A memoir from worldwide singing sensation Susan Boyle—an inspiring story about overcoming struggles and celebrating triumphs, as she achieved her greatest dream.
In April 2009, a modest middle-aged woman from a village in Scotland was catapulted to global fame when the YouTube video of her audition for Britain’s Got Talent touched the hearts of millions all over the world. From singing karaoke in local pubs to a live performance with an eighty-piece orchestra in Japan’s legendary Budokan Arena and a record-breaking debut album, Susan Boyle has become an international superstar. This astonishing transformation has not always been easy for her, faced with all the trappings of celebrity, but in the whirlwind of attention and expectation, she has always found calm and clarity in music. Susan was born to sing. Now, for the first time, she tells the story of her life and the challenges she has struggled to overcome with faith, fortitude, and an unfailing sense of humor.
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Susan Boyle was born, and still lives, in Blackburn, West Lothian. She shot to global fame on April 11, 2009, when she appeared on Britain’s Got Talent, singing "I Dreamed a Dream" from the musical Les Misérables. This is her first book.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
My name is Susan Boyle. A year and a half ago, if you weren’t from Blackburn, the village in West Lothian, Scotland, where I have lived all my life, you would almost certainly never have heard of me. Today you’ve probably heard all sorts about me, some fact, some speculation, some pure invention, so I’m writing this book to tell my story from my point of view, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading it.
Every story has a beginning and maybe mine started when I was in my pram forty-nine years ago. Whenever my mother put on a record, she noticed that I would sway slowly in time with the ballads, and jiggle faster to the rhythm of the quicker tunes. Or maybe it started with the toy banjo she bought me when I was a wee lassie. I used sit in front of the television mimicking Paul McCartney when the Beatles were on Top of the Pops. But I’ll go back to all that a bit later.
For you, my story probably started on 11 April 2009 when I first appeared on television, but it was actually a couple of months before, on 21 January, that they recorded the Glasgow audition for Britain’s Got Talent.
I’ve been on quite a journey since then, and it was actually quite a journey getting to the audition itself . . .
I’d had one of those sleepless nights that seem endless when you know you should be resting but you can’t find a comfortable position. Your stomach’s all butterflies, then, just as you’ve nodded off, it’s time to get up and you’re in a rush. It was still dark outside and my bedroom was cold. Any other day, I might have been tempted to close my eyes and cosy down in the warmth of the duvet, pretending I’d overslept, but I had a bus to catch, and there was no way I was going to let this chance slip away from me.
The air in the bathroom was so chilly my breath steamed up the mirror as I stood there barefoot on the cold lino, trying to make myself beautiful. My hair has never done what it’s told, and that day it looked like a straw hat. When I tried to style it with a hairdryer, I ended up resembling a fluff ball. I could hear the rain sheeting down outside, so I was going to have to wear a headscarf anyway. There was nothing to be done about it.
At least I had a nice frock, even it was a wee bit dressy for six o’clock in the morning! Gold lace, with a gold satin ribbon at the waist, I’d bought it for my nephew’s wedding the previous year. I’d found it in a shop in the nearby town of Livingston and it had cost a tidy penny, but it was a special occasion and I thought I looked good in it. At the reception, I’d worn the dress with a white jacket, white shoes and natural-coloured tights, but the morning of the audition—I don’t know what possessed me—I decided to pull on black tights. Black tights and a gold dress with white shoes, for God’s sake, Susan, do not match! But I didn’t know that then.
I put my head round the living-room door to say good-bye to my cat, Pebbles, but she was sensibly fast asleep in the hearth. Just before leaving the house I touched the gold chain round my neck that has my mother’s wedding ring on it. Wearing it makes me feel she’s close.
“Here we go then,” I said, closing the front door behind me.
Sometimes when I look back at that moment, I feel there must have been some sign that my life was about to change, but if anything it was the opposite. There was nothing auspicious at all about that rainy, grey dawn. In fact, it felt like one of those days when the sun never seems to come up.
They call this part of Scotland the Wet Valley because we get more than our fair share of rain. Some people say the next generation is going to be born with webbed feet! Sling-back, peep-toe white shoes are certainly not the most suitable footwear on a rainy winter morning and the water was seeping in through all the gaps.
There were one or two lights on in the neighbours’ upstairs windows, but it was still too early for most people to be up and about. A dog that had been out all night shivered in the dripping shelter of a doorstep. I saw a couple of men leaving their houses for the early shift, their coat collars up, lunch boxes under their arms. They didn’t take any notice of me, which was just as well because, teetering along on heels like stilts, I was in quite a mood.
Was I completely mad? All the doubts I’d had about what I was doing began to resurface as I walked down the road I used to take to school towards a challenge that was more daunting than anything I’d ever faced before. The comments my brothers and sisters had made at Christmas, when I told them I’d got an audition for Britain’s Got Talent, kept repeating in my head.
“Do you know what they do on Britain’s Got Talent? They laugh at you! They boo you! They buzz you! Can you take all that?”
“If you put yourself in the arena, you’ve got to take the chance, haven’t you?” I’d defended myself.
“Oh my God! Don’t go there! Not with that Piers Morgan!”
“Just leave it,” I’d told them.
“Well, don’t be surprised if you don’t get through.”
“Thanks for your faith in me. Smashing people, you!”
I’d stuck up for myself all right, but inside I’d been thinking, Oh my God! What have I done?
As I hurried along, dodging puddles and potholes, half of me was wanting to turn back to the safety of my nice warm home and the other half was desperate not to miss the bus. When I reached the main road, the bus was nearer to the stop than I was and I had to run like mad, which is not easy with cold, wet feet in three-inch heels. The doors opened with a hiss and I climbed on, my chest heaving, face pink, and my hair plastered down under my scarf.
“Well,” I said to myself, sinking gratefully into my seat. “My worries are over now.”
The bus from Blackburn took me into Glasgow, where I had to change and get another bus to the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC), an enormous complex of halls in the middle of the city beside the River Clyde. The rush-hour traffic was building now and the bus wasn’t making much progress. I kept looking at my watch, then out of the window. I could see the conference centre in the distance, but it seemed to be inching further away, not closer. It suddenly dawned on me that I was on the wrong bus and I had to push through the crowds to get off.
I got on the next one that came along, but that was going in a different direction as well.
Now I was beginning to panic. Calm down, Susan. I told myself the logical thing to do was cross the road and take a bus going the other way.
“There’s plenty of time.” the bus driver told me.
“The world’s not going to blow up.”
“It’s OK for you, but I’ve got an audition to go to!”
He gave me a look.
It was lucky I had a bus pass because I travelled on six buses that morning before I finally arrived!
There was a queue outside and a young lad next to me was shivering in a short-sleeved shirt.
“I tried for The X Factor,” he said, “but I got nowhere.”
“Well, never mind,” I told him. “Perhaps you’ll do better in this.”
Then the doors opened and everyone cheered. As we all went in, there was a great banner saying “Welcome to Britain’s Got Talent!”
The letter I had received about my audition said it was at 9:30 and I was there by 9:30, just, but the lassie at reception looked at her list, her eyes running up and down several times before she said that she hadn’t got me down for the 9:30 audition. She suggested I go home and come back later.
“And go through all that rigmarole with the buses again?” I protested. “You’ve got to be kidding!”
“Well, you’ll have to wait in the holding room,” she said, looking at me warily. “We’ll try to fit you in. But it may be some time,” she warned, as she handed me my number.
The concourse was light and warm and buzzing with energy and noise. There were crowds of people, like a great big circus: dance groups with bright costumes and feathers, singers, kids, magicians, cats, dogs, even rabbits. I saw people weeping, I saw people shouting, I saw people fighting, I saw people laughing—the lot! I sat in the corner minding my own business. I’m quite a shy and reserved person if you can believe that, but people spoke to me and they were generally very friendly. The banter was good. The atmosphere was good. I chatted to a nice guy in a white suit who sang with a funny voice. I think he got through to the semi-finals.
From time to time they’d call a list of acts to go through to the audition and those people would get themselves lined up. The air would be thick with nerves and a hush would fall for a wee while as they left. One by one, you’d see them come back, some crying, some snarling with anger, others screaming with joy! It was a great feeling to see the Yeses being put through, but as the day went on I started to wonder how many Yeses there were and whether there would be any left for me.
As I’d had such an early start and hadn’t thought to bring any food with me, I was beginning to get very hungry. I could feel my stomach going, but I said to myself that I’d better stay put in case they wanted me. I couldn’t risk going and getting myself something to eat in case my name was called while I was gone. When one of a group of dancers standing quite near me opened up her lunch box, I must have looked over, because she asked, “Would you like a sandwich?”
I said thank you very much. It was a nice salad sandwich and it went down a bomb! I didn’t realize I was being filmed as I sat there munching away, but the camera st...
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