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Page last updated at 17:13 GMT, Friday, 15 August 2008 18:13 UK
Simon Cowell bigs up Cheryl Cole

The wait for the new series of X Factor is over. Series 5 is here with new judge Cheryl Cole replacing Sharon Osbourne, who quit. Simon Cowell and the Girls Aloud singer tell Newsbeat about what it's like working together.

Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Dannii Minogue and Louis Walsh

How did Cheryl get involved in X Factor?

Simon: I've always been a fan of Cheryl. I first got to know her through Celebrity Apprentice, when she was on that. She called me out of the blue and said, 'It's Cheryl Cole and we want some money for this charity.' She was incredibly convincing and persuasive. I gave her the money and that was honestly why I wanted to work with Cheryl on a show.

I thought she was special and I thought that she'd be fantastic on a show like this. It just took me two years to persuade her. She blew me out on Britain's Got Talent after saying yes. And then eventually I persuaded her to do the X Factor. Why I knew she was gonna be good is that she speaks like normal people speak.

People can relate to that and I think that's the best sign of a judge, not someone who's sitting there as a vocal judge, but going, why I like you, why I don't like you. And it's a very, very rare talent. And to embarrass her now, which I will, she's one of the best I've ever worked with.

Are you trying to be a bit more real this time round?

Simon: It just became real to be honest with you. One thing you're reminded of, particularly when you've got a lot of young contestants coming in, is that the reason they're on the show is not because of our egos or whatever you read about, it's because they genuinely want a shot.

And if they're talented, you've got to put all that to one side and say, 'I'm going to make the very, very best I can out of you.' Like Leona [Lewis] as an example. When you're working with someone like that you're not thinking about Sharon's ego or Louis's ego. You're just thinking, 'I want you to be fantastic.' And that's what's important we do on the live shows.

Cheryl, have the rest of Girls Aloud been asking you about the contestants or to give anything away?

Cheryl: They're always asking questions actually. And I'm kind of cautious of what I tell them because we've always, as a group, been big fans of the X Factor and I don't want to ruin especially the audition process. It's the most exciting part normally. You're like, 'Oh my god, the auditions are starting.' So, I don't want to tell them too much but at the same time I can't contain my excitement when I see someone that I think's special or someone that I want in my category. So, I do tell them snippets but only for my benefit.

We see you walk off in tears in one episode...

Cheryl: That was a really awkward moment for me actually. Nikk [Major] has been around since we auditioned [with Phixx] and I think he actually auditioned for Popstars before that. He's tried his hardest and he's been around for years. Working in a working men's club or bingo has to be the hardest thing. Especially when that's your passion.

I can relate to his passion for this. So, to be sat there judging him, if you like, just felt wrong. I felt like I couldn't possibly have done it and I'm glad I didn't. I couldn't have saved him. There had to three yeses across the board and as you saw, there were three nos. So, I would have been the only one saying yes. And that on him as well is not fair.

Simon: I get why she couldn't do it. At the same time, even watching it back - as horrible as it is to watch back, I think the decision we made was the right decision because I don't like seeing people like that being continually disappointed.

It's horrible but someone's got to say it. We try on the show as much as possible to say what we think the public at home are going to be thinking. Because if you fall out of kilter with them, you've had it.

Are you missing Sharon at all?

Simon: Well, Sharon does a show for me in America right now, America's Got Talent. So I speak to her all the time. She wasn't fired. For a number of reasons she decided to go. You have to move on. And now I can't imagine doing the show without Cheryl. It happens like that. You adjust very quickly and the show's different now because Cheryl's on it. I think everyone's won out of this.

Which country has the best talent? America or the UK?

Simon: Ah, well, you know what. Initially I would definitely say America. But because of the Leona Lewis factor or Paul Potts from Britain's Got Talent, I think things are balancing up a little bit more. The truth is, you get good years, you get bad years on all the shows. Interestingly, more people turned up on the X Factor this year than we've had on American Idol. 200,000 applications. It's a crazy number. It's like getting a million people turn up in America. And you've only got to get one.

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