On Sept. 10, 2013, Kelly Rowland did an interview with reporters via telephone conference call to promote Fox’s “The X Factor” U.S., whose third season premieres in two parts on Sept. 11 and Sept. 12, 2013, at 8 p.m. EDT/PDT. Rowland (who is a former member of Destiny’s Child) joined the show in 2013, as a replacement for Britney Spears. The other judges on the show are Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato and Paulina Rubio. Rowland was previously a judge on “The X Factor” U.K. in 2011. Here is what she said during the conference call:
What kind of father do you think Simon is going to be and why?
I think Simon is going to be a pretty cool dad. I feel like he has guided so many people into their careers, and he has been like a father figure to several groups that he has put together, and I think that it is going to actually be a breeze for him.
Were you surprised to hear that Simon might be changing diapers?
I think that it’s so crazy. Everybody has what they say or whatever, and I think that above anything, I think life happens. Life happens and this is part of life, and a new life will be here, and it just so happens it’s going to be Simon’s.
Can you tell us a little bit about the chemistry with the judging panel this year?
To be honest, we were really just having fun. I remember the first day on the set, and all the cameras were, of course, all on us. And I remember Demi walked up to me and she goes, “Hello, how are you?” And she was like, “I don’t know how much more natural this could be.” But we just had a good time, to be honest.
We had fun together. And it’s not about the judges, this is about talent. I think that is why I love the show so much, because we’re all focused on talent and finding great talent as well.
With three female judges on the panel Simon Cowell, is that a sign of some girl power we are going to see in action this year?
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. It is the year of the woman. Women rule. Men just live there. Like Simon, looking like a sad puppy dog, with three women on the panel is just sad. It’s hilarious, actually.
Simon recently said on “The Tonight Show” that you’re horny.
Did he really?
He said that you are a naughty girl. Do you think we’re going get some eye candy with some of the contestants?
Oh, trust me, honey, when it comes to the bodies and the faces, I like to put everything together. I’m like, you know, under that shirt it looks like there is something there. Can you please show us? I’m just curious. I just want to see what’s there.
Of course, I keep it on the panel and they’re on the stage, and I keep it very professional, but, I mean, a girl is curious. Why not? The rest of the world is. So I just want to show the rest of the world what I am seeing too.
Do you think that the Groups category is going to be as strong as it was last year or what do you think?
The truth is that all of the categories are super strong. I am so happy for all of us too because we are all happy with our categories and we are all very passionate about our categories too. It’s going to be an incredible year. I think America will actually be surprised with how much talent we have in each group.
Do you have a particular judging style? Do you have a hard time saying no to contestants or is it easy like it is with Simon?
No, I am constructive when it comes to criticism. I am firm, but I like to be honest, and I remember coming up in the music industry and I ran into people who had some harsh things to say, but I grew more from people who actually were constructive and gave details about how I can grow. I paid attention to those people and wanted to apply that to the way I’m a judge, because it’s about seeing people grow and be better and become something wonderful, and being honest with them if you possibly don’t see something either, but it’s a tactful way of telling them to where you’re not just killing someone’s dream. We are not dream killers.
You have had a lot of success in the entertainment industry over the years, from singing with Destiny’s Child and also as a solo artist to acting and everything else. What advice would you give singers on shows like “The X Factor” who want to be in your shoes someday?
I would tell them to make sure that you’re doing it for the right reason. I feel like nowadays fame and television, like sometimes it can make everything look it’s just so glamorous. But what I do admire about the contestants on the show and my experience from “X Factor” in the U.K. is these contestants have a week to be prepared, to be ready for interviews, to be camera ready, to get a makeover, to know the song, to know the placement on stage, to know a dance step. That’s a lot.
People are watching you each week and that’s a lot and you’re pushed a little bit faster to grow. I admire them taking this on because it’s a lot of pressure, but you either rise to the occasion or fall. Sometimes they’ll fall because they didn’t believe in themselves enough. I truly believe that sometimes as people we let ourselves get the best of us. I just hope the contestants know what a unique gift they have and that they’re ready and excited and hungry and passionate enough to give it to the rest of the world.
What’s your opinion on the difficulty of creating a star with this kind of platform? Do you, in particular, have any opinion on what it takes to handpick someone and groom them for today’s industry to really find someone who will hit?
I think that is why Simon wanted to have mentors. That is why “The X Factor” of course, has mentors, to be there to be constructive, to be honest, to give knowledge, and to help them grow. Coming into the music industry, even when I was a kid, one thing I learned is timing is everything. You being prepared is everything. It’s not necessarily all on the show, it’s just as much as it is on the contestants.
The real question is: Are they ready? Are they ready to put themselves out there? Are they ready to come forward? Are they ready to share their gift with everybody? Are they ready to push the fear aside and actually go out, yes, in front of millions of people and nail it every time?
We are usually … our worst critic and it is so important, even as I watch a great friend of mine, Serena Williams, play tennis, and congratulations to her, she just of course won [the U.S;. Open], but she set out, she was out there fighting for her shot, of course, again to win. You just have to want to win, and you got to be hungry enough and ready to just kill. You have to have an animal instinct in this industry, and just know that whatever it is, you’re going to get it; it’s going to be yours.
You have such incredible success in the U.S. and overseas. What do you think is making the difference in terms of reception in the U.S. versus overseas?
I make music that I love. I have a fan base, and I think that music also continues to change, to be completely honest. You are allowed as an artist to be creative, and sometimes it catches and sometimes it doesn’t. When it catches, you run with it. I continue to record as well. You just never know what happens.
You have situations, even with Robin Thicke where nobody was really paying attention to Robin Thicke — as talented as this man is, plays so many instruments, writes music for everybody, he is so incredibly talented — he gets a hit and next thing you know he’s on everybody’s lips and I just think that is the way music is right now. You just never know what happens. And this man funded his video, his song. I think it is more of a different style in the way music is brought to the public and the way it becomes popular as well. When it hits, it hits, man.
Why do you think Simon Cowell picked you to be a judge on “The X Factor”? And what was that conversation like when you were told you were going to be a judge?
I am very smart, and I have been in the music industry for a very long time and I have a lot of knowledge to give and that I want to give to these contestants. I love finding new talent, to be completely honest, and my opportunity that I got to do “X Factor U.K.” was just incredible. I will never forget it. It was one of the best moments I’ve had, actually, in my career, because I’m working with a specific group.
And there, I had the Girls [category] and I’m a part of their building process and that makes me happy. I feel like I’m actually giving back. Simon picked me because I’m smart and I am definitely up for the job.
Because of your career background, you have had your ups and downs. How do you think that has affected your style as a judge?
I’m able to see certain things, to be honest. I don’t know if I can necessarily put it into words, but all of my experiences actually have prepared me for this moment. And if anything where I feel like I may see a piece of myself or a bad habit or something in a contestant, I’ll be able to actually notice it and hopefully help them to move from there, to grow from there. That’s why I’m here. That’s why they call us mentors.
If you had to say which is most important for you in a performer, is it charisma, talent, or stage performance? How would you characterize what you look for in a performer?
To be honest, they are all important, but I think, above anything, people love to see passion, and I think that when it comes to performing, people just want to be entertained. If you’re not up there having fun, then how can anybody else whose watching you have fun? I think that the contestants have to know how incredible and unique they are and what kind of artist they are before they even get here, and hopefully, even if they don’t know before they get here, they learn while they’re here. We help them in that direction as well, as mentors.
You say that what you are looking for is fun. Are you never afraid that you might overlook someone’s real talent in the hopes of adding fun to the show?
I, actually, am completely honest with myself when it comes to talent. I’ve actually turned someone down because they had a wonderful look and they sounded awful. I am not going to do that to myself and to my integrity, I am not going to do that to the rest of the world. I’m not going to even do that to the person that is auditioning because it won’t be fair to them.
I don’t want them to just come into this competition thinking they can just get on by their looks; it’s more than that. It’s your talent, it’s your passion, it’s your hunger, it’s your dedication and I felt like they weren’t there when it came to those components as well. I am very honest with them; I’m very honest with myself. I don’t cut any corners.
Simon was asked to describe all the other judges with a few words. Can you give one or two words describing each of the other judges?
Yes. Let’s see. Paulina is adorable and witty and so beautiful. Demi, you fall in love with her immediately. She is passionate. She has such a beautiful heart, and I love the way she leaves the contestants with something hopeful and something they can hold onto when they leave the audition, whether it’s a yes or a no. Simon is very smart and I trust him. I think the rest of the world trusts him as well.
What is different for you being on “The X Factor” U.S., as opposed to “The X Factor” U.K., other than just location?
Or accents. I think the difference, major, is Simon wasn’t there when I did the U.K. version of “The X Factor,” and that’s really basically it to me. I think that with the U.S. we tend to be more well-rehearsed and we just want to be so perfect, and you have to admire that, but sometimes the raw talent that comes in from a U.K. pub or a London pub is actually even more intriguing and interesting. We had a kid that came in who had actually the best of both and he is remarkable. Remarkable.
If something like “The X Factor” had been around when you were starting your career back in the early days, how do you think you would have done on the show?
It was. I was on “Star Search,” and I got three-and-a-quarter stars with my group that I was with at the time. We were called Girls Time. It was myself and Beyoncé and some friends that we went to school with, and we got on Star Search,” and we lost.
And I remember what that three-and-a-quarter stars felt like. Once that red curtain closed we were like little sad puppy dogs, just bawling our little eyes out. We were so sad. When we got to the hotel, I remember our parents going “What do you guys want to do? You want to go to Disneyland?” Our eyes dried up so fast, it wasn’t funny.
We were really just sad, but I truly believe that when it’s your time, it’s your time. When you’re prepared, you are ready for it. You really are.
You have talked about the drive that you think is necessary to achieve success, but what do you actually think is the indefinable “x factor” that you look for in contestants?
You just see it in people’s eyes. You just see how bad they want it, you see how hard they are willing to work, and you have to admire that and you have to give them a shot. That’s why I love the auditions, because you actually start the weeding out process of people who actually, of course, sound.
You go by their feel, by their charisma is when they’re talking to you, everything, how the audience takes to them. You’re taking in all of that and you’re separating everybody. You’re actually going through that weeding-out process, and then you continue to go through that process to live shows and you see who everyone picks and you see who is willing to work the hardest.
Did Demi, Paulina or Simon really give you any specific advice?
No. I was just told to be honest and to be myself. I think I’m a pretty cool person, but above anything, I was just told to have fun. I have had fun. I am having a wonderful time.
What has the toughest part of judging been for you, whether it’s been here in the U.S. or in the U.K.?
The toughest part is when you have to say no to somebody or letting someone go. One thing that I had to remember in my personal journey in the music industry and coming up in the music industry was how many times I was told no. I was signed, I was dropped, I was signed, and I was put on a shelf. It’s so many things that are dynamic you get into in the music industry. I just remembered all of that and I wanted to put that forth in this opportunity in being a judge on “:The X Factor.”
The word leaking out from the set is that third season of “The X Factor” U.S. has some of the best talent yet on the show. Does that sound right?
It does. Totally … It is the best talent. Some of it’s shocking; some of it’s new; some of it’s age. That’s what really got us. I remember the first two cities we went to, we were looking at all these 13-and-14-year-old kids who were so on it, like their voices, their stage presence, how passionate they were, but the ages are just so, they’re young and they’re ready.
The talent is real. It’s so real and genuine when you listen to them. Whether it’s making the hair on the back of your neck stand up to moving you with emotion or just making you feel something inside where you just feel like dancing. Even if it’s the slowest song ever, you’re just so happy. It’s something that these contestants possess this year that is so magnetic and that is what I love most about being here.
You were in the U.K. version of X Factor, and you spoke about how difficult it is to let go. Are you still in touch with the girls that you mentored, whether it’s Misha B or Janet Devlin?
Misha, yes. Misha I talk too often. I am very proud of her She is so talented and she is still doing her thing, I am very proud of her. It’s so crazy, because with Janet, I actually haven’t gotten a chance to talk to her for a minute, but I talk to the rest of the girls.
And I really wish I could talk to Sophie [Habibis], because I hope that she is not still in the pub but that she is still singing. She is so talented. I haven’t been able to get in contact with her.
Obviously, you were a judge on “The X Factor” U.K. the year Little Mix won, and they have broken through around the world. What do you make of this British invasion, whether it’s One Direction or Little Mix or The Wanted?
I love it, to be honest. It doesn’t matter where talent comes from as long as they are entertaining, and it makes it even better when after you hear their music you are able to fall in love with, I know me, I love a British accent. I actually put Little Mix together, so I am very proud of these ladies and I knew they would be something special from the moment I saw them together.
Could tell us any teases about the two-part Season 3 premiere of “The X Factor” U.S. this week?
I could say who I love, but the first, to be honest, the first night of the premiere, of course the two-night premiere, it happens too fast. When we were able to look at it, I remember me, Demi, and Paul were sitting on the couch and we’re looking at it and we’re like, “Ah, that’s it, that’s it.”
It feels like it happens so fast. I will say that, but Lillie [McCloud] is incredible, oh my gosh, Restless Road is incredible, Ellona, Khaya Cohen is incredible, Josh Levi … I am going to name everybody so this isn’t fair, but we have so much talent this year. It’s so much better.