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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 July, 2003, 08:44 GMT 09:44 UK
Playing Cupid with sex symbol Cowell

By Chris Heard
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Music mogul Simon Cowell's latest project, a reality TV dating show called Cupid, airs in the US on Wednesday.

TV's "Mr Nasty" is behind the scenes at Cupid

Cowell has become one of the most bankable faces on US TV after his rabble-rousing stints as a judge on American Idol.

His singular frankness in dismissing the show's less capable singers elicited the same kind of jaw-dropping disbelief that had UK Pop Idol viewers hooked.

With apparently bomb-proof self-confidence and an effortless - if untypical - English charm, Cowell has emerged as the TV star the US loves to hate.

His notoriety reached a record audience in May when 38 million Americans tuned in for the final of the reality TV talent search, which chose a singing star out of thousands of hopefuls.

Along the way the 43-year-old multi-millionaire, lampooned for his trademark dress of black designer sweater and jeans, has also become something of a sex symbol.

Cowell is moving into TV production
Cowell's celebrity status is now such that it is he - as executive producer - who features in Cupid's promotional campaign, rather than the show's host.

He has set up his own TV production company, Simcow, and signed for another three series of Fox's American Idol. A second British series is also on the way.

It is not a bad outcome for the former EMI postboy who has been described variously by his detractors as smug, snide and rude.

Sometimes it seems as if the enigmatic Cowell has built his whole public profile on his supposed "cruel streak".

Tom Jones reportedly wanted to punch him, while fellow American Idol judge Paula Abdul "despised" his treatment of some performers.

When everyone else is going right, that's the time I know to go left
Simon Cowell
How much of his withering disdain is an act has been a matter of debate, but those closest to him insist it is not in the least contrived. He has a reputation for searing honesty among his loyal friends.

Long before he became king of the TV putdown, Cowell was making his name and fortune as a musical talent-spotter.

As former head of Artist and Repertoire at RCA Records, he helped to nurture big-selling acts such as Westlife, Five and Robson and Jerome.

At the same time he began working closely with Simon Fuller, the man who brought the world the Spice Girls and S Club 7 through his 19 Entertainment management company.

The former music A&R man has amassed a fortune
Cowell helped Fuller to develop the Pop Idol concept which has had such a seismic impact on the record business in the past two years.

Cowell is now focusing his energies on producing TV shows - and many US commentators are backing his unerring belief in his own instincts.

"I desperately want to build a production company that will expand on my record company," he said in a recent interview with the LA Times.

"People always try to predict what the audience is going to want to see. When everyone else is going right, that's the time I know to go left."

With characteristic brio, he added: "I'm quite sure this show (Cupid) will work."

He seems impervious to personal hurt, ignoring his media critics - and brushing off a recent slew of tabloid speculation about his sexuality.

I don't care what people think about me
Simon Cowell
"I'm not gay and I've never fantasised about sleeping with a man," he told the Mail on Sunday. "My only motivation is success and money."

A self-confessed perfectionist, Cowell drives a Ferrari and lives in a large home in leafy Holland Park, west London.

He told the paper he has had up to 100 girlfriends - his current partner is 30-year-old TV presenter Terri Seymour.

Ian Hyland, the Sunday Mirror's TV critic, said he could see why Cowell had reached the heady status of sex symbol.

Simon Cowell
Cowell admits to being a perfectionist
"He's funny, he's charming and he's quite good looking," said Hyland. "He's got twinkly eyes, he's very charismatic.

"I'm told he wants to do TV shows now rather than appear in them. I think he looks at what Simon Fuller has done and he wants a piece of it."

He already has a reputed 30m in the bank, but as Cowell says, hinting at the drive behind the ego: "Money is fantastic. It's the best thing in the world.

"It changes you as a person. It gives you confidence."

Cowell offers prince pop career
08 Jul 03  |  Showbiz
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16 Jun 02  |  Reviews

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