“What are you here to do for us tonight?” one of the 2007 Britain’s Got Talent judges asked, eyeing contestant #31829.
There he stood, thirty-six years old, with an awkward stance and too many chins. He’d dreamed of spending his life singing. He knew he’d been born to it. But he’d been horribly bullied as a child. Seven bully-inflicted scars still hid under his hairline. The terror of those years had stolen his confidence.
How remarkable then, that the gap-toothed, overweight contestant found enough courage to take his turn in the footlights at all.
“To sing opera,” he said. The judges cringed. Exchanged glances. Barely restrained smirks. The man in the funny little suit watched their reactions, looking almost ready to cry. “Go ahead,” they said.
As a youngster, he’d taken up music in school. It became his solace, allowing him to escape the bullies during lunch hours, while practicing in the music room. Along the way, he fell in love with opera, grabbing every musical opportunity he could. Later he took extra jobs to earn enough money to travel to Italy for a group class with Italian tenor, Pavarotti. The singer picked him out as someone of whom to take note.
But then came cancer, an accident and a series of health crises. Medical debts piled high. Paying them down obliterated his hopes of a life in opera. His lack of confidence didn’t help. So the contestant from South Wales stifled the dream, moved beyond his traumatic past and got on with life. He became a cell-phone salesman, married and served his community as a civil leader.
He’d entered the competition on a whim, sure his voice would fall far from any judge’s smile. “I was terrified,” he admitted later. He got his mouth open nonetheless, and the first strains of a classic Pucccini aria emerged.
A voice judge Simon Cowell later described as “magical” soared through the theatre. People forgot the funny suit, the extra pounds and chins, the gap in the teeth. Attendees wept in their seats. Others stood instantly, in praise of an undeniably God-given gift.
The competition could have closed in that instant.
Paul Potts lives his dream now. Since winning Britain’s Got Talent in 2007, he has sung for the queen and performed hundreds of solo concerts in great halls around the world. He’s made numerous full length albums, and been interviewed hundreds of times. His humility shines through and his incomparable performances still bring people to tears.
“What would you say to your bullies now?” one interviewer asked. With remarkable grace, Paul responded, “In some ways, the bullying probably made me the person I am. So, in some ways, thank you.”
Diamonds begin as lumps of coal. Pearls begin as irritations. Got tough stuff in your life? Whether or not it seems possible, God can bring good from it. Trust him for the jewel.