Saturday, 28 November 2009

Move over Stacey, I've (almost) got the X Factor!

SIMON COWELL narrows his eyes as he takes in my semi-transparent blouse and knee-skimming lace skirt. “So, Karen, you think we have a connection?” he asks. I nod.

But it’s not that kind of connection. Simon and I share a hairdresser, Marco at Nicky Clarke, who has been promising me an introduction for months.

Now I’m standing in front of the record boss, who’s far better-looking in the flesh. Slim and tanned, sexiness pulses out of his every scrubbed and moisturised pore. But it’s not the intimate rendezvous I’d had in mind.

I am, in fact, meeting Simon, Louis Walsh and Sharon Osbourne at the London auditions for The X Factor. And they’re waiting for me to perform.

“Have you ever sung before?” Sharon asks, as I take my place in the audition room in Wembley’s Conference Centre.

Only to Postman Pat with my two-year-old son. “Do you think you have the X factor?” Simon demands.
Well, my husband said that’s why he married me, my mother claims I was born with it and my school music teachers wanted me to apply for Opportunity Knocks

“Off you go then,” Simon commands, and I unleash my vocals on Blondie’s Heart Of Glass.

Simon, Sharon and Louis stare at me. So do all the crew. As they continue to stare, fear begins to twist through my stomach.

As I warble on, terror clutches my throat…It’s time to try a few of dance moves, mixed with a little Debbie Harry attitude.

Simon’s eyes widen. I’m moving my arms, turning in a sexy, hauty way, just like Debbie did.
He eventually holds up his hand for me to stop. “Thank you, Karen,” he says. “What did you think, Louis?”

I smile at the man who managed Boyzone and Westlife. “You have absolutely no star quality,” he says deadpan. And he’s meant to be the nice one.

I keep smiling. “It wasn’t the worst voice I’ve heard today,” Sharon tells me. “But you were going a bit fast, like you wanted to get to the end as soon as possible.”

My cheeks are hurting from grinning so much. “You were the third best voice I heard today,” Simon announces.

I’m ecstatic – then I realise that I’m only the third person he’s seen today.

It’s time to vote whether or not I should be put through to the next round.

Louis: “No.” Come on Sharon. “No,” she repeats. A vote because of our mutual hairdresser, Simon? “No, but you were very brave,” he says.

Oh, the humiliation — and all of it captured on camera. “Please don’t show me as one of the comedy slots,” I mutter as I’m shown outside.

“Do you want to use The Pod?’ one of the production staff asks. It’s where contestants can vent their anger against the judges. I decide I’d rather head to the bar, only there isn’t one.

So I go back to work instead. ‘How did it go?’ everyone wants to know.

‘Er, not so great,’ I sigh. Just then the phone rings. It’s the X Factor wanting to talk to me. My hopes soar. Maybe they’re ringing to say they’ve made a mistake and, of course, they think I’m brilliant and want to put me through to the live show.

‘We want permission to use your audition on TV,’ the woman explains. I can’t stop grinning. I was good after all. Then I freeze.

She wants to use the footage of me, alright. I will get my five minutes of fame on the X Factor – as one of the worst singers ever!

(This first appeared in Closer when I auditioned for the X Factor in 2005 - but the shame still lives on and so does the fear that they will actually show me singing - even though I refused to sign the release forms.) 


  1. really? oh my! I have to ask, i've always wanted to ask those you see on the humilation special...what ever possessed you?

  2. I think you were very brave - I would never have the nerve!

  3. Good for you! I'm raising my Saturday afternoon G&T to you!
    As a bit of an amateur singer myself I'm always threatening my family that I might audition for the "overs" category...but my nerve always fails me. My mother however sang on Opportunity Knocks in 1971: she came 4th and scored 86 on the clap-o-meter!

  4. Such a shame about that footage never aired - I bet it would have gone into the auditions hall of fame!

  5. Brilliant! At least you went ahead and did it, most of us would be too afraid! Great writing :)