Simon Cowell is globally recognised for his blunt honesty and sarcastic insults that he delivers to contestants on television talent shows like American Idol, The X Factor and Briton's Got Talent. Thanks to the success of these shows and some of the artists they have launched, he has become incredibly wealthy - so much so his net worth is estimated to be in excess of $200 million.
Simon Cowell's career started slowly. In his twenties he had some success in the music business and lapped up the glamorous perks and lifestyle that came with it. But then, he lost everything, and at thirty was forced to move back to his parent's home - stone broke. Fame came late and suddenly to Cowell. He was unknown at the age of forty-two, infamous in Britain by the time he turned forty-three, and internationally famous only a few years later.
Simon is a straight talking judge with a cruel tongue but a kind heart. He's a wealthy man from a privileged upbringing yet nonetheless, he has the common touch and is unflinchingly generous.
The biography of Simon Phillip Cowell starts in Brighton, Sussex, where he was born on 7 October 1959, but soon afterwards his family moved to Elstree in Hertfordshire. His father Eric was a successful estate agent and quantity surveyor, while his mother, Josie, known as Julie, was a glamorous socialite with a background in theatre. Simon's parents met on a train to Birmingham, but it took Eric two years before he plucked up the courage to speak to Julie. They went for a drink and began dating, and before long they got married. Between them, Simon's parents already had four children from previous relationships - three boys and a girl.
Simon first showed his ability to deliver an incredibly blunt put down at an early age. One Christmas day, his mother had spend special time and care getting herself ready for lunch. with her extravagant clothes, neatly styled hair and carefully applied make-up, she donned a large white fur hat and strode down the stairs of the family home. She asked Simon what he thought of the outfit.
'Mum, you look like a poodle.' replied the four year old Simon.
Simon attended Radlett Prep School, but within a few months, Cowells parents received a warning from the headmaster that he was planning to expel their son. Simon grew up hating school. During an interview with the entertainment website parade.com, Simon Cowell said this about school: 'I was always bored. I didn't like the rules and I didn't like discipline. So when someone said to me, "These are the best days of your life," I actually thought about jumping off a bridge. I was like, "If it get any worse than this I'm done," because I hated school.
Shortly afterwards, Simon was sent to boarding school, Dover College, where he was constantly in and out of trouble. He was even suspended at one point. Eventually he left school at sixteen with two O Levels.
Simon Cowell has always been a hard worker and right from the start enjoyed all the benefits that money could afford and as such would work tirelessly to earn his share. Simon's entertainment career started as a runner at Elstree Studios where he worked 14 hour days for just £15 a week. He then moved from being a runner in film studios to his first job at the record label giant EMI where he started out in the mail room. Simon worked his way up in EMI and was starting to make a name for himself, but he felt stifled by the EMI environment and decided to risk it going it alone and starting his own music business. It was a bold decision but he was very young and in less than a year the business folded.
After failing at his first music venture, Simon met up with Iain Burton and managed to charm his way into a partnership in Burton's new business venture - a record label, Fanfare records. It was with fanfare records that Simon first enjoyed huge success in the music business. During this time Simon Cowell met Sinitta Malone in a nightclub and at the age of sixteen Sinitta signed a record deal with Fanfare - niether of their lives would be the same again. Sinitta's first single 'So Macho' went to number two at the end of 1985 selling 1.5 million copies.
Sinitta's second single 'Toyboy' was an even greater success and went on to sell millions of copies in countries all over the world. She followed this up with five more hit singles.
Simon was riding an amazing wave of success. He owned his own record label, drove a convertible Porsche and owned a house in Fulham and partied most nights. He and Sinitta had grown to more than just friends and they were now boyfriend and girlfriend.
Simon Cowell was the typical 1980's cliché. He had the house, the car, the image but he was living beyond his means. In his own words 'I spent too much at parties and then everything imploded.'
Intoxicated by the 1980's yuppie culture he had invested heavily in shares and they crashed. Suddenly Cowell realized he had no money left, worse in fact, he owed the bank half a million pounds. 'I realized I had to give everything back - the Porsche, the big house, everything' he said.
Now in his thirties, Simon Cowell found himself having to move back to his parents home. according to Simon, the last four pounds he had to his name he spent on the taxi ride back to his parents house.
It was at this time that Cowell came to the realisation that although he'd had all these fancy things, the car and house etcetera, he didn't actually own any of it. 'I had a mortgage on the house, loans for the car - nothing was real.'
He made a vow there and then that he would never borrow again. Anything he wanted from now on, he would only get when he could afford to buy it outright - an important lesson to anyone serious about achieving financial freedom.
In 1989 BMG contacted Simon Cowell to offer him a job as an A&R consultant and he jumped at the chance. His job was simply to identify hot new artists, even hotter new songs and marry them into a package that would sell.
Cowell could spot a trend a mile off. In the late 80's the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) as all the rage and Simon identified a gap in the market - he'd get the wrestlers to release an single. The result was "Slam Jam." "Slam Jam" went straight to number four and spent nine weeks in the Top Forty. The album that followed sold 1.5 million copies in Europe alone.
Following his success with a gang of wrestlers Simon was about to cash in on the success of a couple of puppets; Zig and Zag. Cowell released three singles with the puppets - 'It wasn't my proudest moment' he says 'but it was a huge hit.' Other trends he capitalized on at this time were the Power Rangers, Teletubbies and Robson and Jerome and their single 'Unchained Melody,' which earned Cowell his long sort after number one and were about to make him his first million.
In July 1998, Irish music producer Louis Walsh phoned Simon Cowell and asked him to come see his new boy band, 'Westlife.' Their first single 'swear it again went straight to number one and it was the happiest and proudest day of his career to date. It was also his saddest... Earlier that day, his father Eric had died from a heart attack at the family home.
The group's original lineup comprised Mark Feehily, Shane Filan, Kian Egan, Nicky Byrne and Brian McFadden. McFadden left in 2004. The group is the only act in UK history to have their first seven singles go straight to Number 1, and they have gone on to sell over 44 million records worldwide which includes their studio, single, video, and compilation albums.
Simon was first approached to be a judge on a new television show called 'Popstars,' where thousands of people would audition and the winners would form a pop group. At first he said yes, but after further consideration he turned the offer down as he didn't think it would be that popular - boy was he wrong. 'Popstars' went on to be a massive success and Colwell thought he'd missed his opportunity.
Simon watched 'Popstars' on TV from home and enjoyed disecting where the show went right and where they got it wrong. Simon was busy starting to think about his own programme and he approached Simon Fuller with the idea. After a few meetings and negotiations it was agreed the Fuller's company would own the television rights to the show and Cowell would get to sign the winner of the show.
The show was called 'Pop Idol.'
Cowell would head up the judging panel and alongside him would be Pete Waterman, Nicki Chapman, and Neil Fox. In 2001 the first season of Pop Idol aired in Britain and was won by Will Young with Gareth Gates coming second. All of the top three contestants from series 1 had number 1 singles in the UK.
Season 2 was won by Michelle McManus but the entire series was no where near as popular as the first.
On June 11, 2002, American Idol: The Search for a Superstar was first aired on the Fox network - the spin-off of the British version Pop Idol and you guessed it - Simon Cowell was a judge on the show. The show has since become one of the most popular in the history of American television. It is currently the #1 program in the Nielsen ratings and is one of only three that have been #1 for five consecutive seasons. The first judges to accompany Simon on American Idol were Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul. Kara DioGuardi was added as a fourth judge for the eighth season. On September 9, 2009, Emmy Award-winning talk show host Ellen DeGeneres was confirmed to be Abdul's replacement for the ninth season. Ryan Seacrest presents the show to more than 25 million viewers each Saturday night.
Past winners of American idol include: Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, David Cook, Kris Allen (beating Adam Lambert) and Lee Dewyze.
The show has been renewed for three more seasons but On January 11, 2010 Simon Cowell announced that he was leaving American Idol to pursue introducing his show The X Factor to the USA for 2011. despite rumours of being offered more than $100 million per season to continue.
While American Idol was taking off in the USA in a big way, Simon Cowell launched his latest idea for a reality TV singing competition. The Show was called The X Factor and was first screened on the 4th September 2004. The X Factor is a very similar format to Pop Idol and American Idol except with a few subtle differences. The biggest difference is that Judges would actually mentor artists through the final stages. this creates an exciting friction between the judges in the later stages of the competition.
The first judges on the X Factor were Simon Cowell (of course), Sharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh. In Season 4 Dannii Minogue joined the panel of judges and in Season 5 Cheryl Cole replaced Sharon Osbourne.
There have been six winners to date: Steve Brookstein, Shayne Ward, Leona Lewis, Leon Jackson, Alexandra Burke and Joe McElderry.
Following the success of the Idol and X-Factor franchises, Cowell, his company Syco, and its business partners developed a talent show format open to performers of any kind, not only singers, but also dancers, instrumentalists, magicians, comedians, novelty acts, and so on. The origins of the Got Talent format can be traced to the British show Opportunity Knocks.
Simon Cowell is the executive producer of America's Got Talent, which debuted in June 2006, but he does not appear on the show due to the terms of his American Idol contract. The show was a huge success for NBC, drawing around 12 million viewers a week. Britain's Got Talent debuted on ITV in June 2007 and was presented by the infectious duo Ant and Dec. Simon Cowell appears as a judge alongside Amanda Holden and Piers Morgan. The show was a ratings success and second and third seasons followed in 2008 and 2009. The third series featured a publicity coup when Susan Boyle made a global media impact with her regional audition performance comparable to that of any previous talent show series winner .
The Got Talent Franchise has since spawned spin-offs in over 30 countries, in what is now referred to as the Got Talent format.
Simon Cowell became engaged to make up artist Mezhgan Hussainy in February 2010. They met on the set of American Idol.
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