'X Factor' performers to get own psychologist
ITV bosses want to avoid repeat of Susan Boyle's public meltdown
Published 12/09/2010 | 05:00
X-Factor judges -- determined to protect stars including Irish singing sensation Mary Byrne from the pressures of fame -- have hired two full-time psychologists for this year's show.
The reality television bosses are so worried that the winning contestant could suffer the same fate as Susan Boyle that they have hired a pair of fully trained counsellors, who will be placed on 24-hour standby for the acts.
Sources say the very public meltdown that saw Susan Boyle rushed to The Priory has led to much soul-searching among television executives.
"X Factor bosses have always looked after the health of contestants but this year they are being very conscientious. They cannot afford another meltdown like that which happened to Susan Boyle," said a source. "It affects people's perceptions of the show, the 'happy ever after' factor, if you will. But most of all, they have to take responsibility when they thrust someone into the limelight, that they have been mentally and emotionally equipped to deal with that kind of pressure.
"They may find fame and fortune but they give up their anonymity, their privacy, everyone wants a piece of them, and they have to be given the tools to deal with that."
Reality show meltdowns have become more frequent with the rise of the genre, with infamous cases including Paula Goodspeed, a mentally fragile contestant who was rejected by Simon Cowell on American Idol, committing suicide in a car parked outside fellow judge Paula Abdul's LA home.
Another reality contestant, Kellie McGee, took an overdose in 2005 after being dropped from ABC's Extreme Makeover, in which frumpy women are given a "Cinderella-like transformation" at the hands of Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeons.
After being told that her facelift was being cancelled because it didn't fit with the show's production schedule, McGee had cried: "How can I go home as ugly as I left?"
Meanwhile, singer Mary Byrne says she can't wait to be as famous as Susan Boyle -- but has vowed to avoid a SuBo-style meltdown.
The 50-year-old Dubliner, who blew judges away in her audition, insists she has the mental stamina to handle "anything that comes my way", saying "I can't wait to be famous!"
During Mary's Dublin audition, Simon Cowell delivered his verdict, saying: "I think you've had the best voice out of anyone who has auditioned today. Seriously good."
And while the single mum Mary has been likened to Britain's Got Talent star SuBo, the Tesco worker insists they are poles apart.
She said: "It's nice to be compared to her in the sense she is someone who made it big. But Susan has a softer voice than me, mine's very strong and deep. Susan was shy. But I'm embracing the limelight. Now I'm aiming to get to the live finals, get a nice contract and become the singer I want to be."
But she insisted: "My family will keep my feet on the ground."