‘American’ Idol Finalists Reveal What Longtime Judge Simon Cowell Is Really Like

by Chris Piner

The hit television show American Idol did more than produce 19 seasons, it revealed legendary talent. A prime example of the power behind American Idol is Kelly Clarkson. She won two Grammys for her album Breakaway and sold over 12 million copies worldwide. But before a singer makes it on the big stage, they all endured the feedback and sometimes harsh criticism from judges. They included Simon Cowell, Katy Perry, Jennifer Lopez, and Randy Jackson. 

There is no denying that Simon Cowell dominated the show created by Simon Fuller. Even the charismatic Ryan Seacrest couldn’t compete with the bluntness of the man behind bands like One Direction. Having an eye for what it takes to be more than a star, but a legend in the music industry, many contestants respected Cowell for his honesty. 

Celebrating 20 years of American Idol, several past contestants decided to discuss what it was like being in front of the famous judges. Jessica Sanchez, the runner-up for Season 11, admitted to loving Jennifer Lopez. “She’s freaking drop-dead gorgeous, talented, her work ethic is crazy. Even away from the cameras and stuff like that after the show, she was just so sweet.”

A Conversation With American Idol Judge Lionel Richie

Joining American Idol in 2018, Lionel Richie often gives contestants advice on doing it right. He once told David Cook, winner of season 7, that being nervous was a good thing. “That just means you’re about to do something great.” 

Runner-up for season 16, Caleb Lee Hutchinson added that sometimes his conversations were a little off. “He doesn’t go, ‘Hey, how you doing?’ He’ll just walk up and start talking — ‘The year was 1976, Michael Jackson wanted a cookie’ — and he just goes into this whole story.”

The Truth About Simon Cowell

But for the one who is considered the boldest, Melinda Doolittle, a finalist in season 6, explained that Simon Cowell holds a special place in her heart. She suggested, “I might’ve had a slight crush.” As mentioned above, Cowell isn’t shy when it comes to his thoughts. Doolittle explained it was all to make them better. “You realize at the end of the day that he was basically getting upset with us because he knew we were better than what we were portraying on television,”

Another contestant, Crystal Bowersox, remembered people running from Simon Cowell, but the American Idol runner-up said, “I had a lot of respect for Simon because he was somebody who spoke his mind, spoke his truth,” Bowersox said. “Just said it like it was, he never sugarcoated anything. And I really do admire that in people, even if sometimes it’s not what we want to hear.”