LONDON, April 14, 2009 -- Meet Britain's newest pop sensation: She's 48 years old, has frizzy brown hair and bushy eyebrows. But the virtuous Susan Boyle might be the next British singing superstar.
Boyle, a contestant on the show "Britain's Got Talent," which aired in the U.K. last Saturday, told show presenters that she was single and living with her cat Pebbles. "I've never had a boyfriend," she said. "I've never even been kissed."
When she said her wish was to become as famous as British singer-actress Elaine Paige, acerbic judge Simon Cowell smirked mockingly, judging her on her looks. But behind her somewhat unkempt appearance hid a magnificent voice that even stunned the famously critical Cowell.
As soon as Boyle started singing, the audience cheered with amazement as her strong voice took over the theater. After a breathless silence during Boyle's performance, the audience burst into a standing ovation. Piers Morgan, one of the judges, admitted that he was impressed and said, "That was the biggest surprise I have had in three years of the show.
"You said you wanted to be like Elaine Paige and everyone laughed at you. Well no one is laughing now."
Another judge, Amanda Holden, was almost brought to tears by Boyle's performance. "I am just thrilled," she said. "I think we were all guilty of being cynical before. It was a complete privilege to hear you."
The most cynical of judges, Cowell had a harder time admitting he misjudged Boyle before. "I knew the minute you walked out on that stage that we were going to hear something extraordinary, and I was right," he said of the unemployed woman from West Lothian, Scotland.
Later, Boyle said, "I would love to be in musical theater. I have just never had the opportunity."
Not Just the Judge's Favorite, Viewers Love Her Too
Boyle didn't just impress the judges with her performance, British television viewers seem to be just as taken with her.
"I was very surprised by Susan's voice," sales assistant Lucrece Tambat, 23, said. "She was incredible. And Simon behaved very well compared to what he usually says to candidates."
Regular viewer Isher Theophane, 25, said, "I think she could definitely win 'Britain's Got Talent' but I'm not sure they will let her through because of how she looks. Maybe they'll give her a makeover."
Liah Lewis, 16, and Simone Philogene, 15, watched the show together and were both caught off guard by Boyle's performance. "She had a great voice and I was really surprised by her," Simone said.
Liah confessed, however, that "she did great, but I wouldn't buy her CD. It's not my type of music."
Boyle, a devout churchgoer, has been the center of a publicity storm since her performance on the talent show. Headlines in the British media are touting her musical talent, from the tabloid The Mirror trumpeting, "Britain's Got Talent: Susan Boyle proves why it's wrong to judge a book by its cover," to the newspaper The Scotsman, expressing a sense of Scottish pride, "Talented Susan looks to have the last laugh."
But Boyle has stayed unfazed, despite all the sudden media attention, she told the Evening News.
Boyle is not the first Scottish success for "Britain's Got Talent.: Her fellow West Lothian Andrew Muir was a contestant on last year's show. Muir, a 25-year-old plumber, said he had reached his dream by going on the show and performing for a big audience. He made it to the semi-finals as the first contestant from the Scotland auditions.
The success of the singing plumber inspired her to audition on this year's "Britain's Got Talent," Boyle told the Evening News.
Another possible inspiration? The unlikely winner of the show two years ago: Paul Potts. The Welsh mobile phone salesman with the crooked teeth is now a millionaire after selling more than 4 million copies of his album "One Chance" and topping the charts in 14 different countries.
Boyle is set to go the same path as Potts and become an international singing sensation, according to some reviewers. The winner of the show receives prize money of roughly $147,000 and the chance to perform in front of the Queen at the annual Royal Variety Performance.