow, if you will, but he looks so much like my Semi (see hub)


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Hi TL ... I have to admit I never watch BGT.

Occasionally I see things on the news which is what happened to alert me to Susan's triumph and then sometimes I catch programmes which show the debacles that appear on the selection process.

This last alerts me to the fact that some people are just far too desperate to be famous and they are not going to let a little thing like lack of talent stand in their way.

Will go and read your Semi hub now ...


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 4 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

I don't watch BGT, but every time I turned on LBC someone was whining and saying (Spitefully, at times) "And a DOG won a talent show".

So I searched for it on YouTube and was entranced.

Mind you, I said I don't watch BHT was I was watching when that amazing Susan Boyle first audition came on and WOW!!!!


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Hey, fair enough ... there are some amazingly talented dogs out there.

And I bet if we could understand what they were saying when they lost they wouldn't be as catty as humans either. (See what I did there?)


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

I remember watching her take the stage and begin to sing and thinking, "Here's to anyone who has ever belted out a song in the shower and wondered if they were any good!" What a feel-good story. Thanks for writing on an amazing woman.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Thanks Kathleen ... it must be wonderful to know that as you are belting that song out in the wonderful acoustics of the shower you really are that good. :)


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Lovely, lovely essay on Susan Boyle. I seldom watch talent-type shows, but I remember someone saying, "You have to hear this woman sing. She has an incredible voice!" And she does! So I followed the show and was heartbroken when she lost...but so very pleased that she has gone on to record and receive the recognition she so richly deserves. Thank you for this sensitive and caring Hub. :) Sharing.


joanveronica profile image

joanveronica 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

Beautiful moment to remember that awesome event when she first appeared on stage! I'm a fan, even as far away as Concepcion Chile, I love her voice and her expressiveness, which is entireley her own. Voted up, etc.


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago

She certainly set the world on a different path. It could be argued that her voice spawned yet another TV talent show which is currently running called 'The Voice'. The judges have their backs to the acts so that they cannot prejudge them just on looks.

Very well written and touching hub. Thumbs up for regular folk getting some recognition.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

I love Susan Boyle's voice and feel so sorry for the problems that she's had and the horrible way in which she's been treated by some people. Thank you for sharing her story and her music.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Hello All!

Many thanks for your wonderful comments.

@phdast - you are so kind (as usual) and I just knew you would agree with me about Susan’s voice. I only saw her sing the first song from ‘Les Mis’ and it certainly didn’t bother me that she lost. Sadly it bothered her and it shows how much stress she was under to get that far. I just knew that some impresario watching (closer to her than I realised - Simon Cowell) would snatch her up and take her to fame. She was simply too outstanding to let go. (Thank you so much for the share!)

@joanveronica - wow! you have even heard of her on Concepcion. I am impressed. Her voice is quite unique as far as I am aware - it has a youthful, delicate quality about it. And yes, you’re right, a special expressiveness.

@molometer - d’you know I never thought of that factor about 'The Voice’ - I have never watched it (I really hate talent shows, I find them just too stressful and often cruel i.e. Susan’s first entrance). Can you imagine having such a talent as she has AND having a hand in the way talent shows (and maybe the wider public?) views its entrants. Some achievement eh?

@AliciaC - I’m hoping Susan has moved on from the way she has been treated by others now and can just do what she loves best ... sing. If I am working at my computer I open another tab and locate Susan on YouTube and she sings for me whilst I am working away. Bliss!


ChristyWrites profile image

ChristyWrites 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

I have to say that she is a wonderful singer in my opinion. I have seen her on TV multiple times and just admire the pureness of her voice. Thank-you for spotlighting her here.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Hi Christy … thanks for taking the time to comment on Susan. Much appreciated.

She is indeed a remarkable woman on many levels. Not only has she a wonderful voice but she also never lost sight of her dream to share that voice with everyone.


innerspin profile image

innerspin 4 years ago from uk

This brought back memories. I don't tend to watch BGT, but was channel hopping, and flicked on to the programme just as Susan walked on stage. So help me, I thought, " Why's that man in a dress?"

Thank goodness I kept watching. Her voice, her whole performance - magnificent. I think not winning the competition may have been a good thing, it would have brought added pressure. Coming second certainly hasn't harmed her career since. I enjoyed reading the hub, thanks.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Like you I don’t watch BGT - I somehow came across that clip on YouTube and was riveted to it. I was so hoping she was going to show the bigoted so and so’s … and she did.

I have no idea why I felt so vindicated … unless it was because I really hate the shallow, celebrity-obsessed society we seem to live in today.

Many thanks for taking the time to leave a comment about this hub, innerspin.


botipton profile image

botipton 3 years ago from Cecilia, KY

Susan Boyle is one of the people I greatly admire. Life is not about the destination it is about the journey and she is having a great fun filled journey no matter what the problems. Where ever this leads her it will be filled with great memories.

I learned from our Elders that the vibrations of the voice of someone singing from the heart helps heal us. You can feel the healing voice of Susan.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 3 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Many thanks for your interesting comment, botipton.

I especially like the idea that someone singing from their heart releases vibrations that can help others heal.

In the case of Susan Boyle, in her innocence, she has taught us the rest of us many lessons in humility as well as healing with her voice.


travmaj profile image

travmaj 3 years ago from australia

Angie - you wrote a wonderful tribute to Susan Boyle - such an inspiration. I've followed her career with interest - how difficult for her initially, yet somehow she has carved through and continues her journey gaining more and more confidence. Her voice - so pure - it melts me - I play her Cds regularly - long may she reign. It is a lesson - not to judge hastily. Enjoyed reading your hubs - and thanks for the typo info - still laughing. Cheers...


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 3 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... Author

Hi again Maj …

Thanks for agreeing with me about Susan … not just a pure voice but a courageous spirit following her own dream.

That typo … I can just imagine a lot of very confused Jews … fabulous!

Much love ...

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