Simon Cowell has defended new X Factor recruit Ayda Williams’s place on the judging panel, and has praised her as a “revelation”.
Actress and Loose Women panellist Ayda has joined the talent show for the 15th series along with her husband, singer Robbie Williams, and One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson.
Cowell said the panel, which last year consisted of Louis Walsh, Sharon Osbourne and Nicole Scherzinger, needed a shake-up.
He said: “What I love about Louis (Tomlinson), Robbie and Ayda is that they are all fans of the show in their own way, and of course Louis started out on the show.
“Robbie’s been a huge part of the show over the years, it’s how we became friends, and Ayda has been a revelation, I mean, seriously, she’s been brilliant.”
Ayda’s appointment as a judge has been criticised by some fans due to her lack of her own music career, but Cowell said: “I can name you on one hand the good managers I know, you don’t have to be a music manager or an artist to be on this show.
“You have to have taste, good instincts, you have got to like people.
“The irony is that the public actually judge this competition.
“Ayda has seen the music business from a different point of view so she brings a different perspective to the panel. I think she’s amazing.”
Ayda cited her years being with former Take That star Robbie as experience enough to be a judge on the show.
“I know that I’ve helped Rob for 12 years now, I’ve had to pick him up off the ground and lift him up,” the American TV star said.
“I’ve been part of every song choice for like five albums, every creative for his live shows, his tours, music videos, I feel like I’ve had enough experience with his career and my own career to make a difference with these contestants.”
She said she does not want to say she is the “brains” behind the pop star, but that she has “very strong instincts and Rob trusts those instincts”.
“I’m very passionate. With Rob, I think I’m also not afraid to tell him when I don’t like something. He’s in a position where a lot of people could tell him they like something even if they don’t.
“I am always incredibly straightforward, I say it with compassion but I stick to my word and carry it through.”
Robbie and Ayda married in 2010 and they have two children together, daughter Theodora Rose and son Charlton Valentine.
Tomlinson, who rose to fame on The X Factor as one-fifth of boy band One Direction in 2010, said that Ayda has so far done an “absolutely incredible job”, while presenter O’Leary said he has been impressed with her.
O’Leary added: “Ayda knows that she’s got to sell herself to the British public.
“I’ve been so impressed with her. She knows the business inside-out. Showbusiness is showbusiness whether you’re a host, an actor or whether you’re a singer.”
The new series sees the return of the arena auditions, where hopeful singers have to impress in front of a live audience.
Cowell said he has had more fun in auditions for the new series that he has had in years, adding: “I love doing auditions in front of an audience.
“I just can’t understand why we never seem to do that, it’s the weirdest thing.
“You sit in a small room and someone’s great and literally nothing happens.
“In the arena when it’s a good audition they go nuts and that’s what they want.”
There will also be a new way for the judges to fast-track acts, as they will each have a guaranteed safe seat to give away during the dastardly six chair challenge.
While hopefuls in each category usually get swapped around during the brutal task, which determines who will go through to the judges’ houses phase, the judges will now be equipped with a Golden X, which is comparable to the Golden Buzzer on Britain’s Got Talent.
Osbourne will return to the judging panel for the live shows later in the series.
The X Factor returns to ITV on Saturday September 2 at 8pm. The second episode airs on Sunday at 8pm.