From the moment she stepped into the public spotlight, singer Susan Boyle has been surprising people.
The painfully shy middle-aged woman stunned the audience of “Britain’s Got Talent” in 2009 with her soaring vocals while performing the “Les Mis” song “I Dreamed a Dream.”
Since then, the 52-year-old Scottish singer has sold millions of albums, been nominated for two Grammy Awards, written an autobiography and become the subject of a hit musical and a possible biopic with Meryl Streep reportedly in talks to play her.
Now, she’s surprising the world once again with her response to learning that she has Asperger’s syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism.
“Now I have a clearer understanding of what’s wrong and I feel relieved and a bit more relaxed about myself,” she told British newspaper The Observer on Sunday. “I have always known that I have had an unfair label put upon me.”
That label–that she was “brain damaged” as a result of oxygen deprivation at birth–followed her through school, where she had difficulties learning and was mocked as “Susie Simple.”
Then, a year ago, she sought help from a Scottish specialist, who told her not only that she has Asperger’s, but an above-average IQ.
“I would say I have relationship difficulties, communicative difficulties, which lead to a lot of frustration. If people were a bit more patient, that would help,” she told the newspaper.
She added, “Asperger’s doesn’t define me. It’s a condition that I have to live with and work through, but I feel more relaxed about myself. People will have a much greater understanding of who I am and why I do the things I do.”
Here are four more surprising revelations from Susan Boyle.
1. She Has a Team of People Who Help Her
“I am not strong on my own,” Boyle told the newspaper, acknowledging that she suffered from depression and mood swings. “When I have the support of people around me I am fine. I have a great team.” According to The Observer article, Boyle’s team includes a personal assistant who lives locally, a PR rep who lives in London, a manager and someone to help with housework.
2. She Attributes her Success to her Mum, Bridget
Boyle’s mom Bridget died just before her daughter’s seemingly overnight success. “I made a promise to my mum that I would do something with my life,” she said, adding that she believes her mother helped her fulfill that promise. “Spiritually, she’s with me all the time. She has had a word with someone upstairs because I wouldn’t have had this otherwise.”
3. She’s Built a ‘Posh House’ But Doesn’t Live There
Now a multimillionaire, Boyle had built what she describes as a “posh house,” but currently lives in her mother’s small, grey public “council home” while her niece stays in her new home. In her mother’s home, she can feel her presence. “I felt as if the cord had been broken emotionally and I didn’t know what to do,” she said about her mother’s death. “My weight went down and my house was a bit of a mess. I had to get social services in. I couldn’t cope at all.”
4. She’d Like to Be in a Relationship
Boyle hasn’t had a boyfriend since her 20s, but hasn’t given up on one day meeting someone. “There’s plenty of time,” she said. Asked what kind of person she’d like to meet, she said: “I’d look for someone young. Someone creative. Someone who would make me laugh. Someone I’d get along well with, who’d take my music further, perhaps. Someone gentle. Someone accepting.”