After her emotional Britain’s Got Talent 2015 audition, Becky O’Brien became known as the contestant who brought “TV’s harshest talent judge, Simon Cowell, to tears.” I might have said “to the verge of tears”, as Cowell didn’t weep so much as get wet around the eyes, but there is no dispute that he was moved by O’Brien’s audition. First there was her voice, then there was her song choice, and then there was the backstory that she revealed in introducing herself.
When she appeared on BGT, O’Brien was a 34-year-old divorced mother of 5. She entered the show after her son David encouraged her “to show Simon how it’s done.” She also revealed that she was a survivor of “a really abusive marriage”, which made her decision to sing Over The Rainbow poignant. In The Wizard of Oz (1939), Dorothy (Judy Garland) is told by Aunt Em to go somewhere she won’t get into trouble. Dorothy muses about where a place without trouble might be, before breaking into song:
What a beautiful, controlled reading of the song. As judge Alesha Dixon commented, O’Brien’s voice is “like it’s from a different era”. Obviously O’Brien got four yeses to go through to the next round. If you think that O’Brien’s singing, stage presence, and gestures suggest that she was an experienced singer, you would be right. In 2005, Becky O’Brien and two of her sisters appeared in the film Mrs Henderson Presents as the Deering Sisters. They also sang the title song, Babies of the Blitz.
The O’Brien Sisters performed the song at the 60th anniversary of VE day in Trafalgar Square (2005), where up to 15 000 people turned up to hear stars including Sir Paul McCartney, Dame Vera Lynn and Katherine Jenkins. Then Becky O’Brien’s babies started coming. On BGT, O’Brien made it through to the semi-finals, where she was eliminated after singing If I Could by Regina Belle. Let’s not worry about that. Here is the O’Brien Sisters performing Babies of the Blitz in Mrs Henderson Presents:
In 2016, a year after her appearance on BGT, O’Brien headlined Preston’s third annual White Ribbon Festival for the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. At this time, O’Brien told the Daily Mail that her ex-husband, Stephen Moonesamy, assaulted her in the maternity ward soon after she had given birth to twins, three months prematurely. She was left with a fractured jaw, a split lip and a punctured cheek. O’Brien is now the Survivor Ambassador for the charity Women’s Aid. In this capacity, she has appeared on numerous platforms including ITV’s This Morning and BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire.
Becky O’Brien’s appearance on BGT 2015 helped reignite her performance career. Gary Parkes Music, a booking agency, reports “Becky has toured extensively across the globe with various shows including, The Songbook of Judy, Puttin’ on the Ritz, The Rat Pack and The Spirit of Broadway, to name but a few. She has also had the honour of performing at some wonderful venues including the Edinburgh Fringe, Disneyland Paris, various theatres from America to China….but possibly her favourite to date, The London Palladium.” To get a better sense of Becky O’Brien’s post BGT 2015 renaissance, here is her 2020 showreel: