X Factor USA: Meet the judges

Ahead of ITV2's premiere of Simon Cowell's new talent show, here's our at-a-glance guide to the panel

Paula Abdul


Perhaps best known for dancing with an animated cat in the Grammy award-winning 1989 music video Opposites Attract, Ms Abdul has enjoyed a musical and media career spanning three decades.

But there is even more to the 49-year-old American singer-songwriter, dancer, actor and choreographer than first meets the eye… she’s a talent show veteran.  

Between 2002 and 2009 Abdul appeared as one of the judges on American Idol – and during this time became best mates with Simon Cowell. Therefore, after two years in the broadcasting wilderness – and a less than triumphant attempt at resurrecting her career as a recording artist – it wasn’t a massive surprise that she got the nod from old high-trousers.

During her time on Idol, Abdul became known for her excellent array of accessories… indeed, such was the demand for the “Paula look” she began hawking her own range on QVC.

So, if you’re after a talent show pro, and a new necklace – watch Paula carefully tonight.

Cheryl Cole

Simon Cowell’s X Factor muse looked nailed on to transfer her talents to the US version until she was dropped for one, some, all or none of the following reasons – her Geordie accent/her rift with Paula Abdul/her low profile in America/her “bewilderment” – or for something else.

Nevertheless, Cheryl does appear in the first half of the opening episode (before Nicole inexplicably takes her place) and many American critics have said she outshines Scherzinger, describing the former Pussycat Doll as a “downgrade” and pronouncing Cheryl’s accent “fabulous”.

Simon Cowell

He is the master of the talent show universe.  Well, he thinks he is, anyway – his Pop Idol foe and namesake, Simon Fuller, might think differently.

In fact it’s for his eight-year run as a judge on American Idol that Cowell is best known to people stateside, most of whom wouldn’t know their X Factor from their Fame Academy.

And while we were all lapping up Britain’s Got Talent and Cowell’s very British tête-à-têtes with Piers Morgan – the US audience were getting to know him for, well, the same thing on America’s Got Talent.

Of course for Cowell, The X Factor USA is far more than just a presenting job – he’s the exec producer and creator.  He has everything to gain and everything to lose on this transatlantic gamble – and he’ll be keen to make sure it’s not another Red or Black?.

Expect to see “Nasty Simon” on top form throughout the series; his trousers at full mast and the criticism-ometer turned up to 11.  Oh yes, look out for the occasional gentle reminder to his fellow judges when they get out of line just who’s paying the wages…

LA Reid

Music producer and hip-hop impresario Antonio Reid was given the nickname LA by a fellow band member when he wore a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball shirt to a gig.

“Everything that I do musically is all about having my spirit stirred,” claims the man behind Justin Bieber.

Along with Bieber, Reid is responsible for helping launch the careers of stars ranging from Dido to Pink, Mariah Carey to Avril Lavigne, Ciara to Kanye West.

Clearly serious about his responsibilities as an X Factor USA judge, he left his position as CEO of Island Def Jam records to accept the role. For LA’s sake, as well as the contestants’, let’s hope he has good judgement…

What can we expect from Reid? Well, according to reports, after just one episode he’s threatening to oust Simon Cowell as the show’s “Mr Nasty”.

Nicole Scherzinger

A former Pussycat Doll, partner of Lewis Hamilton and guest pundit on American Idol, Scherzinger was originally picked to co-present the show but was upgraded to judge after Cheryl Cole was dropped.

Scherzinger shares Filipino, Hawaiian and Russian heritage and claims she “drinks like a Russian” and often performs with a hangover.

“You think you can’t possibly crawl onto a stage but then you push yourself because you have to and, with all the adrenaline, the dancing and singing, that hangover is history.”

Whether that will be among the inspirational advice she offers X Factor contestants remains to be seen…

The presenter – Steve Jones

Welsh handsome-man Steve Jones rose to what we in Great Britain call fame as a presenter on Channel 4’s weekend daytime teen strand T4.

Known as a bit of a ladies’ man, Jones has dated Girl Aloud Sarah Harding, fellow youth presenter Fearne Cotton, self-healing Heroes cheerleader Hayden Panettiere and Pamela Anderson herself.

A couple of Stints on Let’s Dance for Comic Relief seem to have been pretty much enough to convince someone that Jones was ready for the big time, although critics labelled his first appearance on The X Factor USA as “irrelevant” and “so far in the background, he might as well be on another network”.


The X Factor USA starts tonight at 8:00pm on ITV2