LOOK AT HER NOW!
About three weeks ago, Susan Boyle, an unemployed church volunteer from Scotland, shocked the world with her pitch-perfect delivery of "I Dreamed a Dream" on the reality show Britain's Got Talent
. With video of her performance racking up more than 100 million views—and counting—on YouTube, Boyle stunned people once again on April 23: She stepped out sporting a trendy outfit, sleeker eyebrows and a dark new do. "I never knew that a makeover would become such an important event!" exclaims her older brother John, who insists the dye job is a "wee rinse. It will wash out. It's not a major thing!"
But when it comes to Boyle, even the smallest change can make headlines. And while the 48-year-old from the industrial town of Blackburn (population less than 5,000) initially called the outpouring of attention "unreal" and said she was enjoying it, Boyle has since gone into hiding, staying with one of her sisters until the media firestorm subsides.
"She couldn't even attend her own church last Sunday as [photographers] were hanging about there," her neighbor Brian Smith tells PEOPLE. "But she seems to be coping."
With a good deal of downtime until the show's semifinal round kicks off on May 24, Boyle's immediate plans are simple: rest, relaxation and maybe rehearsal. "She has told me a couple songs [she likes] but she doesn't know which one she will sing [next]," John Boyle says. "But she doesn't do a great deal of rehearsing; she just goes and sings."
If Boyle does make it to the final night, airing in the U.K. six days after the semifinals begin (so far, there are no plans to show the program here in the U.S.), she'll be assigned a vocal coach to help her. "She's got to sing better than she's ever sung before," says judge Simon Cowell
. "But it could all go horribly wrong because there are so many distractions."
Longtime pal Smith isn't worried, insisting that despite it all, his friend hasn't changed a bit. "The person inside is the person who matters," he says. "Susan is Susan."
- With Simon Perry/London,
- Pamela Warrick/Los Angeles.