Imagine, if you will, being anonymous for 47 years of your life, and then suddenly being propelled into genuine world superstardom. For many people, it would be a dream come true. All that fame and attention, and the prospect of all that money to come with it down the line.
But let me tell you now, there is a downside to fame. People start criticizing you, sniping at you, trying to trip you up, belittle you, harass you. The pressure from sudden global success can be enormous. Everywhere you go, people recognize you and want a piece of you—an autograph, a photo, a quick song, a chat to their mum on a mobile phone. You can’t go out anymore without being mobbed in the streets. You can’t nip down to the supermarket for a pint of milk or go to the paper shop.
Susan’s just a sweet, middle-aged lady from a Scottish village, who can’t really comprehend the sheer scale of what’s happened to her.
That pressure, too, can take its toll on close family and friends. They don’t know quite how to deal with it either. Suddenly they’re all caught up in this insane, relentless goldfish bowl. All the fun of being propelled into international acclaim starts to disappear. And you start to feel jittery, self-conscious, paranoid, and fractious.
Then imagine, too, having all this go on when you are days away from the final of a competition that can make or break your career and your life. A competition that everyone expects you to win, a fact that in itself piles on even more pressure.
This is exactly the situation that Susan Boyle now finds herself in.
And my heart absolutely bleeds for the poor woman.
I picked up the papers this morning, and saw a load of headlines ridiculing Susan for a supposed incident where she is said to have heard me tell Shaheen Jafagholi he had given the "best singing performance of the semifinals" and gone mad—flicking V-signs and shouting "**** off," before storming off to her hotel bedroom.
She was said to be angry because I, her "favorite judge," had backed another contestant. Susan denies this happened, and I wasn’t there, so I don’t know what really went on. But I’ve seen the photos of her arguing with policemen after a furious altercation with a reporter who later asked her about it, and I’ve read the incredibly bitchy comments exploding all over various Web sites about her behavior.
And you know what? It made me very, very angry.
Susan Boyle is a very kind, generous-hearted lady who has had a pretty tough life. She was deprived of oxygen during her birth, and that left her with "learning difficulties," causing her to be called "Simple Susan" at school.
Rather than feel sorry for herself she dedicated all her time to helping her aging, ailing mother until she died two years ago. She’s never married, and memorably declared she’d "never even been kissed." But she’s always, according to people who knew her well, been a fun-loving, popular woman who would do anything to help others, including devoting considerable unpaid time and effort to her local church and community as a volunteer.
I’m not saying she’s a saint. But I am saying that before all this fuss, Susan was generally considered by everyone who met her to be a genuinely lovely person. Albeit, one with a lively, feisty character, and a wonderfully eccentric sense of humour. That’s why I feel so upset to see all the distress she is currently suffering from all the media and public furor.
Susan is finding it very, very difficult to cope, and to stay calm. She has been in tears many times during the last few days, and even, fleetingly, felt like quitting the show altogether at one point and fleeing all the attention. She’s had to read stories and columns, and listen to radio and TV phone-ins, calling her arrogant, insincere, spoiled, fake, mad and so on.
Now, I have been called all that and worse in my career, but I spent 20 years in Fleet Street and know how to deal with it. Susan Boyle has never experienced anything like this and is like a frightened rabbit in headlights.
I am calling today for everyone to just give her a break.
She is two days away from the biggest day of her life, and all she wants to do is sing well for everyone and hopefully try and win. She’s not a mass murderer, a thieving banker, or an expense-fiddling politician.
Susan’s just a sweet, middle-aged lady from a Scottish village, who can’t really comprehend the sheer scale of what’s happened to her. And far from decrying her, shouldn’t we all be celebrating the amazing journey she has gone on, and the fact that she has done more for the reputation of Britain in the last month than anyone for a very long time.
As I said after her performance on Sunday night, Susan has given new hope and inspiration to a world battered by recession with her voice, and her story. Two hundred million people have now watched her YouTube clip, more than any other clip in history, and she is a household name from Russia to China, Australia to Africa.
Becoming the biggest star on the planet so fast is a scary, unsettling, upsetting thing, as Susan has discovered. Let the increasingly unpleasant bitching and carping stop, right now. Please. She doesn’t deserve it.
Piers Morgan worked as a gossip columnist for the Sun before going on to edit the News of the World and then the Daily Mirror, where he stayed until 2004 when he was sacked following his decision to publish photos of British soldiers apparently abusing Iraqi prisoners of war. Since then, he shot to fame as a judge on America's Got Talent and was the first winner of Celebrity Apprentice. His new book, God Bless America: Misadventures of a Big Mouth Brit has just been published. You can find more on Piers Morgan and Susan Boyle at Piers’ Web site: www.officialpiersmorgan.com.