Since 2004 The X Factor has brought the world plenty of entertainment, both on the stage and at the judging panel! In anticipation of the new lineup as we enter the latest series, we’re taking a look back at everyone who’s sat on the panel including the cameos that will go down as legendary—and those we almost forgot altogether...
Current X Factor Judges
Simon Cowell: 2004 to present
Known as the showbiz genius responsible for creating global pop sensations One Direction and Little Mix, Simon Cowell has also created a string of mega-successful reality TV talent competitions such as Pop Idol, Britain’s Got Talent and The X Factor.
Since The X Factor’s inception in 2004, it has turned into a worldwide phenomenon and is broadcast in more than 140 countries. Simon has sat on the judging panel since the beginning. Over the years, viewers have noticed the silver-haired fox has undergone a noticeable transition from an infamously straight-talking Mr Grumpy to a softer, more patient judge since becoming a father.
Robbie Williams & Ayda Field: 2018
The rumour mill was working overtime with reports of the husband-and-wife duo of Robbie Williams and Ayda Field joining The X Factor judging panel, and it was of course confirmed in July 2018. The ‘Rock DJ’ hitmaker Robbie and his glamourous wife are close friends with Cowell, having lived as neighbours in L.A. They reportedly struck a deal with the music mogul following Robbie’s stint on Britain’s Got Talent.
The charismatic couple are known for their silly, fun-loving chemistry and are regularly seen teasing one another on social media. Speaking about signing the duo, Simon revealed to the Mirror: “It all kind of worked out without me even asking. How cool is that?”
Louis Tomlinson: 2018
Louis Tomlinson's first brush with The X Factor was as a contestant in 2010. After singing solo, he was put together with four other teen lads. They became One Direction, went on to come third and then spent a spell dominating the music world.
So what better person to be judging and mentoring?
Previous X Factor Judges
Sharon Osbourne: 2004 to 2007, 2013, 2016
As one of the original judges, Sharon Osbourne became a familiar face from 2004 to 2007. She rejoined in 2013, though, and once again in 2016. After a two-year hiatus, the outspoken music manager was due to return for the 15th series as a fifth judge for the live shows. Speaking about her role, Sharon said: “I can’t wait to get back to the judges’ desk. I love the new format.” But she subsequently dropped out, claiming she was going to be too busy.
Louis Walsh: 2004 to 2018
The Irish boyband expert revealed in June 2018 that he was up his seat on the judging panel, making 2018 the first Louis Walsh-less year since the programme’s debut in 2004. In an announcement, Louis wrote: “I've had a fantastic 13 years on The X Factor but the show needs a change and I'm ready to leave.”
Nicole Scherzinger: 2012 to 2014, 2016, 2017
One of the most animated judges to ever grace The X Factor panel, Nicole Scherzinger quickly became known for her dramatic reactions when a particular auditionee blew her away. The songstress also coined the term “SCHERMAZING” during her time on the show, and she regularly used it describe her favourite contestants. Nicole revealed she wasn’t returning to the table in April 2018.
Dannii Minogue: 2007 to 2011
Aussie popstar Dannii Minogue first appeared in 2007 and remained a judge for four series, before jumping ship in 2011. Dannii and Sharon O were constantly at loggerheads during their time sat beside one another, but despite the awkward feuding, Miss Minogue fared well with The X Factor audience and became popular among viewers.
Cheryl: 2008 to 2011, 2014, 2015
Girls Aloud favourite Cheryl joined The X Factor in 2008 after Sharon made a dramatic exit following reports that she and Dannii could no longer work together. Cheryl (then with the surname Cole) was a judge from 2008 - 2011 and returned once again in 2014 and 2015 as Cheryl Fernandez-Versini (though she would go by just Cheryl following her split from her ex-husband).
As a product of Pop Idol, the Geordie singer had firsthand experience with reality TV talent competitions. Her background made her a firm but fair judge and mentor, which she put to use when leading Alexandra Burke to victory in her first year on the show.
Tulisa: 2011 to 2012
Controversial singer Tulisa Contostavlos was the youngest judge to ever pull up a pew at The X Factor table during her time there in 2011 and 2012. Although the N-Dubz member’s act, Little Mix, went on to be one of the most successful groups to ever win the competition, outspoken Tulisa appeared to lack chemistry with the other judges.
Kelly Rowland: 2011
Destiny’s Child singer and solo artist Kelly Rowland joined the judge’s panel at the same time as Tulisa, in 2011. While she went down well with viewers and displayed a special soft spot for groups and girl-bands in particular, Kelly was cut after just one series.
Gary Barlow: 2011 to 2013
Filling Simon’s shoes from 2011-2013, Take That’s Gary Barlow remained reasonably deadpan throughout his time on The X Factor. While he did exhibit an occasional dry wit which many viewers didn’t expect, he was often criticised for being too harsh to both the acts and his fellow judges. A prime example of Gary’s sharp-tongue was the time he called Tulisa out live on air for having “fag ash breath”.
Mel B: 2014
Much like Gary, fellow popstar legend Mel B appeared to occasionally lack sensitivity. After being on the show for just one series in 2014, the former Spice Girl was given the boot. Simon deemed her a better fit for US audiences and she has since featured as an America’s Got Talent judge for five series.
Rita Ora: 2015
After appearing as a guest judge in 2012, British pop sensation Rita Ora signed up as a full-time fixture for 2015. Her act, Louisa Johnson, emerged victorious at the end of the series, with the pair performing a powerful rendition of ‘And I’m Telling You’ at the live finals.
Nick Grimshaw: 2015
Radio 1 Breakfast Show host Nick Grimshaw joined real-life best friend Rita on the judging panel in 2015, much to the confusion of the older generation of X Factor fans. His time on the show came to an end following his somewhat-reserved and underwhelming stint as a judge.
Brian Friedman: 2007
For the fourth series, American choreographer and backing dancer Brian had a brief seat at the judging table before being swapped out for Louis Walsh after a few episodes. He was given the title of Creative Director instead, a move he has since said was planned all along.
Pixie Lott: 2010
This blonde beauty temporarily sat on the judging panel in 2010, the same year Rebecca Ferguson wowed the entire nation. Pixie Lott’s time on The X Factor was short and sweet, and she was later snapped up by rival TV talent competition The Voice.
Natalie Imbruglia: 2010
The Aussie star appeared on The X Factor in 2010 in for pregnant friend, Dannii. However, despite her best efforts, ‘Torn’ hitmaker Natalie Imbruglia didn’t go down too well at the live auditions. There were reports of auditionees dismissing her criticism and branding the judge a “one hit wonder.”
Katy Perry: 2010
Pop sensation Katy Perry took a swing at judging the live auditions in 2010 and was quite popular with audience members and auditionees alike. While she only featured in one episode, Katy was a memorable judge who took her role very seriously and became invested in many of her favourite contestants.
Geri Halliwell: 2010
Geri Halliwell beat her Spice Girl counterpart, Mel B, to the judging panel by four years, as she was invited to be a guest judge in 2010. Despite her very brief time on the show, Ginger Spice has become known as one of the most talkative judges in X Factor history.
Alexandra Burke: 2011
Alexandra Burke stepped in for Kelly Rowland in 2011, and actually won the competition three years earlier following a passionate duet with Rowland’s BFF, Beyonce, at the final live shows. Unfortunately, many viewers deemed Alexandra better suited to the role of contestant than judge.
‘I’m Outta Love’ singer Anastacia sat on the judging panel in 2012 and filled in as a guest judge for the live auditions. Her most memorable moment was when she was left teary-eyed after a young man dedicated his emotional performance to his gran, who was battling breast cancer.