SHE`S the modest Scottish singer who came from nowhere to conquer the music world.
But despite selling more than nine million albums and achieving global fame and success, Susan Boyle is still haunted by demons from her troubled childhood.
She reveals that cruel bullies singled her out because of the brain damage she suffered at birth - with one cruel gang of yobs even stubbing a lit cigarette out on her.
But the 49-year-old, who shot to fame last year after stepping on to the Britain`s Got Talent stage, finally found a way to beat the bullies - with her voice.
In her new autobiography, The Woman I Was Born To Be, she says: "My singing silenced the bullies, but better than that it silenced the demons inside me.
"When you`ve been jeered at, told to shut up, sit still, stop being silly, there`s noise constantly rolling around inside your head. When I was singing, it was peaceful.
"It gave me a new identity. Instead of being `That Susan Boyle - do you remember, she was a bit odd at school?` I became `Susan Boyle - did you know she can really sing?`"
With her first audition in front of the Britain`s Got Talent judges in April 2009, Susan wowed the world, with tens of millions later watching the clip of her spellbinding performance on YouTube.
After a shock result that saw her come second in the talent contest to dance group Diversity, she was offered a record deal by Simon Cowell and went on to sell more than nine million copies of her album I Dreamed A Dream.
But all that would have seemed impossible to the 14-year-old Susan, who once found herself cowering face down in the mud from her school bullies.
In her new book, published today, Susan describes a terrifying incident in which she was chased after school by a gang of yobs back in her home town of Blackburn, West Lothian.
She recalls: "One afternoon, a gang of girls and boys started chasing me. I set off, trying to get a head start, running as fast as I could... thinking that if I could just get to the turning into our estate, I would be safe."
But instead she found herself heading towards wasteland.
"My lungs were burning in my chest and my feet were pounding one in front of the other. It was like one of those nightmares where you`re trying to run and your limbs won`t move fast enough.
"They caught up with me... I was fighting for my life. They grabbed my bag and swung me round so I toppled down the bank towards the stream, landing on my face in a patch of nettles.
"The ringleader, whose name I won`t mention, stepped forward, took a cigarette from her lips and stubbed it through the back of my blazer.
"The perfect round hole the cigarette burned seemed to sum it all up. All I was good for was stubbing out a cigarette. I was of no use to anyone." During Susan`s birth she was starved of oxygen and doctors told her parents, Bridget and Patrick: `She will never come to anything, so don`t expect too much of her.`
Her childhood was a constant round of trips to specialists who eventually diagnosed her with slight brain damage and hyperactivity. But it did not take other kids long to realise that Susan was different from them.
Even her own brothers used to tease her at home, when she was just a toddler.
"My brothers invented a character called Peter Noddy and told me he was out the back of the house waiting for me," she says.
"I used to trot out to see this Peter Noddy and then one of my brothers would jump out and roar at me. I fell for it every time and it made me scared."
But it was when she started school that the real bullying started. "You know how kids are. They`re very quick to perceive a weakness and it was good fun to try to get a rise out of me, so they laughed at me and called me ugly names.
"Unfortunately that meant I stopped trusting anyone and became very shy instead.
"When you`re a child, grown-ups always tell you that `sticks and stones will break your bones, but words will never hurt you`. I`ve never seen the logic of it. Cuts and bruises quickly heal and disappear. You forget about them. But the psychological wounds that bullies inflict with words go much deeper.
"Even now I don`t like to think about those times too much, in case the scars begin to open up and hurt, making me feel useless all over again."