A COUNTY Tyrone mum is walking tall as an X Factor hit — overcoming the heartache of her country music singing husband walking out on her.
Millions saw brave and beautiful redhead Rachael McCauley dramatically win a much-needed third ‘yes’ vote from Sharon Osbourne on The X Factor last night.
The 26-year-old Strabane stunner had been criticised by head judge Gary Barlow, who told her “there are so many bad habits in there” and said “No”.
Viewers then saw Sharon Osbourne saying ‘yes’ to the Strabane stunner’s performance of the ballad Lean On Me.
But the wife of Black Sabbath rocker Ozzy told the mum of one that she was “not expecting great things” from her in the next heat.
Speaking exclusively to Sunday Life, the former Miss Teen Ireland beauty pageant winner revealed the extraordinary drama that telly viewers didn’t
get to see on The X Factor last night. Rachael, from the Bready area of Strabane, said that she had initially divided the judges with her first song, Fields of Gold.
Both Louis Walsh and Nicole Scherzinger said ‘yes’. But Gary Barlow and Sharon Osbourne said ‘no’.
It was only after the ex-Pussycats Dolls singer pleaded for her to be given another chance that Rachael won a reluctant Sharon over with a second song, Lean On Me.
Speaking to Sunday Life, a relieved Rachael said that her nerves had got the better of her.
“During the first part of the audition I was talking and telling them about my life and how it hadn’t been easy. Everything was going well.
“Then when I opened my mouth to sing, I could hear the nerves in my voice. I was almost suffocating with them.”
But Rachael said that it was the thought of a special young man in her life which kept her going.
“My son Oran, who is six, was there. He has ADHD [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder]. It was quite difficult to keep him entertained.
“But looking at him before I went to sing and thinking about him kept me going.”
Rachael revealed that she has had a turbulent personal life.
She won the Miss Teen Ireland beauty contest when she was 14-years-old. At the age of 16, she toured with Westlife as part of two girl-two boy pop group No Way Out.
After winning a £2,000 talent show prize at the age of 17, she told her parents that she wanted to take a break from her A-Level studies to visit her aunt in Florida.
But after a few days in Orlando, “free-spirited” country music-loving Rachael took a Greyhound bus to the music city of her dreams — Nashville in Tennessee.
Within hours, she met an aspiring country singer-songwriter outside world-famous music venue Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge.
Said Rachael: “I met a guy who lives in Nashville who was originally from Arkansas.
“I went along to a gig that he was doing and we became really really good friends. Within a few hours he got me a job selling cowboy boots and cowboy hats.
“I ended up marrying him three weeks later! I was out there eight months and then we came home.”
The country singing couple had son Oran as they both tried to carve out careers on the local music scene.
Rachael made it as far as the live heats of RTE’s The All-Ireland Talent Show in 2009.
But she revealed that her runaway bride fairytale ended in heartache three years ago.
Said Rachael: “I don’t really want to give his name because he disappeared three years ago. He walked out and never came back.
“He is quite talented and basically he just got carried away with the buzz of it all. He decided that family life was just boring and that I wasn’t for him.”
But resilient Rachael has bounced back to rebuild her life with boyfriend Steven and son Oran.
Winning a place in the next round of The X Factor is filling her with hope that this may finally be her time to step into the spotlight and succeed.
Said Rachael: “Before this, it has been like I almost get there but not quite.
“The competition I won when I was 17 before I went to Nashville was called Almost Famous. That has been so true and such a curse in my life.
“Every time it seems to be within my grasp, I just seem to slide.
“I have been raising my son and trying to find better ways of raising him because of his condition.
“I am doing the best that I can.”