Susan Boyle

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As a middle-aged, unemployed, unmarried woman from West Lothian in Scotland strode out onto the stage few could've imagined what would happen next. But when Britain's Got Talent contestant Susan Boyle opened her mouth to sing, her life changed forever.

Just weeks later her name was known around the world after her story was picked up by the global media. Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher were among those championing her on Twitter, and her audition clip went on to amass an record total of hits on YouTube.

"I used to be a kind of spectator looking outward at the world. But now I'm part of that world and, though frightening, I'm going to embrace it," the singer has said on her meteoric rise to fame.

Susan Magdalene Boyle was born on April 1, 1961, to Patrick Boyle, a miner, WWII veteran and singer and Bridget - a shorthand typist. Both were immigrants from County Donegal, Ireland.

She was the youngest of four brothers and six sisters, and the family lived in the same West Lothian council house in Scotland which Susan still shares with her cat Pebbles.

During her birth, which took place when her mother was 47, Susan was deprived of oxygen, and later developed learning difficulties. As a result she was bullied in school, but took solace in her passion for music.

Susan loved singing, and was an active member of the choir at her parish church, where she was a volunteer.

She won many local talent competitions and was urged by her mother to enter Britain's Got Talent. But thinking she was too old, she abandoned the idea.

The aspiring singer was finally spurred on to go on the show in 2008 though, a year after her mother died. It was the first time she had sung in public since the death of her beloved mum, whom Susan had cared for until her passing.

And so she found herself on the Britain's Got Talent stage in Glasgow. Where she gave the judges and the audience what Amanda Holden described as the "biggest wakeup call ever".

They had scoffed at her aspirations to become "as successful as Elaine Paige" and written her off because of her appearance. But she blew them away with her rendition of I Dreamed A Dream, receiving a standing ovation.

She finally came second in the talent contest and amid stories about erratic behaviour, checked into the Priory suffering from exhaustion. After five days she left, however, and embarked upon her new life as an artist – accompanying her fellow contestants on her first tour, and starting work on her debut album.

To many, Susan represented the notion that dreams can come true at any age, and this was cemented for her with the release of her first album, in November 2009.

I Dreamed A Dream broke all sales records, selling over 2 million copies worldwide in its first week of release. It is the fastest selling debut album by a female artist ever to be recorded.
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