LONDON (Reuters) - Global Internet sensation Susan Boyle competes in the final of “Britain’s Got Talent” on Saturday amid signs she is struggling to cope with her sudden rise to stardom and constant media intrusion.
The 48-year-old unemployed church volunteer from Scotland, who once joked she had never been kissed and has been described by newspapers as “frumpy” and a “hairy angel,” threatened to pull out of the popular television contest this week.
“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 earlier this week.
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.
“I am calling today for everyone to just give her a break.”
Boyle’s performance of the song “I Dreamed a Dream” last month in the first round of Britain’s Got Talent has been downloaded more than 150 million times on the Internet and turned her into a major celebrity.
Film crews camped outside her home in the small town in rural Scotland where she lives alone with her cat, tabloid reporters have followed her every move and she is front page news almost every day in Britain.
Boyle appeared on U.S. chat shows hosted by Oprah Winfrey and Larry King and is a media sensation from Chile to China.
While her voice has the power to reduce judges on the show to tears, Boyle’s success has also raised the awkward question of why people were so surprised that she had such a talent.
With her unkempt hair and apparent indifference to what she wore, Boyle was the very antithesis of what many viewers thought a celebrity should be.
She had to overcome 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.”
Boyle is up against nine other acts in Saturday’s final, and is the bookmakers’ overwhelming favorite to win.
A victory is likely to secure her a major recording contract and even more media attention, although her financial status should already be secure.
How Boyle copes with the trappings of fame is uncertain.
Morgan said in his blog that Boyle had learning difficulties after being deprived of oxygen at birth, and was nicknamed “Simple Susan” at school.
Her erratic behavior in recent days, including an altercation with reporters, raised concerns among Britain’s Got Talent executives about her ability to cope with the pressure of the final, but the ITV channel which airs the competition has confirmed that she will perform.
Editing by Charles Dick