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This story first appeared in the Oct. 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Long Before MIPCOM’S 2014 Personality of the Year had taken The X Factor to 51 territories, Simon Cowell already had laid the blueprint for that most essential of reality TV characters: the frank, often cruel judge. But while Cowell may be the original king of the put-down, several others around the world have picked up his baton. Here are four of the nastiest.
Ali Azmat, Pakistan Idol
Rocker Azmat sparked controversy when he mocked a male singer’s slightly falsetto voice and dance with his head in his hands, a style commonly associated with performing transvestites. Ever the diplomat, Azmat responded to criticism with a tweet inviting people to watch him “destroy some more idiots.”
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Gordon Heuckeroth, Holland’s Got Talent
How do you outdo Cowell for on-air obnoxiousness? Throw in some racism. Confronted with the seemingly peculiar sight of a Chinese contestant in 2013, this baffled former Dutch pop star decided to unleash a series of xenophobic “quips,” asking Xiao Wang if he would be singing “number 39 with rice” in the competition.
Ahlam, Arab Idol
Emirati diva Ahlam adopted Cowell’s persona after joining the Middle East show in 2011. But it’s not just wannabe stars facing her wrath — she turned on journalists at a recent news conference: “Had I known I would spend all this time doing my hair and makeup only to be faced with stupid questions, I wouldn’t have bothered.”
Dieter Bohlen, Deutschland Sucht den Superstar
So huge is Bohlen in Germany — as a singer during the ’80s and later as a pop Svengali — that Cowell often is considered the copycat. And, arguably, Bohlen’s acerbic tongue has more venom. “That sounds as if they sewed your ass shut and the shit’s coming out from the top,” is just one of many, many insults. Handily, they’re all in his book Meine Hammer-Spruche (My Super Sayings).
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