Ten years ago today — on April 11, 2009 — the world was introduced to the most unlikeliest of vocal powerhouses: Susan Boyle. The 58-year-old stepped out onto the Britain’s Got Talent stage a regular woman, one with a cat and one who had never been kissed. Singing “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Misérables, she wowed the entire world from the first note and her life has never been the same since.

“It feels surreal looking back over the past 10 years. I still have to pinch myself to believe it really did all happen,” Susan tells Closer Weekly exclusively, looking back on the exact moment that changed everything. “The past 10 years exceeded my expectations. It’s a great feeling though and incredible really when you sit down and think about everything that has happened and what I’ve achieved.”

The judges couldn’t get enough of Susan. Piers Morgan gushed that she was the “biggest surprise” and her performance was “stunning” and “incredible.” Amanda Holden said it was “a complete privilege listening to that.” Simon Cowell, left uncharacteristically speechless at first, joked that he knew she was special from the moment they met her. Susan, of course, advanced to the next round.

“‘I Dreamed a Dream’ will always hold a special place in my heart. It is the song that changed my life overnight — quite literally!” Susan continues, noting how the tune took her from “a lonely, unknown lady in Scotland who made a promise to her mum that she would make something of her life” to the star she is today. “I wasn’t happy before and this song turned everything on its head,” Susan adds.

“I chose ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ as it seemed so apt in terms of my dream of being a professional singer,” Susan explains of the star-making number. “I wasn’t in a great place in my life back then so I identified with the song. Everyone has a dream, and my dream really did come true — and then some!”

Though she ultimately lost her season of BGT — coming in second place to street dance troupe Diversity in the highest-rated live finale in the show’s history — Susan has made perhaps the biggest impact of any contestant. She has had three No. 1 albums on the U.K. charts, earned two Grammy nominations and broken six Guinness World Records, just to name a few of her biggest achievements.

Susan Boyle
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“Life would be entirely different altogether!” Susan responds when asked what her life would have been like today had she never auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent and won over the world in the process. “I actually don’t know what I would be doing. I’d probably be muddling along still feeling like an outsider. I like to look after people, so maybe I would have done something in that field of work.”

As for the “fond memories” from the past decade, Susan says performing with her “childhood crush” Donny Osmond in Las Vegas in 2012 is among the top. “That was brilliant,” she remembers. Susan also recalls the “unbelievable” scene when she arrived in L.A. for the first time (to perform on America’s Got Talent) and “meeting icons like Whoopi Goldberg” (when performing on The View), both relatively soon after her big splash on BGT. “I’ve had the best decade of my life!” Susan declares.

What does Susan hope for in the next 10 years? “To keep on going!” she exclaims just weeks ahead of her latest album, Ten, drops on May 31. Susan looks forward to potentially trying a new genre (“maybe jazz or blues”) or singing some “up-tempo” material, too. “I’m not planning on retiring anytime soon!”

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