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See Susan Boyle and other unknowns who found instant fame

Shaun Harrison
1 of 13 Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

Susan Boyle

It could take years for some, but for Susan Boyle, a seven-minute package — punctuated by a soaring rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" — on Britain's Got Talent was all it took to go from an unassuming 47-year-old Scot to a global phenomenon. Boyle, whose album broke the U.S. record for highest single-week sales in 2009, is just one of many unknowns who achieved instant stardom.
2 of 13 John Shearer/WireImage.com

Stephenie Meyer

Susan Boyle may have dreamed a dream, but Meyer dreamed a best-selling book series. The former receptionist was a stay-at-home mother to three boys when the idea of Twilight came to her in a dream on June 2, 2003, she said. Meyer was so taken by it that she jotted down notes about the dream that would eventually become Chapter 13 of the first novel, which has sold 17 million copies worldwide and spawned a global film franchise.
3 of 13 Ray Mickshaw/Fox

Adam Lambert

Between his audacious covers of Michael Jackson's "Black or White," Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," The Miracles' "The Tracks of My Tears" and Tears for Fears' "Mad World" (we can go on), it was obvious Lambert was unlike any American Idol contestant ever before. Like Susan Boyle, he finished second, but his is the name on everyone's lips.
4 of 13 courtesy Fox Searchlight Pictures

Jon Heder

Heder garnered an instant cult following the surprise success of the awkwardly offbeat Napoleon Dynamite, which was adapted from the actor's short film with college buddy Jared Hess. It was Heder's first film role and just like that, a star was born. Gosh!
5 of 13 Don Arnold/WireImage.com

Paul Potts

Before Susan Boyle, there was Paul Potts. A manager of a mobile phone store, Potts mesmerized millions with his booming tenor when he performed Puccini's "Nessun dorma" on Britain's Got Talent. He won the competition and has since released two albums.
6 of 13 MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Tareq and Michaele Salahi

Why crash weddings when you can crash the White House? The Salahis were all the talk this Thanksgiving after they bypassed security into President Barack Obama's first state dinner. Though they said they have proof that would "completely" exonerate them, copies of e-mail correspondence show they were never on the guest list. Another short list they're trying to make? The Real Housewives of D.C. cast.
7 of 13 Mark Arbeit/TLC

Jon and Kate Gosselin

Yes, there was a time when Jon and Kate carried on their "crazy life" in relative obscurity. After all, Jon & Kate Plus 8 had been on the air since 2007 with little fanfare until reports of infidelity in early 2009 began an endless parade of tabloid coverage, he-said she-said fights, divorce, dismal ratings, new companions, lawsuits, apologies, a new show name and then no show at all — for now.
8 of 13 courtesy Lionsgate

Gabourey Sidibe

Sidibe was the toast of Sundance for her breakthrough role as a sexually abused teen in Precious, and she garners more Oscar buzz by the day. The New York native was a psychology student with no acting experience when she auditioned for the role.
9 of 13 Michael Tran/FilmMagic.com

Spencer and Heidi Pratt

Arguably, anyone from The Hills could be on this list, but no one's instant notoreity has vexed us more than Speidi's. You can also thank the show for this and this.
10 of 13 Mitch Haaseth/Bravo

Christian Siriano

The Project Runway Season 4 champ was sought after by a bevy of A-list stars, including Victoria Beckham, after his victory, which saw him — at age 22 — become the show's youngest winner ever. His collections are fixtures at Fashion Week and he has expanded his brand to include shoe and makeup lines. Now that's fierce.
11 of 13 George Pimentel/WireImage.com

Lady Gaga

Talk about being a Fame Monster. Gaga, who struggled for years to kick-start her music career, made everyone take notice immediately, not only with her infectious synth–pop tunes, but with her ridiculous costumes and stage shows as well.
12 of 13 Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Joe the Plumber

His name is Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, but you can just call him Joe. The Ohio native became an instant celebrity after then-presidential candidates Barack Obama and (mostly) John McCain tried to appeal for his — and his fellow blue-collar folks' — vote during their third and final presidential debate. Since then, Joe hasn't done too shabby for himself, parlaying his fame into commentating and motivational-speaking gigs.
13 of 13 Justin Stephens/NBC


If you can't name all the winners of The Apprentice, don't worry, we can't either. But we bet you still remember the one-named, cutthroat villainess from way back in Season 1. Omarosa made sure of it. "I knew what would bring great ratings," she has said. "I knew what would entertain America. I knew they liked watching me, and I liked entertaining them and I profited from it."