'The X Factor's' Nicole Scherzinger on First Day as Judge: 'I Can Barf or Say Rock-N-Roll' (Q&A)

Frank Ockenfels / FOX

The Pussycat Dolls singer also talks about having Simon Cowell as a boss, her ill-fated first solo album and Cheryl Cole's exit.

Nicole Scherzinger is uniquely qualified to judge The X Factor. Like Cheryl Cole before her, who sat in the very same seat, Scherzinger started out competing on -- and winning -- a talent show, the short-lived Popstars on The WB (curiously, Cole won the British version of the show a year later). The experience helped launch a music career that eventually took her from the group Eden’s Crush to Pussycat Dolls and now, a decade later, she’ll finally see a lifelong dream come true when her solo album Killer Love is released in November.

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Indeed, for the girl who declared, “When I grow up, I want to be famous “ and “have groupies,” it’s been one whirlwind year. Scherzinger was originally hired to co-host X Factor with Steve Jones. But barely two audition cities into filming, Cole made a hasty exit, covered in detail on these pages, and Scherzinger stepped in for what seems to have been a relatively smooth transition (Cole is still shown on the first episode). We’ll see soon enough -- the show premieres on Wednesday.

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So what can TV viewers expect of the sweet-talking tomcat, as X Factor creator Simon Cowell likes to describe the 33-year-old Scherzinger? The Hawaii native reveals more of herself in this Q&A with The Hollywood Reporter.

The Hollywood Reporter: Since you’re the new kid at the table, does Simon judge your performance like he judges the contestants?

Nicole Scherzinger: He sure does. He judges everything. That’s why he’s the ultimate judge. He created the role.

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THR: What kind of things has he said to you?

Scherzinger: He’s always encouraging in a scary, threatening way. Like, “I might not have a job tomorrow, so I have to bring it.” It’s upsetting but I get through it. (Laughs)… He’s actually a lot nicer than I thought. He’s very giving and empowering.

THR: And with the auditioners, how would you describe his judging style these days?

Scherzinger: When he watches a performance, I don’t know what conjures up in that mind of his, but he just spits it out and it’s random. I guess that’s why I like him -- because I’m pretty random and out there as well. But he’s almost too decisive sometimes.

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THR: Something clearly clicked when you were on UK X Factor, what do you think it was?

Scherzinger: We had great chemistry, both Simon, me and Louie. It’s funny because I would start talking about colors, shapes and feelings and Simon was, like, “You’re like a little Paula.” I thought, “I’m going to take that as a compliment.”

THR: You were originally hired to co-host the show, but when Cheryl Cole left, took her seat at the judges’ table. Were you gunning for that gig from the beginning?

Scherzinger: Yeah. Because I had gotten the experience in the UK, I knew it was going to be a phenomenon. It was a big feeling. I really enjoyed myself and loved Simon so much that I accepted the hosting job that they offered me, even though I had never been a host before. I figured it would be something cool -- like an artist ambassador where I’d really get to know the contestants. I wanted to mentor so I was elated and honored when they offered my the judge position because as an artist, I felt like I really had a voice and could pay it forward and give back with the experience I’ve had.

THR: What was it like for you emotionally during the first day of shooting as a judge?

Scherzinger: I just wanted to be a part of the team and whatever I had to do, I was going to make sure I went up to bat. The first day, they had, like, 80 executives from there all wondering if they were going to keep me. I was like, “No way, I’ve worked my whole life for this. I’m going to go off my instinct and my soul and I’m going to enjoy it." I remember thinking, "I can either barf in my mouth right now because of nerves or I can say rock-n-roll."

THR: If Simon is boss, Paula is the kinder and gentler one and LA Reid is the harsh executive, how do you see your role?

Scherzinger: I’m like a kindred spirit to Paula. She was my idol growing up and a lot of what she says is the sheer truth. Our minds, hearts and spirits gravitate towards the same feedback, but we have different ways of expressing it. Sometimes, I’m goofy and sometimes I’m more emotional. I just try to be myself and speak from my personal experience.

THR: After the first X Factor promo aired, you got a lot of comparisons to Jennifer Lopez and how she carried herself on television. Did you watch her on American Idol this year?

Scherzinger:  A few times and she looked fabulous. 

THR: You deliver the “You’re so sweet line,” which looks like it’s been lifted from the Idol season 10 handbook. Have you been pretty gentle?

Scherzinger: Simon encourages you to just be you, not to put on an act or anything. When I speak to the people, sometimes it’s gentle and sometimes it’s just honest. A lot of times during the show, I’ve said no and the other three said yes and I was surprised.

THR: What would call for a no?

Scherzinger: If I didn’t feel it in my gut. It’s a 5 million dollar recording contract, I’m looking for the real thing. When I did the UK X Factor, I kind of had a problem with never saying no to anyone. Simon was like, “Look, this isn’t really working out. You need to say no sometimes.” Now it’s important because it’s my job. I have a responsibility to put the best people through, not the mediocre and not the nonsense. I don’t have any patience for people who don’t work for it.

THR: Speaking of working for it, you spent the better part of two years recording a solo album, Her Name is Nicole, which was never released in the U.S. What happened?

Scherzinger: It was my decision. I felt like the fans didn’t want it out yet. I think they wanted another Pussycat Dolls album and I couldn’t force it. I put a lot of the songs, like “When I Grow Up,” on the Pussycat Dolls album and we went back on tour. I carried it over to this album. But I’m not going to lie, I’m kind of disappointed it didn’t come out… I must have recorded 300 songs. I kind of went insane there for a while. I was a studio rat. But I had to walk away from it When you put so much work, time and heart and soul and it’s not always the radio hit, it’s a disappointment. The work will speak for itself and everything in the right time.

THR: You’ve had so much experience being in a girl group, is it safe to assume you want to work with the girls once the contestants are split on X Factor?

Scherzinger: I want the girls. Being a female in this industry, that’s where I’m going to be of most service. But I’m also so impressed with the “Overs” [those 30 and up]. At the end of the day, whatever happens, it’s meant to be.

THR: The Voice was super successful. Idol is still going strong. Are you surprised that these shows are so enduring?

Scherzinger: Absolutely not. I’m a singer first, so I love people singing singers’ songs. I was really happy for The Voice, being a big Cee-Lo fan and friend. These are four artists people can learn from. I love that American Idol is so successful because that means America still has an appetite for these talent shows.

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