Behind the scenes at The X Factor: spit, sparkly jumpers and sobbing teenagers

From a seat within touching distance of Gary Barlow, to a drink with Niall and Olly in the backstage bar, RadioTimes.com's roving reporters discovered the real X Factor...

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Behind the scenes at The X Factor: spit, sparkly jumpers and sobbing teenagers
Written By
Ellie Walker-Arnott

RadioTimes.com jumped at the chance to visit The X Factor studios in north-west London, eager to discover if Dermot is as dreamy in real life as he is on the telly, if Louis Walsh's face looks as stretched in the flesh and whether this year’s love-hate contestant Rylan can really sing… 

Having assumed the studio was of epic proportions, the intimate space came as a bit of a shock - we were sat near the back but, pleasingly, were still almost within stroking distance of Gary Barlow.

The rest of the audience were either wearing t-shirts emblazoned with their favourite act’s face or dressed up to the nines ready to sample Wembley's finest nightlife - in a sea of sheer blouses, bouffant hair and diamante crystals we felt incredibly underdressed. And as the countdown to showtime began, row upon row of teenage girls whipped out their makeup bags and frantically started smearing on concealer and layering up their mascara. We sat bemused for a while before realising that their perfectly made up faces would make ours look worse in comparison – so we swiftly followed suit…

The excitement was growing. Strange contraptions – presumably integral parts of the contestants’ performances – were being wheeled around, Dermot was pretending to dance on stage and the cameras started sweeping around the audience.

Then, just before kick off, we were informed that we couldn’t leave our seats until the bitter end. Suddenly everyone thought they needed a wee, but before we had time to worry about our bladders, it began…

Cue the catchy X Factor theme tune and the first (of many) orders to stand up and look excited. (If you think the X Factor crowd are jumping up and down of their own accord, you’re wrong. As a member of the X Factor audience you must, we repeat, must give almost anything that crosses the stage a standing ovation.)

Although the much-anticipated judges' entrance was considerably less spectacular live, seeing Louis desperately grab for Tulisa’s hand and Nicole totter towards her seat was enjoyable enough. And then, without further ado, it was time for the acts themselves.

It turned out that Rylan couldn’t really sing. Kye sounded fairly out of tune, but the judges disagreed. James Arthur’s casual rendition of I’m Sexy and I Know It was even funnier in real life and District 3 were the act who got the audience boogying the most – we know, it came as a shock to us too. But really it was the ad breaks that provided the best entertainment…

In each break the warm-up act tried to liven up the audience by claiming he had slept with/was intending on sleeping with Tulisa, Nicole and most of the women in the building. Plus, there were even some celebrities in the audience for us to hug while the show was off-air. One particularly over-excited youngster had to be lead back to her seat, sobbing into her mum’s spangly jumper, after an encounter with One Direction heartthrob Niall Horan.

Next break and it was almost time for Union J’s performance. We listened with amusement as the poor woman gifted with the task of bringing a lucky selection of their screaming fans to the front of the stage firmly repeated “do not push me” as they descended from the back row.

And then, before we knew it, it was time for the final act - our X Factor experience was almost over. But as Dermot and the judges summed up the evening, disaster struck...

A girl sat behind us couldn’t contain her excitement any longer and, as she screamed “Go Tulisa!” at the top of her voice, she managed to spectacularly spit in my hair - a fairly unexpected and entirely unwelcome experience.

Thankfully, there were only a matter of minutes before we were released from our seats so we made a beeline for the bar (and a glass of wine) to recover. Not everyone was allowed in and thankfully the girl who spat on my hair was not in possession of the necessary wristband…

Wine in hand, we took in the surreal X Factor watering hole. On one side there were Christopher’s relations asking for Lucy’s autograph, while on the other Union J fans started eyeing up District 3. Niall casually hung around the bar (paying for his own drinks, we noted) with Olly Murs, while a semicircle of tweenagers tried to build up the courage to approach him. Ella had (for reasons unclear to us) shed her gorgeous sequined number and opted for a onesie and uggs… While Rylan, cropped demin jacket still intact, strutted around as though he was still on stage.

And then, before we knew it, we were being politely herded out of a side exit into the rain - our X Factor experience had come to an end...

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