Each week, journalist and content producer Stephanie Stephens celebrates healthy living with a famous figure age 45+.
I’m taking a special musical detour this week here on Mind Your Body because I previewed the all-access and unabashedly intimate documentary entitled Susan Boyle: Her Secret Struggle. If you’re a fan of Boyle (and honestly, who isn’t?), then you must watch this show. And if you’re unfamiliar with her work, now’s the time to catch up. The program airs Wednesday, April 9, at 10 p.m. ET on Ovation network.
The Scottish singer, who turned 53 on April 1, first performed on Britain’s Got Talent in 2009, with her version of the signature song “I Dreamed a Dream” from the Broadway musical Lés Miserables. Live audience members learned quickly that what you see isn’t always what you get. Her historic performance left them speechless before they erupted into thunderous, feel-good applause (watch it here). Boyle ultimately placed second in the show’s finals on a night when a record 17 million British viewers tuned in. Seven months later, she released her debut album that snagged the number one spot worldwide.
From Council House to Full House
Ovation’s video diary follows her as she plans, rehearses, and finally executes her first tour. She also talks frankly about her 2012 diagnosis of Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restrictive, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.
Now with music sales of more than 20 million records, Boyle has proven herself to be a superstar who presents an endearing image far afield from the often over-the-top glitz and glam of music industry A-listers. Boyle continued to release music that captured our hearts and minds, and connected us with a celebrity who thankfully didn’t act “like a celebrity.” Case in point: Boyle still lives in her family’s former “council house”—public housing—in Blackburn, Scotland. And she’s a “cat person.”
For legions of Boyle fans, this show unfolds with a straightforward, behind-the-scenes perspective, no holds barred. When she hurts, we hurt. It’s been no secret that Boyle combated often crippling acute anxiety and panic attacks her entire life, exacerbated en route to performing a multi-song, 90-minute show before thousands of captivated fans in a giant arena setting.
Hitting a Home Run
With the help of her vocal and artistic director Andrew Panton, Boyle builds confidence step by step, and we see how intent she is to prove that she really can cope.
We hear her confess that she was always trying to be accepted, and has lived with a sense of being inferior and just not good enough. The up-close exposé chronicles Boyle through often agonizing rehearsals during which she expresses major self-doubt—and even cries—before conquering her cognitive demons and emerging triumphant for opening night in Scotland. You feel her hesitance, and then her overwhelming sense of accomplishment as she erupts with, “I want some more!” following the performance of her lifetime.
She then jets to America, where she sings like an angel for 20,000 enraptured fans in Houston.
Throughout her journey, you’re reminded that we all have goals, and we all want to succeed, and that it hurts when we face obstacles along the way that seem insurmountable. It’s especially clear in this touching story that in the beginning, Boyle’s greatest obstacle was herself.
“I’m looking forward to doing more,” she concludes. No doubt, her audience is looking forward, too.
Stephanie Stephens, M.A. is a host, spokesperson and consultant for the active mature female demographic—midlife and boomer. She writes, produces, and hosts her multimedia channel, Mind Your Body TV, featuring timely health and lifestyle blogs, podcasts, and videos—also seen on YouTube and syndicated by AOL/On.