“If you would have asked me what I thought of America before I came over here, I would have used the word 'corny.' And then you come over here and you find that it's not corny at all. British people are very cynical. They cannot bear someone else's success. Americans embrace other people's success. Everything in America is larger than life.” Simon Cowell
British music baron, television personality and producer Simon Cowell, also nicknamed Mr. Nasty and Judge Dread, is well-known for being one of the judges and co-creators of the Fox hit show “American Idol” (2002-present). His critical remarks and attitude has made him a notable figure on television and helped the show become a cultural phenomenon. When asked if he feels bad about what he says to the “American Idol” contestants, he said, “No, what I am doing is kind by telling people who are useless, 'Do something that you're good at.' So I would only feel guilt if I misled somebody who was terrible.
Cowell, who made his venture to TV with “Pop Idol” (2001), where he also appeared as a judge, established Syco TV as a television production company in 2003 following the success of “American Idol” and since then, the company has produced such reality series as the popular “The X Factor” (2004), ABC's “American Inventor” (2006), “Americas Got Talent” (2006) and “Celebrity Duets” (2006). As a flourishing figure in the music business, Cowell, who got his start as a mail room clerk for EMI Music Publishing, has launched the careers of a number of artists through his record company, including Westlife, Sonia Evans, Will Young and Gareth Gates of “Pop Idol” fame and the internationally pop group Il Divo. He has also sold more than one hundred million albums and has had over fifty No. 1 records.
5' 9” Cowell, whose trade mark is often wearing solid-colored sweaters and shirts with jeans, has been romantically linked to actress and longtime friend Terri Seymour since late 2002. After dating for four years, in 2006, Cowell was reported by British newspaper “News of the World” to have had an affair with socialite and model Jasmine Lennard. Photos of Lennard leaving his residence were also included in the report. When the story leaked, Seymour was in the United States. Later, “Heat Magazine” published photos of the angry girlfriend when the couple met at an airport. Both Cowell and Lennard strongly denied the rumors and stated the meeting was purely business.
“I don't want babies the same way I wouldn't want a puppy. It's too much responsibility.” Simon Cowell
According to “Forbes Magazine,” Cowell's net income was estimated at $45 million in 2007. He is a vegetarian and the godfather of pop singer Sinitta's baby. His best friend is his London neighbor Jackie St Claire.
Cowell, who was named one of “Forbes'” “Top 100 Celebrities” (2006) and ranked No. 33 on the Channel 4 list of “The all-time 100 Worst Britons” (2003) has published a book called “I Don't Mean to Be Rude, But…. In it.” It tells about his childhood, his years working in the music business, his exposure on “Pop Idol” and “American Idol” as well as his tips for becoming a pop star.
Childhood and Family:
Simon Philip Cowell was born on October 7, 1959, in Brighton, England. His father, Eric Cowell, was a real estate agent before becoming an executive at EMI Music Publishing, and his mother, Julie Brett, is a one-time ballet dancer and socialite. Simon has a younger brother named Nicholas Cowell, a millionaire property mogul and actor, and a sister named Lindsay Elizabeth Cowell. He also has four-half siblings, John, Michael, Tony and June. Because of wrongdoings and his bad demeanor, Simon was asked to leave his school several times. He dropped out at the age of 16.
In 1999, Simon's father died of a heart attack and about that same period, Simon enjoyed his first No. 1 hit with the then-unknown group Westlife. Commenting about it, he said, “The ultimate irony; the worst thing that could happen and the best, all in the one day. It just shocked me to the core. I just never thought my dad wouldn't be around. I phoned him to tell him about the Number One because that's what I did. When something good happened, I called my dad. At first my mother couldn't even tell me he was dead. She just listened to me burbling on. Then she called me back to tell me; awful.”
The X Factor
A product of a music industry executive, Simon Cowell learned from his father how to make money at an early age. After quitting high school, the industrious 16-year-old took a series of humble jobs, but he did not get along with bosses and co-workers until age 20 when he started working as a mail room clerk for EMI Music Publishing thanks largely to his father's connection. Cowell worked his way up to record producer at EMI before deciding to leave the company in the early 1980s to establish an independent music company, E&S Music. Unfortunately for Cowell, the publishing house only lasted for a year and he was forced to return to EMI. A short time later, he tried his luck again in the music industry by forming the small pop label Fanfare Records, along with ex-fellow EMI clerk Iain Burton.
For the next eight years, Cowell built up his budding career with Fanfare and was responsible for bringing the then-unknown firm into a highly successful independent label. Under Cowell and Burton's wings, Fanfare produced a number of top ten hits with various Pop artists, most notably Sinitta. The single “So Macho” reached No. 2 on the chart and sold more than a million copies. In the second half of the 1980s, with the help of Pete Waterman, Fanfare went on to have more smash hit singles for Sinitta and released “The Hit Factory” SAW Compilation Albums.
In 1989, when Fanfare's parent-company, Public Company, encountered financial problems, Cowell was offered a position as an A&R Consultant with BMG music. He then set up a new record label through BMG called “S Records,” and contracted many pop acts such as Curiosity Killed the Cat, Five, Westlife, Sonia Evans, Robson & Jerome, and Ultimate Kaos. In addition, he started producing records for small screen shows like BBC's “Teletubbies,” “Power Rangers,” “WWF SmackDown” and “Zig and Zag.” Through S Records, he has sold over twenty-five million albums, has scored many No. 1 singles and has had more than seventy Top 30 hits.
Already popular as a hit maker, Cowell branched out to reality television in 2001 by teaming up with Simon Fuller to produce “Pop Idol” in the United Kingdom. A pop talent competition in which the audience were allowed to choose who they wanted, the show subsequently launched Cowell, who served as judge, jury and executioner, as a well-known television personality thanks to his barbarous comments. His judgment proved perfect when the show's top two finalists scored a pair of top-selling records via Cowell's S-Records label. Before long, the prospering music executive sold a considerable portion of his label to BMG, a decision that instantly made him a multi-millionaire.
The success of “Pop Idol” became Cowell's Hollywood calling card. Along with his team, Cowell was invited by Fox to reformat the show for American audiences. The first season of “American Idol” debuted calmly in June 2002 with Cowell serving as one of three judges alongside the 1990s pop idol Paula Abdul and Grammy Award-winning producer Randy Jackson. Ryan Seacrest hosted the show. “American Idol” became a hit
After the successful first season, “American Idol” returned for a second season in 2003. Riding high on his TV success, Simon took the position as executive producer for the CBS short-lived reality dating show “Cupid” (2003) and made cameo appearances on such series as NBC's “Saturday Night Live” and Fox's “The Simpsons” and in the 2003 film “Scary Movie 3.”
Still in 2004, Cowell became a judge on the first series of the British talent show “The X Factor,” along with Sharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh. “The X Factor,” which Cowell created through his production company Syco, was an immediate hit and in 2005, the show was nominated for a National Television for Most Popular TV Expert.
After “The X Factor,” Cowell created “American Inventor” (2006), a competition show for ABC where entrepreneurs compete to see who has the best new product concept. Matt Gallant served as the host before being replaced by Nick Smith in 2007. The same year, Simon also launched the weekly talent contest “Americas Got Talent,” which he co-created with Jason Raff and Ken Warwick, and the Fox short -lived “Celebrity Duets” (2006), hosted by Wayne Brady.
“On the ‘Celebrity Duet,’ I think its shut your eyes, hold your breath and hope for the best because this is going to be tough. I mean it’s hard enough when you sing in public when you're used to singing and most of these people on this show aren’t. Now the fact that we are teaming them up with some of the best singers of all time, the Patty LaBelles, the Gladys Knights, that's a nightmare. So there's not much advice I can really give them.” Simon Cowell on “Celebrity Duets”
Recently, in 2008, Cowell reprised his coveted judge gig on “American Idol” for its seventh season. In addition to its extensive popularity, the well-known series has garnered him several honors, including three Teen Choice awards in the categories of Favorite TV Personality (2003), Choice TV Personality and Choice Reality/Variety Jackass (both 2004) and five consecutive Emmy nominations for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program from 2003 to 2007.
Teen Choice: Choice Reality/Variety Jackass, “American Idol: The Search for a Superstar,” 2004
Teen Choice: Choice TV Personality, 2004
Teen Choice: Favorite TV Personality, 2003