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The Susan Boyle phenomenon: redefining beauty, grace, and success?

Commentators find deeper meaning in British singer's YouTube popularity.

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It was to her elderly mother, sometime before she passed away, that Susan Boyle pledged she would "do something" with her life.

Two years on from that loss, she honored that promise with a now almost legendary appearance on a British television talent show.

A video clip of the Scot winning over skeptical judges and a cynical crowd with a rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream." from the musical "Les Misérables" has been viewed more than 40 million times, making it one of the most popular YouTube videos ever posted.

The youngest of nine, Ms. Boyle is an unlikely global star. Or is she?

She's a middle-aged woman from a village called Blackburn in Scotland's West Lothian region, where she lives alone with her cat, Pebbles. Her unruly hair and spinster image have long attracted taunts from local children, an echo of the bullying she endured as a girl. Several times a week, she serves as a volunteer at Our Lady of Lourdes church, visiting elderly members of the congregation.

The mass media – especially in the United States – are now hugging Boyle close ahead of a second performance (May 23) on the television show "Britain's Got Talent."

Capturing the doubts – and hopes – of millions

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