See our viewers perfect 'Summer Moments' — and vote for your favorite!

Pop Culture

Susan Boyle: Sudden fame ‘like demolition ball’

For 23 years, Susan Boyle waited for fame to find her — and when it did, the impact was “like a giant demolition ball.”

Relaxed and seeming as at ease with herself as she has been since her remarkable voice catapulted her from obscurity to international sensation on “Britain’s Got Talent,” Boyle gave NBC News’ Meredith Vieira an exclusive interview. She spoke about the shock of becoming a star, and how pleased her mother would have been to see her amazing talent recognized by the world.

Boyle got two surprises during the lengthy interview. The first was a personal call from Donny Osmond, the singer she idolized as a girl. The second was an on-set visit from her idol, singer Elaine Paige.

‘I brush up well’
Boyle sported a new hairstyle — short, brown and frisky. Her distinctive dark eyebrows, trimmed and tamed, framed soft eyes.

“You look gorgeous,” Vieira told her.

Boyle smiled and replied, “Thank you, very much,” adding with a mock fluff of her hair and a self-deprecating laugh, “I brush up quite well.”

She admitted it wasn’t easy leaping into the cauldron of acclaim and fame after so many years of obscurity spent with memories of being mocked as a child. After she skipped several scheduled appearances immediately after her “Britain’s Got Talent” run, there were questions about her health.

“Was that overwhelming for you, because, as you said before, you come from basic obscurity?” Vieira asked. “It is a dream you've wanted. But in a matter of days, because of the power of the Internet, people know your name. People are talking about you.”

“It’s a lot like a giant demolition ball,” Boyle replied in a soft voice. “The impact — like a demolition ball. And anyone who has that kind of impact finds it really hard to get a head around it. I’ve got to be honest here. I guess I had to get my head around it, but through the guidance of a great team — and they are very good — I was able to see that in perspective and really turn that around a little.”

‘I needed a rest’As she becomes more comfortable with her fame, Boyle does not shrink from looking back on those rough days immediately after her surprising second-place finish in the finale of “Britain’s Got Talent.”

“I know there was a little rough spot, a little bit draining, obviously, physically and emotionally — [you] spent a few days in a clinic,” Vieira observed. “Was that good, to get away from the craziness of the demolition ball?”

“Well, when people get exhausted, they automatically have to have a rest,” Boyle replied. “That was pretty much necessary at the time. I needed a rest, just to get away.”

Boyle also talked about having to deal with issues going back to her childhood.

“It wasn't easy for me as a little kid, no, because I got ridiculed in school. You always get that from your peers, anyway,” she said. “I’m the type of person that just couldn’t stand up for herself very well, but I got over it. I’m getting over it now.”

“So was music then, for you, or singing for you sort of an outlet?” Vieira asked.

“I think it was a kind of, yeah, an emotional outlet,” she replied.

‘A sad period’Boyle said she first realized she had a good voice when her teachers kept putting her in the school choir when she was around 12. And, she said, it was her mother who used to watch “Britain’s Got Talent” with her youngest daughter and tell her she could be on that show.

Boyle had cared for her mother in the home she grew up in until her death two years ago at the age of 91. Losing her mother wasn’t easy.

“It was a sad period, but you move on from there,” Boyle said. “And you do something that [you know] she would be proud of you. And she would be very proud of me, doing something like this. Very proud of how I’ve achieved.”

“If she were here now, what do you think she’d say to you?” Vieira asked.

“ ‘Susan, keep going,’ ” Boyle answered.

After years of isolation, Boyle can still be surprised at the effects of her fame. She lit up when Vieira invited her to say hello to a voice from her childhood.

“Susan, congratulations on all of your success,” her girlhood idol, Donny Osmond, said via remote hookup. “It’s wonderful what’s happening with your career, and good luck with this new record that you’re doing. Someday, I make a prediction, you and I will do a record together, where we make ‘Puppy Love.’ ”

Boyle said that would be great.

After saying goodbye to Osmond, Boyle was surprised on set by the arrival of musical theater star Elaine Paige, who has inspired Boyle’s own singing.

“Oh, my God!” Boyle exclaimed when Paige said hello. “Gosh, but it's a thrill for me to at last meet you, because I have been wanting to say hello and to meet you for some time now. So at last these lovely people have given me the opportunity to come and say hello to you.”

Said Paige: “You captured the imagination of the world.”

  • Slideshow Photos

    Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images Europe

    Susan Boyle & Syco Music Make Special Announcement

    Susan Boyle wows the world

    Scottish singing sensation captures attention around the globe and deals with the pressures of instant fame.

  • Susan Boyle & Syco Music Make Special Announcement

    Susan Boyle wows the world

    of

    Holiday offering

    Scottish singer Susan Boyle attends a photocall to announce a charity single for Save the Children at Sony Music in London on Oct. 28, 2013.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • FRANCE-BRITAIN-MUSIC-BOYLE-RELIGION

    Susan Boyle wows the world

    of

    Sacred visit

    Boyle holds a banner with an image of the Virgin Mary as she poses for a photograph in a hotel during her pilgrimage to the city of Lourdes, France, on May 21, 2013.

    AFP-Getty Images / AFP-Getty Images
  • Susan Boyle Signs Her New Album At HMV Glasgow

    Susan Boyle wows the world

    of

    Her 'Standing Ovation'

    Boyle attends an album signing at HMV in Glasgow, Scotland, on Nov. 20, 2012. Dozens of fans lined up to get signed copies of her new album titled "Standing Ovation."

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Pride Of Britain Awards - Arrivals

    Susan Boyle wows the world

    of

    Great pride

    Boyle attends the Pride of Britain awards at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London on Oct. 29, 2012.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Susan Boyle Launches Poppy Scotland Appeal

    Susan Boyle wows the world

    of

    Poppy appeal

    Boyle and the Scottish Military Wives choir launch the Poppy Scotland appeal in Glasgow on Oct. 24, 2012. Boyle and the choir called for help to raise vital funds for Scotland's Armed Forces community during the campaign.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image:

    Susan Boyle wows the world

    of

    Her dream

    Boyle performs during her musical "I Dreamed A Dream" at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle, England, on March 27, 2012.

    AP / AP
  • Image: Susan Boyle Visits SiriusXM

    Susan Boyle wows the world

    of

    Hearing her now

    Boyle visits SiriusXM Studio on Nov. 1, 2011, to talk up her new album, "Someone to Watch Over Me." Though the title Gershwin tune is included, much of the other selections are takes on rock tunes.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Susan Boyle Attends Press Conference In Shanghai

    Susan Boyle wows the world

    of

    Lady in red

    Boyle spent time in "China's Got Talent" in July 2011, where she met Cai Hongping, a Shanghai market stall owner considered to be the Susan Boyle of China. Hongping's rendition of "Amazing Grace" on the Chinese version of YouTube garnered her 10 million hits within 10 days ... and landed her a slot on "Talent."

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Scottish singer Susan Boyle stands with her new wax work model at Madame Tussauds in Blackpool, northern England

    Susan Boyle wows the world

    of

    Beside herself

    A wax figure of Boyle was revealed at Madame Tussauds in Blackpool, England in April 2011... and the original apparently approves.

    Reuters / Reuters
  • Image: Scottish singer Susan Boyle performs at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow

    Susan Boyle wows the world

    of

    Her 'Dream' job

    Boyle performs at a mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, Scotland, on Sept. 16, 2010. In a pre-Mass statement, the Scottish-born Boyle said "it's a great honor to sing for the pope and it's something I've always dreamed of."

    Reuters / Reuters
  • Image: ABC's "Dancing With The Stars" - Season Nine - Week Eight

    Susan Boyle wows the world

    of

    Knock 'em dead, Susan

    Boyle performed "I Dreamed a Dream" on the "Dancing With the Stars" results show on Nov. 10, 2009. Accompanying her performance were professional dancers Tony Dovolani and Chelsie Hightower.

    The 47-year-old singer became a worldwide phenomenon after her rendition of the Les Miserables song on the reality TV show "Britain's Got Talent."

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Celtic v Hamburg - UEFA Europa League

    Susan Boyle wows the world

    of

    Celtic pride

    Boyle holds up a celtic scarf during the UEFA Europa League Group C soccer match between Celtic and Hamburg at Celtic Park in Glasgow, Scotland, on Oct. 22, 2009.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Susan Boyle wows the world

    of

    Fame takes its toll

    Boyle entered The Priory, a private clinic in north London, on May 31 2009, to be treated for exhaustion according to the "Britan's Got Talent" producers and a newspaper report. Television company TalkbackThames said on June 1, 2009 that Boyle was “exhausted and emotionally drained” and was taking a few days off.

    AFP - Getty Images / AFP - Getty Images
  • Image: Susan Boyle

    Susan Boyle wows the world

    of

    The pressure mounts

    Boyle leaves Wembley Plaza Hotel in London on May 27, 2009. Britain's tabloid newspapers wrote about how the singer had lost her temper and swore at two journalists who were taunting her in the days before the finale.

    Zuma Press file / Zuma Press file
  • Susan Boyle wows the world

    of

    Larger than life

    Locals gather at Blackburn community center to watch Boyle on TV during the final of "Britain's Got Talent" on May 30, 2009.

    AP / AP
  • Fans of television show 'Britains Got Talent' singer Susan Boyle react in their local community centre in Blackburn, Scotland after it was announced that Boyle came second in the competition

    Susan Boyle wows the world

    of

    Sad song

    Boyle fans show their frustration after she finished second in the "Britain's Got Talent" finale on May 30, 2009. Boyle's financial future is seen as secure, as Simon Cowell and his Syco music label are widely expected to sign her up for an album and there is talk of a Hollywood movie.

    Reuters / Reuters
  • Image: Friends Gather To Watch Susan Boyle In the Final Of 'Britain's Got Talent'

    Susan Boyle wows the world

    of

    A little Susan in all of us

    Friends and fans at Blackburn community center show their love for Boyle. Although she lost to the dance troupe Diversity, Boyle remains a winner to millions.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Susan Boyle wows the world

    of

    Thumbs up, Mum!

    “I did this for my late mother,” the unemployed Boyle said about her appearance on "Britain's Got Talent." “I wanted to show her I could do something with my life.”

    AP / AP
  • Susan Boyle wows the world

    of

    The world at her doorstep

    Boyle faces the media outside her home on Thursday, April 16, 2009.

    AP / AP
  • Susan Boyle

    Susan Boyle wows the world

    of

    Singing telegram?

    Boyle receives a well wishing message from an unidentified fan at her home on April 16, 2009. In a telephone interview, Boyle did express some impatience with questions over her love life: She raised eyebrows when she told the "Talent" audience that she'd "never been kissed." "It was said as a joke, not an advert. Can we move on?" Boyle said, laughing.

    AP / AP
  • Image: Susan Boyle

    Susan Boyle wows the world

    of

    A new look

    Boyle, pictured outside her home in Blackburn, Scotland, reveals a new hair color and style after undergoing a makeover on April 24, 2009.

    PA via AP / PA via AP
  • Susan Boyle Seen At Home After Her Recent Success On Britain's Got Talent

    Susan Boyle wows the world

    of

    Wardrobe change

    Boyle returns to her home in Blackburn, Scotland, on April 21, 2009 sporting a new leather-type jacket and print dress.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Susan Boyle Seen At Home After Her Recent Success On Britain's Got Talent

    Susan Boyle wows the world

    of

    Caught in the Web

    A young boy watches Boyle on YouTube on Monday, April 21, 2009 in Glasgow, Scotland. The boy is not alone. Millions of people around the world have watched Internet clips of Boyle singing on "Britain's Got Talent."

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • "Britain's Got Talent" contestant Susan Boyle poses with fans outside her home in Blackburn in West Lothian, Scotland

    Susan Boyle wows the world

    of

    Instant fame

    Boyle poses with fans outside of her home in Blackburn, Scotland, on April 21, 2009.

    Reuters / Reuters
  • Town shows support for Britains Got Talent contestant Susan Boyle

    Susan Boyle wows the world

    of

    Town pride

    Locals in the town of Blackburn show their support for Boyle on April 18, 2009. To friends and neighbors in the community of 4,750 people 20 miles west of Edinburgh, it was not surprising that the talent of a local treasure should finally be recognized. “Susan can’t help herself. She just sings whenever she can sing,” said Jackie Russell, manager of Blackburn’s Happy Valley Hotel, where Boyle sings karaoke.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Susan Boyle wows the world

    of

    King and singing queen

    Boyle appears on "Larry King Live on April 17, 2009. She asserted that she wouldn't be opting for a new look. "Why should I change?" she said, according to the show transcript. But she conceded, when King mentioned that she's been receiving a lot of fan mail: "I certainly won't be lonely anymore."

    AP / AP
  • Susan Boyle wows the world

    of

    Brush with fame

    Boyle poses singing with a hairbrush at her home in Blackburn, Scotland, on April 16, 2009. The unlikely star said she loves the attention and isn't bothered by those who poke fun at her unpolished appearance. "It goes with the territory. It doesn't bother me."

    AP / AP

‘I don’t want it to end’Boyle left no question that her struggles have been worth it. She has, after all, been dreaming of being exactly where she is now for more than two decades.

“It’s a long time — 23 years,” she told Vieira. “I don’t have to dream anymore, and I’m glad to be given this opportunity to get back into practice.”

Time and again, Boyle was at a loss for words to describe exactly what her journey has been like.

“It’s just been unbelievable; it’s indescribable,” Boyle said to Vieira of her meteoric rise. “Being plucked from obscurity is a bit like going on a long journey, really; you don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know how it’s going to end.”

“Are you having a good time?” Vieira asked.

“I’m having a wonderful time,” Boyle, wearing a simple purple dress, assured her interviewer. “I don’t want it to end. It’s just incredible. It’s indescribable, really.”

For more of Meredith Vieira’s interview with Susan Boyle, tune in to “America’s Got Talent” Wednesday, July 22 (9-10 p.m. ET) on NBC.

TOP