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Simon Cowell: The Man Behind the Scowl

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Ah, Simon Cowell: the wit, the jabs, the accent. If you’re like me – a fan of American Idol (Hi Sanjaya!) – you probably find yourself having a love/hate relationship with good ol’ Simon. On one hand he’s cute, he’s funny, and he’s extremely honest: he’s seemingly what every girl wants to find in a man. But, on the other hand, he’s a little too honest. He’s not the type of guy a woman should approach in a new pair of jeans and ask, "Do these make me look fat?" Sometimes Simon should simply plead the fifth.

Still, you have to respect his honesty. In a world where lying and brown nosing run rampant, Simon has taken a stand and said what most people are afraid to say: exactly what he thinks. This leaves many of us curious about who he really is; just who is the Cowell behind the scowl?

Simon Cowell was born in Brighton, England to a music industry property executive and a socialite. From a large family – and here we thought he was an only child – Simon has three half brothers, a half sister, and a younger brother. A family of success, many of his siblings are multimillionaires.

After dropping out of school at the age of 17, Simon teetered between a few random jobs before, with the help of his father, landing a job in the mail room at EMI Music Publishing. Going from the mail room to where Simon is now may seem like something straight out of television, but for Simon – a man known for blending TV with real life – this "television like plot" proved to be his reality.

He soon began to climb the ranks of EMI, periodically leaving to pursue other endeavors, only to return when those endeavors failed. In 1985, however, the failing temporarily ceased: Simon, along with a coworker, launched an independent record label called Fanfare Records. For four years Fanfare saw success, but in 1989 – when the mother company of Fanfare discontinued – Simon was met with bankruptcy, debt, and a move back in with his parents.

In late 1989, Simon landed a job as an A&R representative for BMG. Here he signed a number of pop acts who were well received and began releasing novelty recordings. These featured, among others, songs from the Teletubbies and the Power Rangers.

In 2001, Simon was given his proverbial gavel and became a judge on Pop Idol, a British television reality series that featured undiscovered young talent in the United Kingdom. Like its spin-off, American Idol, Pop Idol involved viewers calling in to vote for their favorites.

Born from Pop Idol, American Idol hit the airwaves in 2002 and – with Simon at the judging helm – became an instant hit. The success of American Idol is based on many factors – America’s love for music, the excitement of discovering talent that would otherwise go unnoticed, the ability to participate in the choice that is made – but one huge factor is simply Simon. Without people tuning in to see what he will say, American Idol would not have garnered such a huge fan base.

While working on American Idol, Simon also serves on the judging panel of The X Factor, a British talent show airing on Saturdays. Produced by Simon’s production company, The X Factor aims to find performers who possess that indescribable factor capable of making them a star. Unlike Pop Idol or American Idol, The X Factor has no age limit, allowing anyone over 14 to participate, and allows both solo singers and groups to enter the competition.

In 2006, Simon secured himself – both financially and in pop culture – by signing a five year contract worth 38 million. In addition to American Idol, Simon is involved with American Inventor, America’s Got Talent, Celebrity Duets, Grease is the Word, and Rock Rivals.

Love him or hate him – or go back and forth – American Idol would not be the same without Simon Cowell. He brings an element of surprise and brutal honesty to the show. Sometimes he seems cruel, but most of the time he simply appears like a man whose bark is way worse that his bite.

The biggest thing fans really have to appreciate about him is that when he sees someone who is a good singer, he doesn't play games: he tells them they're great and when he says it we know he means it. It is a sentiment dear to the heart, and one he conveys in my imagination each time I sing in the shower.

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About JM Jordan

  • TV and Film Guy

    Congratulations! This article has been selected for syndication to Advance.net, which is affiliated with newspapers around the United States.

  • http://indiequill.wordpress.com/ Amrita

    Well I’m not sure he’s what every woman is looking for, but I agree the show wouldnt be the same without him.

    Nice write up :)

  • Grandpa Idol

    If I were paid $40 million to express my opinion I would not disappoint. I think Simon sometimes acts with a bit too much callousness but generally tells it like it is and has my respect for acting that way. Without him the show would not be the same.

    I do wish he would tell Sanjaya that he has no singing talent and ask America to stop rewarding his gimmickry with their votes. I think Simon would fold his tent if Sanjaya won along with the rest of the real Idol fans.

  • http://www.noface4film.com/ Kaonashi

    Grandpa- That’s not quite going to work since sometimes people who feel very strongly towards a contestant will defy Simon for the purpose of defying him. Reverse psychology and all. Note that Simon has been trying a different tactic lately. Instead of blasting Sanjaya, he’s been keeping his mouth shut.

  • Grandpa Idol

    Maybe it would rally the troops to vote against him with more ferocity if Simon would just say “Sanjaya, you really suck and I think you need to go away”. I don’t really think that a “good cop” Simon is going to bring Ashley to her senses. I just hope all of Gina’s fans will stay the course and keep voting. All is not lost until Sanjaya wins.

  • http://www.globechatters.net Janet

    A message for Simon: Now that Sanjaya has captured the hearts of the voting American people, might you ask yourself if it could be because of your comments? You were quoted in the Press that you would quit “Idol”. You really ought to consider the effect of this and the injustice it might cause to those who have more talent than Sanjaya. On the other hand, may be the votes for Sanjaya reflect what the Pop industry really, really want.

  • Monkeydarts

    Thanks for the article. I have to agree with Amrita. Women should not be looking for someone who’s cruel for cruel’s sake. That’s not attractive. Honesty doesn’t have to be cruel. I had to take a break from the show because it was too painful for everyone involved. Kudos to Ryan Seacrest for demonstrating how the clarity of honesty should be used on Idol. You ring like a bell, Ryan.

    In the early beginnings of Idol, I felt that Simon’s honesty was refreshing, although sometimes harsh, up against the milk-toast evasiveness of some of the other critiques. His critiques of the contestants’ talent was right on the money, meaning I was saying the same thing while watching from home. Even when he originally didn’t like the talent of some of the contestants that actually went on to win, he was still right, in my opinion. But as the show grew, it seemed to me that Simon turned his honesty into a creative catch phrase to get more ratings. At least, I hope that’s what happened. The problem with doing that is it changes the spirit of the honesty into sadism. No one wants that, not in a man, and not on TV.

    I would like to see more press about what Ruben Studdard is doing? He is the most talented of all the Idol winners.

  • http://www.noface4film.com/ Kaonashi

    Now that Sanjaya has captured the hearts of the voting American people, might you ask yourself if it could be because of your comments?

    Speak for yourself. Grandpa Idol and I, and many others can’t stand him.