An unemployed 48-year-old church volunteer from a small Scottish village, she dreamed a dream in time gone by…and woke up to super-stardom. Her heart-tugging April 11 rendition of the classic ballad from Les Misérables stunned an initially dismissive crowd on Britain’s Got Talent, and transformed the habitually dour Simon Cowell into a giddy puppy. It also made Boyle an immediate viral sensation (120 million YouTube views and counting), and an inspiration to the thousands alienated by pop culture’s youth-and-beauty machinery.
In the week after her splashy debut, she told the London Times, ”I’m happy the way I am, short and plump.” And yet, what instant star is immune to a little tweak (and tweeze)? Boyle has since undergone what her hairstylist Caroline Boyle (no relation) described to Entertainment Tonight as a ”wee mini-makeover,” leaving the singer brunet and newly outfitted.
As BGT‘s first-round auditions carry on, Boyle’s presumed lock on the competition has come into question, with other dreamers like 12-year-old crooner Shaheen Jafargholi and tiny, trilling ballerina Hollie Steel wowing judges. While Boyle will have to go up against them and 37 others in the BGT semifinals, beginning in late May, some might say the widely celebrated songbird has already won a much bigger prize.
Find the latest on Boyle, including the shocking clip of her 1995 TV appearance, at EW.COM