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Always Brutally Honest… Simon Cowell

“Embrace the madness.”

Dropping out of school at the age of 16, Simon Cowell started his career in the music industry working in the mailroom at EMI Music Publishing. Working his way up the industry ladder as a record producer, talent scout and television personality before becoming a judge on the hit British TV show Pop Idol, Simon’s popularity rose to the top for his scathing comments during his 10 seasons as a judge on the U.S. counterpart, American Idol. “I have become famous for being rude. I’m the honest one,” he states. When he teamed up with Simon Fuller in 2001 to produce a show in which the public chooses Britain’s next big music performance star, Pop Idol, debuted in the UK and promised a BMG record deal to the winner. With Simon as a judge notorious for reducing contestants to tears, the show was an instant success, drawing more than 10,000 would-be stars to audition for the show. The American version, American Idol, debuted in 2002, with Simon once again judging alongside singer Paula Abdul and producer Randy Jackson. The show drew in a record number of viewers for Fox, in addition to producing pop stars Kelly Clarkson (2002), Ruben Studdard (2003), Fantasia Barrino (2004), Jennifer Hudson (2004), Carrie Underwood (2005), Taylor Hicks (2006), Jordin Sparks (2007) and David Cook (2008), among others. As a judge, he would often make blunt and controversial comments, including insults and wisecracks about contestants and their abilities raising the ratings even higher. Showing the softer side of Simon, during an audition, a female participant told Simon and the other judges that she quit her job at a hair salon so she can pursue her dreams on American Idol (2002); when getting rejected, Simon had asked for the phone and called the owner of the workplace where the rejected contestant got her job back.

America's Got Talent - Season 11

Known for combining his music and television interests, Simon set up another company, SYCOtv, in 2002 that created the television shows American Inventor, America’s Got Talent and X-Factor. The group also produces records for many of the performers on his shows including albums for Leona Lewis and Il Divo.

Recognized as one of the Top Entertainers of the Year in 2004 from Entertainment Weekly and he said, ”I don’t take myself seriously and I don’t consider myself a star.” 2006 was a big year for Simon as he renewed his contract with American Idol for five more seasons in a deal that gave him a yearly salary of $40 million and was named Variety’s UK Personality of the Year. Then in 2007, he earned the No. 3 slot on the Forbes TV Faces List, and No. 21 on Forbes’ Celebrity 100 Power List. Creating an American Idol spin-off, Idol Gives Back, a two-episode special helped to provide aid to children in Africa and the American poor, the show raised $76 million for charity. Additional accolades for Simon was in 2004 and 2010, Time named one of the 100 most influential people in the world, while New Statesman listed him at number 41 in a list of “50 People who Matter in 2010,” TV Guide named him at number 10 in their 2013 list of The 60 Nastiest Villains of all time according to The Sunday Times Rich List of the wealthiest people in the UK. As for the ultimate level of praise in England, Simon says, “I’d accept an honour but I don’t think I’m likely to get one. The Queen once described me as a dreadful man.”

In 2011, he helped import his hit British series, The X Factor, a talent search that awards a $5 million recording contract to the winner, to America, giving up his judging duties on American Idol. With Simon sitting front and center at X Factor auditions, the rating soared.

America's Got Talent - Season 11

With his popularity on American Idol, Simon has been romantically linked to several women in public relationships. Rumors began to swirl after he was seen flirting with his Idol co-host Paula Abdul that the two were an item. However, both celebrities confirmed that they were merely friends, despite their chemistry on camera and in early 2010 Simon announced that he was engaged to Idol makeup artist Mezghan Hussainy. They broke off their engagement in 2012, with Simon saying, “We came to the conclusion that I’m a hopeless boyfriend.” As a parting gift he also reportedly gave her a mansion in Beverly Hills. In December of the same year, he confirmed that he was dating actress and model Carmen Electra which only lasted a few months,

Revealing in the past that he had no intention of having children, stating, “With kids, you’ve got a routine you can’t escape from. You’ve got to be up at a certain time, got to listen, when all you want to do is sit in a corner thinking.” Simon always has said that he’s a kind and thoughtful person unless he gets bored, which happens easily. It’s one reason he decided not to be a father, in addition to being a fussy perfectionist, who likes order and quiet. His position on kids softened a few years later when he stated “I do really, really like kids, because I can talk to them and listen to them. The problem has always been how much time you need to devote to bringing up kids. I’ve always dedicated all my life to work, and at 52, I’ve probably missed the opportunity.” Well, that certainly changed when he became a father for the 1st time at age 54 when his girlfriend Lauren Silverman, who until a few years back was the wife of his close friend, real estate developer Andrew Silverman. She gave birth to their son Eric Cowell on February 14, 2014. Simon states, “Babies aren’t much different from rock stars, needy, petulant, unreliable, which may have eased him into unexpected fatherhood.”

His success is more secure for being diversified as there are 68 different versions of the Got Talent format across the world and 56 X Factors, which gives Syco Entertainment, his joint venture with Sony, more than 120 shows in production. America’s Got Talent is still strong and Syco has several films in development, plus three more music shows. “People need to be ruthless to make it to the very top,” says Simon. As for the future, Simon is creating a live Las Vegas show that features America’s Got Talent contestants. Involved in various charitable activities, one that hold a special place in his heart is the UK charity Together for Short Lives for all children with life-threatening and life-limiting conditions. As Simon continues to travel down so many different avenues, he says, “Be patient and wait for the right thing to come your way.”

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Serving as the executive producer of America’s Got Talent since its inception in 2006, Simon announced that he’d be replacing Howard Stern as a judge for the 2016 season. “I am a very good judge. We look for those with the greatest potential, the singers and performers who could be molded and encouraged. Also, I am never just looking for a talent, but rather a talent with a head start,” he states. With the search open to acts of all ages and talents, “America’s Got Talent,” with live shows broadcast from the famed Dolby Theatre, has brought the variety format back to the forefront of American culture by showcasing unique performers from across the country. The series is a true celebration of creativity and talent, featuring a colorful array of singers, dancers, comedians, contortionists, impressionists, jugglers, magicians, ventriloquists and hopeful stars, all vying to win America’s hearts and the $1 million prize.