Sunday, May 31, 2009

Diversity can't escape Susan Boyle

Diversity can't escape Susan Boyle, despite victory in Britain's Got Talent

(Daniel Deme/EPA)

Diversity - the day after winning the BGT title
Valentine Low

Smiling, self-conscious and doing their best to hide the fact that they had scarcely gone to bed since last night’s victory on Britain’s Got Talent, the boys from Diversity faced the world’s press today — and discovered the difference between winning and coming first.

The 11-strong dance troupe from Essex caused a notable upset when they beat Susan Boyle into second place, winning nearly a quarter of the public vote.

But if they thought that the record company headquarters was filled with the international media because Good Morning America had developed a sudden and inexplicable interest in Essex street dance, they were in for a letdown.

The first question, naturally enough, was about them — but the second was about Susan Boyle, and what they had said to each other backstage.

On the international stage, this competition has produced only one truly global star; and, talented though they may, it is not Ashley Banjo, his brother and their friends, but a 48-year-old spinster from Lothian who looks like a dinner lady and sings like a miracle.

Despite reports of her volatile temper, their post-victory encounter with the woman the tabloids have cruelly dubbed The Hairy Angel passed off better than anyone could have hoped. “She was probably more gracious off stage than on stage,” said Banjo, 20. “She gave us big hugs, and she had a bit of a dance with us. She was really cool about it.”

Despite being a runner-up, Boyle is predicted to make millions from the international interest in her story. Quite how Simon Cowell will turn Diversity into a gold mine was unclear – as they “can’t sing”.

Banjo said: “It’s a new thing, a street dance group. Obviously with George [Sampson] last year he was a solo dancer so it’s completely different to a group of people, so that’s something that I can’t answer. However, he wants to make money out of us, he can do it.”

Sampson, 15, has since had a No 1 DVD and a sell-out West End show. The winner of the first series, the mobile phone salesman Paul Potts, has become an opera sensation. His debut album sold 3.5 million copies.

When asked about what their dream was now, Ian McNaughton, 25, who works for a City law firm, said: “It’s still early days, there’s so much out there to do. We’ve got the Royal Variety Performance and the tour as well, but we’re open to anything.”

Banjo, a science graduate, said he was so convinced that the group would lose, he had a speech prepared congratulating Boyle, and his “legs gave way” when the result was announced.

Diversity will now take part in the Britain’s Got Talent tour along with the nine other finalists next month and will perform in front of the Queen at The Royal Variety Performance in December.

According to show organisers their biggest appearance before Britain’s Got Talent was being paid £150 to appear in a fashion show at a shopping centre in Essex. The group was founded in Dagenham.

Diversity took 24.9 per cent of the public vote, above Boyle’s 20.2 per cent share. The contestant in third place, the saxophonist Julian Smith, gained 16.4 per cent. ITV said that it attracted nearly three quarters of the TV audience, with a peak of 19.2 million viewers.

The surprise result was a victory for bookmakers, which had taken more than £3 million in bets. A spokesman for William Hill said that his company had made a six-figure sum out of the upset. Boyle is heading for a recording contract and a £5 million fortune despite her loss.

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