Simon said ‘No’ as soon as Sarah Lowe walked through the door (Picture: Rex)
The reality singing competition, which started the careers of the likes of Leona Lewis, Harry Styles and Zayn Malik, JLS, and Little Mix, began 20 years ago and was the most popular TV talent show of its era.
However, during its time on air between 2004 and 2018, behind-the-scenes gossip spread about the brutality of the audition process, while some acts who made it to live finals claimed the show wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
Now, two decades after its first season, which was won by Steve Brookstein, those who didn’t make it through to live finals have told their stories to a new BBC podcast, Offstage: Inside The X Factor.
One of those people is Sarah Lowe, who tried out for the singing competition in 2005 – she’s said she still remembers being told by Simon that he’d decided not to put her through before she even started singing.
Sarah Lowe says people mocked her audition in Asda (Picture: BBC)
During the unseen audition with producers, Sarah was told the judges would ‘like’ her and that she had ‘an amazing voice’, and was excited to sing in front of Simon, Sharon Osbourne, and Louis Walsh.
However, after her audition was over, Simon told Sarah: ‘That wasn’t what I’m looking for at all in this competition’.
But Sarah hit back, asking Simon if her physical figure had informed his decision.
Simon defended himself, saying his decision was nothing to do with her figure, but admitted to ‘mentally saying no’ as soon as he saw her.
Sarah was turned down by all three judges (Picture: Fremantle/ITV)
Sarah’s family pleaded with Simon to let her through (Picture: Fremantle/ITV)
The X Factor judge was famous for his harsh comments (Picture: Getty)
‘He judged me before I even started to sing,’ Sarah has said years later, with all three judges turning her down.
‘I felt like my heart was going to explode, like, it broke me that much. And I just started crying.’
Sarah claims her family, who had come with her to the audition, were then encouraged to plead with the judges themselves, with Sarah’s fiancée Scott dropping to his knees to beg for another chance.
When the footage aired on ITV, it changed Sarah’s life and affected her mental health: ‘I went into Asda, and there was a lady getting on her hands and knees and saying, “Please, Simon, can I have some more?” I was so ashamed.’
Sarah’s comments have come after more high profile contestants, including Katie Waissel, have criticised The X Factor for its lack of ‘duty of care’.
Katie, who competed in 2010, revealed in 2023 that she was pursuing a civil case and receiving legal advice.
In response to the story, Fremantle Media stated: ‘Duty of care is of the utmost importance to us, and we take the welfare of everyone involved in our shows, including contestants and members of the production team, incredibly seriously with thorough and robust support systems in place.’
The statement continued: ‘Over the years, The X Factor was at the forefront of implementing welfare protocols to ensure everyone involved in the making of the show was supported throughout their experience and beyond.
‘Measures in place included, and were not limited to, having a dedicated welfare team… There was no time limit on aftercare once the show had aired.
‘These measures were under constant review, and we have always been proactive in adapting and updating them for future shows. It is a constantly evolving process, and we welcome feedback.’
Metro.co.uk have approached Fremantle Media and Simon Cowell’s representatives for further clarification.
Got a story?
If you’ve got a celebrity story, video or pictures get in touch with the Metro.co.uk entertainment team by emailing us firstname.lastname@example.org, calling 020 3615 2145 or by visiting our Submit Stuff page – we’d love to hear from you.