Susan Boyle became an overnight sensation when she got up on the “Britain’s Got Talent” stage in series three, leaving the surprised and doubtful judges and audience speechless. Her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” from the “Les Misérables” play blew people away so much that her audition video became the most-watched YouTube video in 2009, surpassing the video of President Obama’s inauguration several times over.
After she won second place in the audition TV show, her first album, entitled “I Dreamed a Dream” had the biggest number of pre-orders in Amazon’s history in 2009. Its release received worldwide recognition as the fastest-selling debut album of all time. Moreover, her Wikipedia page broke the record for most views in a week with 66 million visits. Although Susan sang in front of the Queen, released more than 120 gold and platinum albums, and sold over 25 million copies in more than 35 countries, we don’t hear about her as much anymore. What is Susan Boyle doing in 2023, roughly a decade and a half after her first success? We will tell you all about her life today.
- 1 The early life of Susan Boyle
- 2 Musical endeavors before “Britain’s Got Talent”
- 3 “Britain’s Got Talent” appearance and finishing as runner-up
- 4 What did Susan Boyle do immediately after “Britain’s Got Talent”?
- 5 Her struggles with fame
- 6 Weight loss
- 7 Pets
- 8 Family life
- 9 Charity work
- 10 Who is Susan Boyle dating?
- 11 How did Susan Boyle spend her money?
- 12 Does Susan Boyle plan to continue her music career?
The early life of Susan Boyle
Susan Magdalene Boyle was born on 1 April 1961 in Dechmont, West Lothian, Scotland, and raised in Blackburn. Her dad was a World War II veteran and a miner who also sang at The Bishop Blaze pub. Her mom, Bridget, a shorthand typist, gave birth to Susan at the age of 45, making her the youngest of nine siblings, five sisters and four brothers. A little-known fact is that her mom played the piano at a professional level. Susan has family ties to Lanarkshire and County Donegal in Ireland, too.
Growing up, she thought she had a learning disability as a result of oxygen deprivation at birth. She was bullied as a kid and left school with hardly any qualifications. However, a diagnosis that she was on the Autism spectrum came at the age of 52 or 53, meaning she was misdiagnosed in childhood. In reality, her IQ was above average, and she had Asperger’s Syndrome (ASD).
Musical endeavors before “Britain’s Got Talent”
Fred O’Neil, a well-known vocal coach in the West Lothian area, gave Susan singing lessons for years, starting roughly in 2002. Interestingly, after her “Britain’s Got Talent” audition, he claimed he had over 5000 e-mails requesting an interview from New Zealand news reporters alone, blocking the mailing system completely. Susan grew up singing in the church choir and later in Roman Catholic churches and basilicas and attended pilgrimages.
Her first attempt to get on TV was an audition for “My Kind of People” in 1995. Michael Barrymore toured the country looking for amateur singers and landed at the Olympia Shopping Centre in East Kilbride. She performed “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” from the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar”. The appearance didn’t end well; Michael didn’t think her singing was great, so he cracked jokes and made gestures such as pretending to look under her skirt and staging a kiss at the end.
In 1998, Susan gathered all her savings and invested them in recording three demo tracks at Heartbeat Studio in Midlothian, namely “Killing Me Softly”, “Cry Me a River,” and “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina”. She sent those wherever she could, including talent competitions on radio, record labels, and TV stations. The first notable success was her demo song “Cry Me a River” landing a spot on the community-aided “Music for a Millennium Celebration, Sounds of West Lothian” album in 1999.
“Britain’s Got Talent” appearance and finishing as runner-up
Susan Boyle auditioned for “Britain’s Got Talent” in Glasgow, Scotland as contestant number 43212. She was nervous and almost gave up on auditioning because she thought she was too old. According to her vocal coach, she already skipped her “The X Factor” audition, convinced they chose winners based on looks. However, this time she was motivated to perform outside the church, appear on TV, and pursue a musical career as a tribute to her mom, who encouraged her to audition for “Britain’s Got Talent”.
When she got on stage, the audience had ‘a cynical attitude’ according to judge Amanda Holden. Judges weren’t expecting much based on her age and appearance when she announced the song she would perform. Simon Cowell especially regretted this years later, stating, ‘I can remember vividly how disgusting I was on the day, before you sang’. However, her incredible voice blew everyone away, causing them to rise and cheer, a reaction that left her ‘absolutely gobsmacked’. After seeing her audition, Elaine Paige, whose success Susan stated she wanted to achieve, showed interest in recording a duet with her.
Susan went directly to the semi-finals, and on 24 May 2009 sang “Memory” from the “Cats” musical, receiving the highest number of audience votes. Unfortunately, despite being a favorite for the victory, she finished in second place behind Diversity, a UK-based dance troupe. She was disappointed, a decade later saying, ‘Never in my wildest dreams did I think for a second that, more than 10 years on, I’d still be performing and making albums. I thought it was all over on the night of the BGT final.’ She later said that Simon whispered in her ear that she’d get a recording contract regardless of what happens and quickly shrugged the disappointment off.
What did Susan Boyle do immediately after “Britain’s Got Talent”?
Susan attended 20 out of 24 scheduled concerts on the BGT Tour in 2009 after her appearance on the show ended. Despite being new to it, according to Belfast Telegraph, she ‘exuded a confidence resembling that of a veteran who has been performing for years.’ She released her debut album, “I Dreamed a Dream” on 23 November 2009.
Her album made her the first female artist with a top-ranking album in the United Kingdom and the United States concurrently in 2010, and it even ranked number one twice within almost 12 months. Notably, Susan Boyle was named the seventh world’s most influential person in 2010 and reached the third spot the next year as the highest-ranked woman.
Her vocal coach was asked to comment on her first album. In his opinion, ‘inspirational’ and ‘upbeat’ songs would’ve been a better choice for Susan’s personality. If it were up to him, he would have saved “I Dreamed a Dream” for ‘possibly her third album’. He also said ‘Wild Horses’ was ‘not a song suited for her voice’ and that she sang ‘a tone lower’ than she would naturally do. Nonetheless, he said Susan ‘performed all songs well’ and ‘has a great technique’. A song Fred would love to hear her sing at some point is “In His Eyes” from “Jekyll and Hyde”. She released eight more albums between 2010 and 2019, with the last being “Ten” released on 31 May 2019. She then toured the world to promote the album until March 2020, when she decided to self-isolate because her health put her at risk of getting harsher symptoms of COVID-19.
— Susan Boyle (@SusanBoyle) April 17, 2020
Her struggles with fame
Fred called Susan ‘a very sensitive kind of woman’ and was initially anxious about the way she would handle fame. However, he relaxed when he saw how happy she is, and noticed she learned to cope with pressure. Susan described her TV experience as ‘suffocating’ and ‘difficult to come to terms with’.
Shortly after her runner-up finish, she spent three days in The Priory, a private psychiatric London clinic, to rehabilitate from the toll the competition took on her. She refused to acknowledge it afterward, calling it ‘a nice rest’. In 2014, stated she ‘can now cope with the pressure’ because ‘she knows ‘how to control herself better’ and ‘doesn’t get worked up about things’ anymore.’
Susan had a notable positive change in weight, and by 2016, she revealed she lost ‘about two stone’ or 12.7 kg, as she started leading a healthier life. In 2021, people noticed a further improvement in her figure, leading her to reveal she managed to shed roughly 50 lbs or 22.6 kg in total up to that point. She discussed her life changes on the British breakfast TV talk show “Lorraine” once, and revealed that she received a type-2 diabetes diagnosis back in 2012.
To beat it, she had to conquer ‘the bane of her life’ which is ‘eating sweeties and cakes’. She cut off all ‘bad foods’, primarily processed sugar, and began to walk and ride a bike more often. Moreover, after self-isolating for a year, Susan got vaccinated in March 2021 and urged her fans to do the same. It’s apparent she prioritizes her physical and mental health a lot more after becoming an underdog public persona people look up to. Additionally, she plans to continue ‘riding her pushbike’ to stay fit.
Susan took care of her mother’s Persian cat Pebbles until 2016 when it passed away. This was her mom’s dying wish and something she promised to do. Shortly after, Susan got a new cat, but it snuck out of the home at night in June 2016. Luckily, the people nearby heard her scream looking for it, and helped her bring the cat home.
Susan Boyle attributed her late rise to fame to her promise to stay close to her mom while she lived. Her mom passed away in 2007 at the age of 91, which explains the rapid success in the decade afterward. She also shared that her friends and family were the primary driving force behind her success, inspiring her to push her limits.
Another tragedy would strike in 2015, when her older sister, Brigid “Bridie” McCaw passed away at the age of 73 after battling cancer. Susan put her career and the new album release on hold for a bit since her sister thought she was ‘getting too big for her boots’. She also had a falling out with her brother Gerry in 2013 who allegedly requested £50,000 because she reportedly shared over £400,000 with her siblings. Luckily, they reconciled in 2016 when he helped her during an incident with a Heathrow Airport security guard. The two now have family dinners and speak daily.
Photo taken today of Susan at her home – with flowers from Simon!! Many thanks to Annette for posting the photo on her…
Funnily enough, she unintentionally attracted public interest because fans joked about Lewis Capaldi being related to her. A day after the 2023 New Year’s Eve concert of BBC Scotland’s Hogmanay, singer Lewis Capaldi received a social media comment that the father of one of his fans thought he was Susan Boyle. He took the joke well, posting a video acting a tad hurt by the physical comparison. He also joked in the caption, writing, ‘I dreamed a dream that ppl stopped telling me I looked like women in their 60s’. Susan decided not to respond when contacted.
Susan Boyle promoted charities and events such as The Laura McPhee Memorial Fund (Asthma) UK Charity, Metro Radio Newcastle England’s Cash For Kids Campaign, Save the Children UK, and Elvis Presley Charitable Foundation. She also helps people in private. For example, she aided 13-year-old Ashlee Easton to collect enough money for a life-saving cancer treatment by auctioning one of her dresses on eBay in 2021.
Who is Susan Boyle dating?
In 2009, Susan admitted to being a virgin and never having been kissed, which seemingly continued until 2014 when the news reported she found a boyfriend who ‘was about her age’. She revealed her first boyfriend was a doctor from Connecticut she met in Florida during her US tour in 2014. Although he was ‘a nice guy’ and the two planned for him to move to Scotland, the relationship ended at some point. In June 2019, she confirmed her solo relationship status, noting that she’s ‘a happy single fish’, and no updates about her relationship status surfaced since. When pressed about it, Susan revealed, ‘If I had a man friend it would be purely platonic. I’ve been on my own too long now to get married.’
How did Susan Boyle spend her money?
Susan Boyle reportedly made £5 million (approximately $6 million today) in her first year of prominence and was speculated to have earned over £40 million (roughly $48.2 million) in her career. She first tried moving out of her old home, paying £300,000 (about $361.500 today) for a five-bedroom house, but later gave it to her niece.
Instead, she purchased a semi-detached house next to her Blackburn family home for £111,000 ($133.700 today). She joined the two houses and renovated it from the inside, adorning it with pictures of her parents, noting, ‘It’s best to be grounded and with your roots.’ She also purposefully redesigned a former bedroom she slept in with her sisters Bridie and Cathy, into her dressing room.
Despite being a millionaire, Susan confessed to living on a £300-500 weekly budget that she thinks is ‘plenty’. She clarified that she ‘just wants to entertain people and make them happy’ and that ‘money doesn’t bother her.’ When asked about other things she splurged on, she said she bought a fur coat and a piano. Furthermore, Susan revealed that her friends and neighbors are protective of her and that she still does normal things like going out for karaoke nights. She added that she received her provisional driving license in June 2019 and that she plans to start driving more often thereafter.
Does Susan Boyle plan to continue her music career?
Susan Boyle was mostly silent about her plans since her 10th career anniversary in 2019 and the subsequent tour. Some rumors surfaced that she may go on a Las Vegas tour in 2021, but nothing happened. One thing is for sure—she is still signed to Syco Entertainment and will continue working for Simon Cowell. She still thinks of him as ‘the biggest inspiration in her career’ and ‘the best boss in the world’ who she ‘strives to make proud’ because he ‘inspires her to continue and strive for perfection’.
She remarked that she willingly slowed down her bigger global success because of her commitment to living in Scotland. She is ‘incredibly proud to be Scottish’ and feels like she ‘has everything in Scotland, the best and kindest people in the world’. Due to it being ‘a beautiful country’ with ‘a real sense of community’, while she enjoys traveling, she thinks ‘there truly is no place like home’.
When asked about retirement in mid-2021, Susan replied, ‘Age is just a number and I certainly don’t feel as if I am coming up,” adding, ‘if you want something badly enough you can succeed, regardless of age.’ She said she may retire at some point but is ‘having far too much fun to consider drawing her pension anytime soon’. Music critics and journalists continue to compare her to Ella Fitzgerald, who had an excellent voice and a decade-long successful career despite not being a traditional symbol of beauty. If Ella’s success is any indication, Susan Boyle will bless the audience with her soulful voice for years to come.