LONDON (Reuters) - Internet singing sensation Susan Boyle bids to justify her favorite tag on Saturday when she competes in the final of “Britain’s Got Talent”, a show which turned her from dowdy, unemployed church volunteer into A-list celebrity.
Boyle, whose performance in the first round of the popular talent contest was downloaded more than 150 million times on the Internet, is the bookmakers’ tip to take the title when she competes against nine other finalists.
Television talent shows have produced countless stars, but Boyle’s transformation has been unusual both in terms of the amount of interest she generated around the world and how she overcame an image seen as the antithesis of celebrity.
In the days following her rousing rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Miserables” in April, camera crews camped outside her home in rural Scotland and she has appeared on U.S. chat shows hosted by Oprah Winfrey and Larry King.
Boyle, 48, who lives alone with her cat and jokes she has never been kissed, has been described in the British media as “frumpy” and a “hairy angel”.
She overcame derisive sniggers in the audience before she first performed, and Britain’s Got Talent judge Simon Cowell apologized on air for underestimating her.
A fan site dedicated to Boyle is titled “Never judge a book by its cover”.
Now, however, her story is also being cast as a cautionary tale after Boyle threatened to quit the show due to pressure.
“She’s been in tears repeatedly,” Piers Morgan, one of the show’s judges, told “Inside Edition” in an interview aired in the United States on Thursday.
“And, as of yesterday, she was packing her bags.”
In his blog, Morgan wrote: “Let me tell you now, there is a downside to fame. People start criticizing you, sniping at you, trying to trip you up, belittle you, harass you.”
He said Boyle had learning difficulties after being deprived of oxygen at birth, and was nicknamed “Simple Susan” at school.
“I am calling today for everyone to just give her a break.”
Both of Britain’s main tabloid newspapers dedicated their front pages to Boyle on Friday, focusing on what they said was her erratic behavior and concerns among executives at ITV, the channel which airs the show, over her ability to cope.
Susan’s brother John told the Sun: “Celebrities have professional people who insulate them from these stresses, but she hasn’t had this protection. The show’s producers should have been looking after her more.”
ITV would be reluctant to axe Boyle from Saturday’s final, with her success contributing to bumper ratings figures and advertising windfalls.
Boyle’s semifinal on Sunday was watched by an average of 11.8 million viewers over 90 minutes, or 49 percent of the total television audience during the same period.
The audience rose to 13.2 million on Monday and 12.7 million on Tuesday, according to media reports, which also estimated advertising revenue from the five semifinals and final reaching nearly 20 million pounds ($32 million).
Other performers through to the final include singing act “2 Grand”, comprising 76-year-old John Neill and 12-year-old Sallie Lax, and father-and-son comedy dance duo “Stavros Flatley”.