Uh-oh, don't look now, but the global feel-good story of frumpy West Lothian singing sensation Susan Boyle has whipsawed over to the dark side. She's experiencing a major case of backlash, even as her internet fame continues to rise. The 48-year-old contestant, who seemingly wowed the judges for Britain's Got Talent television show, now is being criticized for her new looks, her girly "never been kissed" admission and her supposed out-of-nowhere arrival on the show's stage. Let's catch up on all of the developments:
The "Hairy Angel," as she was dubbed by one of the British papers, now sports a younger appearance after having undergone a makeover that cost about 35 pounds (about $50) at a salon near her home. Gone is the fusty woman with graying, frizzy hair and a jowly face. Now she's sports a brunette bob, and a photo shows her in a fashionable leather jacket and what looks to be a Burberry scarf. Her bushy eyebrows have been shaped and colored.
Backlash factor: High. Some worry that her new look will make her less of an underdog and destroy the good feelings that many seemed to have for her because she was one of them. The show's producers were also reportedly upset that she had undergone the changes without consulting with them. Others said it would have been hard for her not to do something about her looks with all of the sudden exposure.
In that YouTube clip from the show — versions of which have been viewed more than 100 million times — she coyly tells judge Simon Cowell that "I've never had a boyfriend. I've never even been kissed." But she told Extra interviewer Terri Seymour (Cowell's ex-girlfriend) on Thursday that "It was meant as a joke. I've got a wicked sense of humor, you know!" She's also reportedly hired a live-in bodyguard described by a Yahoo.com music blog as "hunky."
Backlash factor: Low. NowPublic.com asked, "Do you think a peck on the cheek counts for being kissed?" Others weren't quite so understanding: "Angel or crazy for publicity? You decide," said fan site CafeArjun.com. "I'm forced to believe it was all a planned show!"
Some have questioned whether the whole thing is just a setup. Were the judges really that stunned? Was she purposely not made up to achieve a desired effect? And is she truly an amateur? Reports of her singing a track on a charity album seemed to suggest her sad tale of a lonely life with her cat Pebbles might be a little overdramatized.
Backlash factor: Mixed. Louis Walsh, a judge from the other talent competition in the UK, The X Factor, was quoted in the Times of London as saying she couldn't live up to the hype, and that "Susan is a pretty good singer but she's not a great singer." On the other hand, she remains favored to win the competition, which resumes May 23 for its next round. And those YouTube views don't show any sign of slowing down.
The new video
On Friday, the Daily Mirror published a video on its site showing Boyle singing 23 years ago at her parents' 50th wedding anniversary in a pub. In the grainy video, she's singing I Don't Know How to Love Him from Jesus Christ Superstar as the camera pans around a room of silent relatives.
Backlash factor: Potentially high. Those silent relatives were either respectful or stunned at the warbling. Many viewers will likely fall into the latter group.
Sources: Associated Press, People.com, Yahoo.com, ABCNews.com, Times of London, msnbc.com