The concourse was light and warm and buzzing with energy and noise. There were crowds of people, like a great big circus: dance groups with bright costumes and feathers, singers, kids, magicians, cats, dogs, even rabbits. I saw people weeping, I saw people shouting, I saw people fighting, I saw people laughing— the lot! I sat in the corner minding my own business. I'm quite a shy and reserved person if you can believe that, but people spoke to me and they were generally very friendly. The banter was good. The atmosphere was good. I chatted to a nice guy in a white suit who sang with a funny voice. I think he got through to the semi-finals.
From time to time they'd call a list of acts to go through to the audition and those people would get themselves lined up. The air would be thick with nerves and a hush would fall for a wee while as they left. One by one, you'd see them come back, some crying, some snarling with anger, others screaming with joy! It was a great feeling to see the Yeses being put through, but as the day went on I started to wonder how many Yeses there were and whether there would be any left for me.
As I'd had such an early start and hadn't thought to bring any food with me, I was beginning to get very hungry. I could feel my stomach going, but I said to myself that I'd better stay put in case they wanted me. I couldn't risk going and getting myself something to eat in case my name was called while I was gone. When one of a group of dancers standing quite near me opened up her lunchbox, I must have looked over, because she asked, 'Would you like a sandwich?'
I said thank you very much. It was a nice salad sandwich and it went down a bomb! I didn't realize I was being filmed as I sat there munching away, but the camera stayed on me for some reason. I thought they'd forgotten all about me, actually. I could see Ant and Dec wandering around, which was exciting at first, because I'd seen them on Saturday Night Takeaway and they looked just the same—better, in fact, but don't tell them that!—but they didn't seem to be interested in me. I watched them talking to the guy in the white suit. I saw them interviewing lots of other people, and I was starting to think that maybe they didn't want me. The funny thing was that, instead of making me feel depressed, it seemed to put me in a fighting mood. I thought, I'm not going home now—why should I? They're not going to get rid of me that easily!
Finally it was my turn to be interviewed. I told them that I lived alone, with Pebbles of course. Then, I don't know what possessed me, but I mentioned that I'd never been kissed. It was not, as I said at the time, an advertisement! That really got me into trouble, and I'll tell you all about that later. I've learned to be a wee bit more reserved when I'm interviewed now.
At about 7.30 in the evening I finally heard my name called out among a whole list, so I took my turn in the queue and handed over the CD of the backing track that I'd brought with me. I hadn't actually felt nervous most of the day, but now my tummy started going nineteen to the dozen. After all that waiting, suddenly there wasn't any time at all and I was standing at the side of the stage with Ant and Dec. They asked me if I was nervous and I told them I was in a fighting mood, but my hands were shaking, my mouth had gone dry and I was wishing I'd gone to the toilet. Then they told me to go on.
I said to myself, well, you can either be damn cheeky or you can be nervous and let yourself down, but for heaven's sake get yourself out there somehow! And so I marched on to the stage, hand on hip, this wee wifey from Blackburn with the tousled hair and the gold dress, knees knocking.
The glare from the lights meant I couldn't see the judges at first, but when Simon Cowell spoke to me he was to my right, with Amanda Holden in the middle and Piers Morgan on the left. Simon started on the usual stuff about who I was and where I was from.
'My name is Susan Boyle,' I told him. 'I am forty-seven years old.'
And then I added, 'And that's just one side of me.'
And I did a wiggle, which was aimed at Piers, because I like Piers. He was one of the reasons I wanted to do the show. Piers just stared at me, his lips pursed.
I could see that they were thinking, 'Oh my God, who is this apparition?' But I hoped that maybe they were also thinking, 'At least she's different!'
Simon asked me where I was from and whether Blackburn was a big town, and my mind went blank. I was so nervous I forgot the word for village, and I could see his eyes were rolling. I learned later that the judges were in a bad mood because it had been a long day and they'd seen very few talented acts. Simon was ready for a cup of tea. I could hear a few titters in the audience. I was aware that I was being laughed at, but I've been ridiculed a lot in my life so I've learned how to be resilient. Instead of being hurt and saying, right, I'm coming off, I thought I'd show them what I could do.
Simon asked me what my song was, so I told him it was 'I Dreamed a Dream' from Les Mis´rables. I'd chosen that song because at the time I could identify with a lot of the emotions in it. I had recently lost my mother and I was still getting over the shock of being alone, because she'd been with me all my life. So I was lonely and depressed because I didn't think my life would change. It's a powerful song.
Simon said, 'Are you prepared to do another song?'
They cut this bit out of the video that appeared on television. That threw me. My second song was 'The Power of Love', but I didn't think I sang it as well as 'I Dreamed a Dream'. I didn't want to miss my chance, but 'I Dreamed a Dream' was the song I wanted to sing. So I looked Simon in the eye and said, 'Well, I'm prepared to sing another song if required, but what's in the machine is "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Mis.' To my relief, he heaved a weary sigh and told me to go ahead. I gave Ant the thumbs up.
As I listened to the pretty opening notes of the introduction, I became aware for the first time of the size of the audience in front of me. There were thousands of people, row upon row banked up behind the judges, and they were all watching me in anticipation. I knew what they were thinking. 'Just look at her! She's got a bum like a garage, a head like a mop, I'm not too sure if her teeth are her own, and she's claiming to be a singer! She cannae sing. She cannae! Well come on, let's hear you then...'
So I opened my mouth and showed them what I could do...