In a week, Susan Boyle has gone from karaoke and her local church choir to global fame and an invitation to the Oprah Winfrey show.
The frumpy 47-year-old, who says she's never been kissed, has gained celebrity fans and millions of admirers — including a fair number of men — since she wowed judges on the TV show "Britain's Got Talent."
Her fame has been fueled by new technology, with a clip of her performance viewed more than 12 million times on YouTube.
"Susan can't help herself, she just sings whenever she can sing," said Jackie Russell, the manager of the Happy Valley Hotel in Blackburn, Scotland, where Boyle occasionally sings karaoke. "We weren't surprised by her talent, but we were surprised by the reaction around the world."
Until recently, few outside the village of Blackburn had heard of Boyle, who lives in a modest row house that she shared for years with her widowed mother, who died two years ago. In the past few days, she has appeared on TV around the world. Demi Moore is an avowed fan.
"It has been surreal for me," Boyle told The Associated Press on Thursday in Blackburn, 20 miles (30 kilometers) west of Edinburgh. "I'm going to be on 'The Oprah Winfrey Show,' CBS and other American networks.
"I didn't realize this would be the reaction, I just went on stage and got on with it.
"I did this for my late mother," Boyle said. "I wanted to show her I could do something with my life."
Boyle has won over millions of viewers — just as she melted the heart of television's harshest judge, Simon Cowell — with her rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" on an episode of "Britain's Got Talent" that aired Saturday.
The skillfully packaged segment, which has taken the Internet by storm, is a mini-opera of underdog triumph. The studio audience laughed and guffawed as Boyle took the stage with frizzy hair and wearing a dowdy dress.
She told viewers she had "never been kissed — shame, but it's not an advert!" She drew skeptical looks when she said she wanted to be a professional singer like Broadway star Elaine Page.
Then she launched into "I Dreamed a Dream," from the musical "Les Miserables." Her soaring voice drew startled looks and then delighted smiles from judges Cowell, Amanda Holden and Piers Morgan. The audience leapt to its feet to applaud.
Cowell called her singing "extraordinary." Morgan said her "stunning" performance was "the biggest surprise I've had in three years of this show."
"I can hardly remember what happened on the night as I had my eyes closed most of the time," Boyle said. "It really didn't dawn on me what was happening."
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