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LONDON — With her little-girl vulnerability, thick regional accent and homespun good sense, Cheryl Cole has long been the U.K.’s sweetheart. And until yesterday, it looked as though the support of Simon Cowell would be enough to propel the Girls Aloud singer to the pinnacle of her TV career, a coveted judging slot on Fox’s version of The X Factor.
Now it seem that Cowell has lost his battle to keep Cheryl, with Fox bosses taking the view, according to reports, that her strong North Eastern British accent is problematic. Other reports cite a lack of chemistry with Paula Abdul, homesickness and the fact that she hasn’t been up to the mark in the glamor stakes as reasons she may have been ditched.
In Britain, Cole’s place in the national consciousness owes as much to the tabloid frenzy surrounding her power-couple breakup with her cheating ex-husband, Premier League soccer star Ashley Cole, as it does to her judging role on Britain’s X Factor.
But she won over audiences for her unapologetic — and to many, unenviable — Geordie accent, as well as her support for underdog contestants and her fondness for addressing wannabe contestants as “pet.”
In the North East of England the Geordie accent is known for its drawn out vowels and its its clipped words: ‘yes’ becomes ‘ya’ and the last consonant is often dropped. A spoof in the Guardian newspaper suggested that American audiences might have trouble understanding Cheryl’s dialect, struggling to understand that when she said “Ya dazzlin, pet. Keep gannin like that and yazall be a star,” what she meant was “you are doing very well, keep going and you will be a star.”
In reality, her accent is far from as problematic, and if anything, her heartfelt directness seemed to endear her further to British audiences.
Most notably, her performance earned her the all-important support of Simon Cowell, who elevated her to the top of the pile of his U.K. judging line up and made it clear that he wanted her to be part of the US show.
Of course, the decision to ditch Cheryl may have been part of a strategic campaign of hype-building around the show. After all, Cowell has along history of playing his leading ladies against each other, whether it is pitting Dannii Minogue against Cheryl, Cheryl against Paula Abdul, or now, Cheryl against Nicole Scherzinger, who is now rumoured to take her place.
But if the reports are true and a downcast Cole is heading back to the UK with her dreams in tatters, she can at least be assured of a national welcome.
“Agree Cheryl Cole is better off in the UK where she is very good. What do the Yanks know anyway?” tweeted The Apprentice host Alan Sugar.
Dannii Minogue, who was recently fired from the X Factor U.K. judging line-up Tweeted “Judging [X Factor] should come with a life jacket, drop-down oxygen and a life raft.”
Meanwhile, comedian Russell Brand also offered his commiserations while being interviewed on ITV morning show Daybreak.
“Our Cheryl? That cannae be right,” he said, imitating Cole’s famous Newcastle accent. “I’ve come to this country in good faith and they’ve kicked our Cheryl off? Oh no! She’s Britain’s sweetheart.”
Asked if he thought that an American audience would have trouble with Cheryl’s accent, Brand advised: “Just listen more, just listen very intently. All them things she’s saying — that’s English.”
Check out highlights of Cheryl Cole on X Factor below.
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