WASHINGTON – It’s not every day that Americans pay rapt attention to entertainers or success stories beyond their own borders, but a scrappy Scottish church volunteer with an angelic singing voice has enthralled them along with the rest of the world.
Susan Boyle, who became an overnight singing sensation with her stupefying performance on the Simon Cowell-produced “Britain’s Got Talent” show, is in hot demand in a country that loves nothing more than to create and celebrate superstars.
“She’s America’s sweetheart now too; we might have to steal her,” Maggie Rodriguez, a host of CBS’s “Early Show,” said Friday, a day after she was moved to tears when Boyle sang a few bars of “I Dreamed a Dream” via satellite from Scotland.
Indeed, celebrities including Drew Barrymore, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore are raving about Boyle, American morning show hosts are getting weepy about her and Oprah Winfrey is clamouring to have the unemployed Scotswoman appear on her show.
CBS even has an online poll asking people if they wept upon taking in Boyle’s performance. Ninety-five per cent said yes.
And one website, thedailymakeover.com, has already treated the dowdy Boyle to a virtual makeover at the request of the “Extra” TV show. They’ve given her two hairstyle options – a shaggy layered coif and a sleek bob.
All this despite the fact that “Britain’s Got Talent” doesn’t air in the United States, although the YouTube clip of Boyle’s performance has gone viral with 20 million hits.
“I’m gobsmacked, absolutely gobsmacked,” Boyle, 47, said Friday on CNN of her newfound fame as she continued a steady pace of U.S. interviews from her humble Scottish living room.
Her life story – she was bullied as a child because of a learning disability, has never been kissed, lives alone with her cat and spent much of her adult life caring for her ailing mother – have left TV personalities like Kathie Lee Gifford, among others, in tears.
Boyle stunned Cowell and two other judges during the first round of “Britain’s Got Talent,” the U.K. arm of the “Idol” franchise, with a soaring rendition of the song from the “Les Miserables” stage show.
Two of the judges – Amanda Holden and Piers Morgan – have confessed they had all but written Boyle off as soon as she walked on stage because of the way she looked.
“It’s a very shallow thing to say but, obviously, the minute she walked onstage we all, and the audience, completely judged her on her appearance and everything else,” Holden said Friday on the “Early Show.”
“And I hate saying that. But, you know, that true cliche, we judged a book by its cover, unfortunately.”
Both Morgan and Holden apologized to Boyle during the interview for their harsh initial assessment of her. Holden is also urging Boyle to resist a Hollywood-style makeover no matter what pressures she faces.
“I won’t let Simon Cowell take her to his dentist and I certainly won’t let her near his hairdresser,” she told Britain’s Daily Mail.
“She needs to stay exactly as she is because that’s the reason we love her. She just looks like anybody who could live on your street.”
Boyle herself said she wouldn’t want fame to alter her drastically.
“I wouldn’t want to change myself too much because that would really make things a bit false,” she told CNN. “I want to receive people as the real me, a real person.”
Media mogul Winfrey is apparently determined to get Boyle on her show – exactly as she is. It’s a notion that’s thrilled Boyle.
“Wow! Put me down for it. I’m shaking!” she told London’s The Sun tabloid.
An appearance on the Winfrey show will mean American megastardom for Boyle, Cowell predicted.
“If she went on ‘Oprah,’ I think there’s every chance Susan will have the number one album in America,” Cowell said.