Even though British pop star Cheryl Cole had been rumored as a judge on the U.S. version of The X Factor for weeks, now that she’s been officially hired, the overwhelming response to today’s news is still likely to be: “Cheryl who?” For the uninformed, she’s a past reality-show contestant herself (she’s part of Girls Aloud, an all-female quintet formed in 2002 on the British show Popstars: The Rivals) who became a solo sensation in 2009 with the release of her single “Fight For This Love,” which is still in heavy rotation on my iPod two years after it came out. Check out the video, in which Cole looks like a cross between Eva Longoria and Shania Twain:
Having attended a live filming of The X Factor in London last fall, I can also report that Cole, with her feisty charm and appealing British accent, was arguably the most popular judge with the members of the audience. She and Simon Cowell clearly have a strong rapport, and she’s not afraid to rabble-rouse a bit with him. Last season Cole mentored the young female contestants, notably a headstrong pop-rap artist named Cher Lloyd.
To hear more about Cole, I rang up my pal across the pond, journalist turned TV personality Susannah Constantine, who happens to be a loyal X Factor viewer. “She’s quintessentially English in a very modern way,” Susannah says of Cole. “She’s realized a dream, and she’s done it in such an un-showoffy, humble way. Though she’s amazingly famous, she’s still got humility about her. And she knows what she’s talking about. She’s one of the few judges who isn’t just doing it because she wants to be on TV; she really cares about the contestants, and you can tell that.” As for what stateside audiences will think about her? “I think they’re going to love her. They’ll feel like they made a discovery with her.” My prediction: Cole will provide X Factor what Jennifer Lopez gives American Idol — a smart, sympathetic mentor who gets as much attention for her glamour as for her criticism.