Thu, Dec 12, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Singer Susan Boyle’s offbeat career

As her extraordinary career continues, the Scottish sensation has revealed that she has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. She talks frankly about her personal struggles, sibling jealousy and duet with Elvis

By Catherine Deveney  /  The Observer

She loves children, and various family photographs keep Elvis company on the mantelpiece.

“Other people’s children,” she laughed. “You can hand them back!”

However, she admitted more seriously that she would have liked her own.

“It is a regret, but you can’t change it. I am too old to adopt,” she said.

Sometimes life is a trade-off, is it not?

“That’s right! If I had a family, I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing now. You can’t have everything,” she said.

Her life pre and post-success, she said, is like a before-and-after advertisement.

“Before, I was lonely, had no money and had just lost my mother,” she said.

Now she is less lonely and certainly has money — though that is not everything, she stressed.

“I’ve still not got my mother, but I can’t change that. The main riches in my life are my family and my mother,” she said.

Her family is close? She hesitated: “It can vary. It’s a typical family. A bit of a roller-coaster.”

Some of her brothers and sisters were singers too. Is there sibling rivalry?

“There is, unfortunately, that rivalry,” Boyle admitted, referring to one of her sisters and one of her brothers in particular.

“They don’t mean it,” she said. “It’s just... Out of the road! I was here first! How dare she!”

Her brother Gerard has set up a business of his own.

“He wants me to promote certain things,” she said uneasily. “There was something he wanted me to do and I didn’t want to do it for contractual reasons. He has taken the huff,” she said. “But he’ll be back.”

Does the tension upset her?

“It does cause a bit of anxiety and frustration, and it can affect my work sometimes. But then I realize it’s not worth it. Sometimes in families relationships can become strained, and there are certain members of my family who haven’t really come to terms with my success,” she said.

It is important to her to remain “grounded,” she said, but she is also insecure and reluctant to assume anything will last. She has a very Scottish aversion to talking about her achievements.

“You don’t bum your load!” she said. “Believing in yourself is difficult. Every artist has doubt.”

What does the secret voice in her head say? She said, “‘Are you getting too old? Are you good enough? Are you still good?’”

There is an unfortunate tendency to reduce Boyle to a caricature, “Susie Simple,” as she was called at school. In fact, she is quite complex. She is open about suffering from depression when she was younger, though she said her life is in a more positive phase now. Mood swings are part of her.

“I can control it,” she insisted — though you can not help imagining her alone in this house.

She thinks mental illness carries less stigma now. Yes, past generations sometimes thought of depression as self-indulgence, did they not?

“It’s not indulgence,” she insisted with sudden, quiet authority. “It’s a negative process, but if you can turn it into a positive it makes you stronger. Believe me.”

Boyle loves her physical makeover: the glossy, chestnut hair that replaced the gray, and the posh frocks, but she doesn’t want to change inside. She has not cut her working-class roots.

“I’m not a money worshiper. I’ve always voted Labour. I’ll never be a Tory,” she said.

What about the Scottish independence referendum?

“We need each other and depend on each other,” she said.

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