Paul Potts (born 13 October 1970), from Port Talbot in South Wales, is a British singer who became the winner of the first series of ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent, singing operatic arias and impressing the judges in all of his performances. At the time of his victory on Britain’s Got Talent, he had been working in The Carphone Warehouse, but following his win he has been signed by the show’s judge Simon Cowell to record an album. Potts has previously worked in unpaid opera productions from 1999 to 2003, however, a series of illnesses combined with a bicycle accident in 2003 brought an end to his amateur opera career.
Potts was raised in Fishponds, Bristol, by his father Roland, a bus driver, and mother, Yvonne, a supermarket cashier. He has two brothers and one sister, and attended St. Mary Redcliffe school where he first developed his love of singing.
In the interview that was broadcast before his performance in the semi-final, Paul stated that he had trouble with being bullied in school, and that it may have had an influence on his lack of self-confidence.
Until June 19, 2007 Potts worked as a manager at the Bridgend Carphone Warehouse, a mobile phone store around 8 miles from his home town. He was a Liberal Democrat councillor in Bristol from 1996 to 2003.
Previous work and experience
Potts first sang opera in 1999 in a karaoke competition, dressed as Pavarotti, although he had said during the show that his voice had always been a source of solace in the past when bullied, so he would have sung from a younger age. That same year he appeared in the Michael Barrymore talent show My Kind of Music. Although he did not win the competition, he won £8,000, which helped to pay for singing lessons in Italy. During his singing course he was selected as one of the best students, to sing in front of Luciano Pavarotti and Katia Ricciarelli, who were apparently impressed with his singing.
For the Bath, Somerset, based amateur company ‘Bath Opera’, he has performed on four occasions in the roles of Don Basilio (Marriage of Figaro), Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni), the title role in Verdi’s Don Carlos, and as the Prince of Persia and also the Herald in Turandot. He also sang for the Royal Philharmonic in front of an audience of 15,000 and toured Northern Italy as a soloist.
Potts broke his collarbone in a bicycle accident in 2003, which prevented him from pursuing opera as a career. He says that this, as well as financial difficulties, led to him to enter the talent show.
Britain’s Got Talent
On June 9, 2007, Potts’ audition of Simon Cowell’s new search-for-a-star show Britain’s Got Talent was televised on ITV in UK. The actual audition was held at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff on March 17, 2007. Paul sang a condensed version of Giacomo Puccini’s “Nessun dorma”, which impressed the judges and received a standing ovation from the audience of 2,000 people. Potts’ rendition of this has currently been viewed on video upload site YouTube tens of millions of times and exists among Youtube’s all-time most viewed videos.
In the semi-final on June 14, 2007, Potts performed main verses of “Con te partirò” with praise from the audience and judges. He progressed to the final after receiving the highest public vote in that show. He performed a full-length “Nessun dorma” for his final on June 17, 2007 as well as an encore after he won the competition. Potts defeated co-favourite with the bookmakers, Connie Talbot and received the highest public vote out of 2 million votes cast to win Britain’s Got Talent, winning the chance to perform at Royal Variety Performance in front of the Queen.
In the United States, he was profiled on a National Public Radio programme called “Day to Day” on June 15, 2007. NPR is a non-commercial network that reaches several million people every day in the U.S. On June 18, 2007, a commercial US Television network, NBC, highlighted Potts’s victory on its broadcast network’s NBC Nightly News and on its Cable news outlet MSNBC. Then on June 21, 2007 he appeared live on NBC’s programme Today.
During the programme there was some controversy as to the ‘undiscovered’ nature of Potts’ talent. He was portrayed on the show as simply a mobile phone salesman, whereas he had in fact appeared in four amateur opera productions and in a concert for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and had plans for a summer tour with the Orchestra. Potts responded to his critics saying that he had not claimed to be completely untutored, but had never performed any concert for pay, and was therefore amateur, and that the lessons he had received in Italy he had paid for from his own savings.
On July 8, 2007, Potts performed at a Katherine Jenkins‘ concert at Margam Park, “Katherine In The Park”. Jenkins extended an invitation for him to sing his rendition of “Nessun Dorma” at the concert. On July 16, 2007, his debut album “One Chance” was released in UK, and on July 22, 2007, the album claimed the number one spot in the UK Album Chart. On November 6, 2007, Potts appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show to performed on a show whose topic was Youtube.
Potts has been married since 2003 to Julie-Anne, whom he met in an internet chat room. His remarkable rise to worldwide popularity may be attributed to his humble demeanor and “rags to riches” success. Sites, such as The Paul Potts Story, have been created to discuss the human interest side of Paul Potts and why his story is so poignant to people.
2007 One Chance
#1 (UK, Australia, Norway, New Zealand, Denmark, Sweden)
2007 “Nessun Dorma”
#100 (UK), #2 (Taiwan)