LONDON She may not have won, but unlikely singing star Susan Boyle showed she could face the music.
The 48-year-old church volunteer defied naysayers who doubted her place in "Britain's Got Talent" and gave a polished performance that earned her second place in the finals Saturday night, behind a dance troupe called "Diversity."
It was unlikely to be the end of Boyle's showbiz dream, however, as she told Boyle told broadcaster ITV she hoped to release an album and would "play it by ear" in her new music career.
Boyle, with her show-stopping voice and frumpy appearance, became an Internet phenomenon after she auditioned for the television talent show.
For the finals, she returned to the song that made her a YouTube sensation, "I Dreamed a Dream" from the musical "Les Miserables." She wore a glamorous but modest sparkly floor-length dress, and her once-grey frizzy hair was a soft brown halo.
"A lot of people said you shouldn't even be in this competition, that you weren't equipped to deal with it," Judge Simon Cowell told Boyle after her performance. "You had the guts to come back here and face your critics, and you beat them."
The past week had been tumultuous for Boyle. She lost her cool during a confrontation with two reporters, and the police intervened. Another contest judge said Boyle had contemplated pulling out of the program to soothe her frazzled nerves.
Millions voted by telephone after Saturday's live show, which Boyle had long been expected to win.
Her hometown of Blackburn, Scotland a working-class village about 10 miles (16 kilometers) west of Edinburgh rallied round her, stringing up signs declaring their support. Her defeat was greeted with shouts of "no" and gasps of disbelief at the Happy Valley Hotel, where neighbors and friends had gathered to watch the program.
"She lost because people didn't bother voting for her because they thought she was going to win it," lamented 21-year-old Gordon Mackenzie. "I didn't vote for her because I thought everyone else would."
Boyle was up against a host of everyman acts determined to find stardom on reality television, including a 12-year-old whose voice was compared to Michael Jackson's, an 11-year-old body-popping dancer and a grandfather-grandaughter singing duo.
Winning group "Diversity" are a 10-person dance troupe who range in age from 12- to 25-years-old. Their act won praise throughout the competition, but they weren't seen as front-runners. Their victory earned them 100,000 pounds ($159,000), and the right to perform for Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Variety Show in December.
Boyle's entree into the limelight has become reality-show history, after being viewed millions of times the fifth-most watched clip ever on YouTube.
She introduced herself on camera as someone who lived alone with her cat, Pebbles, and had never been kissed. Those details, combined with her matronly appearance, had sent the studio audience into titters.
But then she began to sing. And as Boyle hit a high note, Cowell's eyebrows rose along with her voice.