Diversity "gobsmacked" by UK TV talent show win

LONDON Sun May 31, 2009 8:37am EDT

Winners of British television contest ''Britain's Got Talent'', Diversity, pose for photographers at a news conference in London May 31, 2009. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Winners of British television contest ''Britain's Got Talent'', Diversity, pose for photographers at a news conference in London May 31, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

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LONDON (Reuters) - Street dance troupe Diversity said on Sunday it was still in shock after beating runaway favorite and Internet sensation Susan Boyle in the final of the popular "Britain's Got Talent" television contest.

Boyle, 48, had been heavily backed to beat nine other finalists late on Saturday after clips of her first appearance on the show in April were downloaded nearly 200 million times and she was hailed the world over as a superstar.

The Scottish spinster who joked she had never been kissed and who challenged people's notion of what a celebrity should be came second behind Diversity in a final which attracted a peak audience of 19.2 million people in Britain.

Although the average viewing figure will be lower, at its peak the ITV show commanded 72 percent of the total television audience.

Nearly four million people phoned in to choose a winner, and Diversity won 24.9 percent of the vote ahead of Boyle's 20.2 percent. Saxophonist Julian Smith was third with 16.4 percent.

The 11 dancers, led and choreographed by 20-year-old Ashley Banjo, had been the bookmakers' sixth favorite to win before the show, and said on Sunday the result was still sinking in.

"I think I fell over," said Banjo. Diversity comprises three sets of brothers and friends aged between 13 and 25.

"I had my speech ready, you know, 'Well done Susan'," he told a news conference.

"Then they said 'Diversity', and honestly, my legs actually gave way. I'm really tall and there's a long way to fall. I hit the floor and honestly words can't describe how I felt."

Perry Kiely, who at 13 is the joint-youngest member of the troupe formed two years ago, said he was "gobsmacked."

Diversity wins 100,000 pounds ($160,000) and will appear at the Royal Variety Performance before the Queen.

HOW TO MAKE MONEY

How Diversity, and Britain's Got Talent judge Simon Cowell, turn the success into cash remains to be seen.

Boyle's financial future is seen as secure despite coming second, as Cowell and his Syco music label are widely expected to sign her up for an album and there is talk of a Hollywood movie being made about her story.

"I don't think a street dance group, especially from the UK, has really come as far as we have," Banjo said.

"So I think there's really a chance that ... we can almost create our own path. However he (Cowell) wants to make money out of us he can do it, I suppose."

Banjo said Boyle had been gracious in defeat.

"She was so gracious about it, she said the best act won and behind (stage) she said she saw something special," he said.

"She was so nice about it. She has a great career. She's going to do really well anyway."

Despite expectations that Boyle will make a fortune from her fame and talent, there has been concern in the media and among show organizers about her ability to cope with pressure.

Boyle, who was starved of oxygen at birth leading to minor brain damage, has been pursued by the world's press since early April and, according to show judge Piers Morgan, broke down in tears repeatedly during the run-up to the final.

At one point she threatened to quit Britain's Got Talent, but showed few nerves as she sang "I Dreamed a Dream."

"You can walk away from this, win or lose, with your head held high, Susan," Cowell told her on the night.

(Editing by Tim Pearce)

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