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After her beloved Irish mother died, Susan Boyle’s home was quiet for weeks.
But eventually, the singer began to play her music again, decided to audition for “Britain’s Got Talent,” and the rest is history.
Boyle talked to Britain’s Daily Mail about her journey – from her tough childhood, to her close relationship with her mother, to her independence and her rise to fame.
The youngest of nine children, Susan was born to Irish immigrant parents in Blackburn, Scotland in a terraced house that she still calls home today.
“I was bullied quite a lot as a child,” Boyle told the Daily Mail.
“They used to call me Sambo, because I had black curly hair, and Simple Susie. At school, I felt very frustrated, very lonely – people didn't want to sit next to me in class. I was often bawling my eyes out and it does tend to chip away at your personality.”
But Susan felt safe at home, where she created an imaginary world while playing with her dolls.
“That was my wee family,” she said. “I had my own way of playing. They were my friends.”
But eventually, music took Susan’s toys’ place as her escape.
“When I got older, all that changed to music. Music was very much an escape, because I'd go to my bedroom and nobody could taunt me,” she said.
Boyle’s dream was always to sing professionally, and she would perform at local venues as often as possible.
Susan, a devout Catholic, was a volunteer at her church, Our Lady of Lourdes, and she’d entertain the elderly and disabled with her amazing singing ability.
Mostly she kept to herself, calling her parents her friends, but the “Scottish spinster,” as they’ve dubbed her in Britain, did have a brief romance.
“I had a boyfriend, John, who worked in an office. He asked me to marry him after seven weeks, although we'd only ever had a peck on the cheek, but he eventually got cold feet,” Susan revealed.
“It made me sad, in a way. It makes you feel unattractive; you feel that life is passing you by. But I thought, ‘Maybe there's something for me later.’ I was always optimistic.”
Tragedy struck the Boyle family when Irish father Patrick died in 1999 at the age of 80.
“It was just old age,” Susan said, recalling the loss. “But that was the first time I'd ever encountered bereavement.
“There was no change in my family until then. I remember when he was dying and everyone had gone home, I went over to him. He was just lying in front of me. I kissed his hair and stroked his forehead, I said goodbye to him.
“At a time like that you can either be strong or go to pieces. I'd lost a father, but my mother had lost a lifelong partner. They were married in 1936 and had never been apart. She was devastated.”
Susan was particularly close with her Irish mother Bridget. The two were best of friends, depending on each other until Bridget’s death in 2007 at the age of 91.
“I was her main carer for three or four years prior to her death. In February 2007 she was taken into hospital suffering from dehydration. Obviously she was dying. She wasn't aware of her surroundings,” she said of her mother.
“She looked completely different. I couldn't imagine that shell of a woman was my mother. She was a beautiful person, very warm and kind and very articulate.
“Before she got very ill, she began putting money aside for me, and got nice carpets for the house and stuff like that. I'd ask her what she was buying it for and she said, ‘Susan, I'm not going to be with you much longer. I'm getting old.’ I still couldn't follow her. It wasn't until she went that it sunk in.
“It's a very unusual experience, watching someone you love go. When people die, they just go to sleep. I held her hand and, a few minutes before she went, I don't know what it was, but she smiled at something she saw.
“I don't know whether it was Our Lady or my dad, but, whoever it was, it was as if she was saying, ‘It's all right.’ She was in bliss, in a kind of limbo, a wee world of her own.
“I can talk about it now, but I couldn't have done a year or so ago. I'd have been too emotional.”
Susan admits she became helpless after her mother’s death.
“I was very lonely and very upset. There was a kind of numbness to begin with, because you don't know what's happening, but then it hit me like a ton of bricks. My health went down,” she said.
“I had panic attacks and felt I couldn't cope. I didn't eat or sleep properly. I'd had everything done for me. But the rest of my family helped pull me through. I think I still struggle with my independence a bit, because I depended on my mother so much – although I have a lot more help nowadays.”
But the Scottish singer knew that her mother would want her to keep her faith, persevere and pursue her dream.
“When I walk into the house now, I'm lonely,” Susan admits. “But this is where my faith comes in. Her physical presence is no longer here, but her spirit is.
“She's still very much a part of me – she's in my heart. To hang on to her memory is good, in a way, but, in another way, it's not so good, because you don't get on with your own life, and my mother wouldn't have wanted that.”
So that’s just what Susan did – got on with it. Her childhood home was quiet for a time, but eventually, Susan lit it up with her music once again. Then, Susan’s mentor Piers Morgan came to the rescue.
“The house was silent for a while,” she said. “Then I began to listen to the radio again, and came across ‘Britain's Got Talent’ on the TV and the wee boy called Piers Morgan.
“I thought, ‘Hmm, nice. I like him’ I used to put the show on to see him, then I began to wonder what would happen if I wrote off for an audition.'
Susan soon found herself making her way to the “BGT” auditions in Glasgow, Scotland.
“I walked on stage and was jittery. One of the questions they asked was what singer do you model yourself on. A smart alec from the audience said Elvis Presley.”
The taunt didn’t deter the singing star.
“I said, ‘He's dead but I'm not. Elaine Paige.’ There was some sniggering but then the music came on and I just did my song. It felt bloody fantastic. I think I shocked a few people,” she said.
“I got home about midnight. I was on such a high. It was like Celtic winning the cup.
“Anyway, I turned the key in the door and I walked into silence. There was nobody to tell. So I gave my cat, Pebbles, a cuddle and fed her, went upstairs, hung my dress up and just went to bed.”
A few months after her January audition, Susan, with her brother John sitting beside her, watched herself make stun the world with her amazing voice on her “BGT” debut. The next morning, a crowd of fans were screaming at the door of her childhood home.
“That's when it all began,” Susan said. “John had said the night before, ‘Now you've seen yourself on television so just stay in, because I think there's going to be a hell of a reaction.’ And, of course, there was.”
As we all know, Susan has gone on to do amazing things, including beating out greats like Whitney Houston and Bruce Springsteen to become the top pre-sales album seller on Amazon.
So what does the Scottish singing sensation herself think of her appeal?
Turns out Susan agrees with her millions of fans: “I suppose it's a bit of a Cinderella story isn't it?”