“The X Factor” has become notorious for having several stars who’ve behaved badly. And it’s no surprise, since “The X Factor” executive producer Simon Cowell is famous for being rude and insulting. But which “X Factor” stars were the most controversial of 2012?
Here’s who was eligible to be this list and who isn’t: Stars from the U.K., U.S. and Australia editions of “The X Factor” are eligible to be on this list, since rootshed.com’s audience is mainly English-speaking.
This list is based on what controversial things these stars did to cause heated debates in the media and among the public in 2012.
The 10 Most Controversial “X Factor” Stars of 2012
1. Tulisa Contostavlos (“The X Factor” U.K. judge)
Tulisa Contostvalos, 24, had more scandals and feuds in 2012 than most people have in a lifetime. In March 2012, a sex video that she made when she was 19 was made public and sold until a court injunction banned the video, which showed Contostavlos giving oral sex to Justin Edwards (also known as rapper MC Ultra), who was her boyfriend at the time. Soon after the video was leaked, she made a public apology to anyone who was offended by the video. Contostavlos sued Edwards and several other people she accused of leaking the video, which she admitted to making but said the video was never intended to be public.
The lawsuit against Edwards was settled out of court, and he made a public apology for leaking the video. The lawsuits against the other defendants are pending. Although there was speculation that Contostavlos would be fired from “The X Factor” U.K., Cowell said that he was standing by Contostavlos since he believed that the video was supposed to be private.
Not long after the video was made public, FHM announced that Contostavlos was No. 1 in its readers’ poll of 2012’s Sexiest Women in the World. Contostavlos’ top ranking in this poll caused considerable controversy by many critics who believed that poll results were corrupted and paid for by Contstavlos’ representatives since she had her first solo single out at the time. She was also sniped at by critics for launching her own fashion brand called The Female Boss, even though she often ends up on “worst dressed” lists.
Contostavlos was at the center of more controversy in 2012 with her very public feuding on Twitter, where she often tweets profanity-filled rants. People she feuded with on Twitter included “The Apprentice” U.K. star Alan Sugar and her cousin/N-Dubz band mate Dappy, not to mention several non-famous people who criticized her for various things.
She also used Twitter as a forum to unashamedly brag about her hard partying and intoxicated antics. After tabloids reported that Contostavlos was on a drunken bender in Ibiza for her 24th birthday, she made a last-minute cancellation at Guilfest 2012, where she was scheduled to perform. She said “illness” was the reason for the cancellation.
And there was even more controversy over her love life when in October 2012, she started dating soccer player Danny Simpson. Stephanie Ward, his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his two children, gave tabloid interviews in which she accused Contostavlos of being a homewrecker. Simpson and Contostavlos both denied the accusation and said that Simpson and Ward had already broken up several months before he and Contostavlos got together.
Then several of Simpson’s ex-lovers came forward in tabloid interviews to say that Simpson is a cheater, and they warned Contostavlos that he would cheat on her too. She lashed out at Ward and the other women on Twitter, by calling Ward “psychotic” and the other women “bitches.”
All of this feuding seems to have taken a toll on Contostavlos’ career: Even though her first solo single, “Young,” was a No. 1 hit in the U.K., her subsequent solo singles have had decreasing sales. Her first solo album, “The Female Boss,” was a huge flop, and so was her tell-all memoir, “Honest: My Story So Far.” She’s also had thousands of people “unfollow” her on Twitter in 2012. And many online articles about her have mostly negative feedback about her from people in the comments section.
Contostavlos, who joined “The X Factor” U.K., in 2011, did not have a great year on the show in 2012. In her first year on “The X Factor” U.K. in 2011, she mentored the Little Mix, the first group to win on the show. In 2012, her highest-placing contestant was Ella Henderson, who came in sixth place. Several people have speculated that Henderson may have lost votes because Contostavlos was her “X Factor” mentor.
Contostavlos was also heavily criticized for being hypocritical because she publicly slammed contestant Christopher Maloney, whom she often called “cheesy,” and yet she often praised contestant Rylan Clark, who had his own share of critics for his off-key singing and over-the-top dramatics. With all of this public backlash against Contostavlos, many people are predicting that Contostavlos will be fired from “The X Factor” U.K. in 2013.
2. Britney Spears (“The X Factor” U.S. judge)
Where there’s a lawsuit, there’s controversy. And in 2012, Britney Spears found herself at the center of a highly publicized lawsuit that went to trial in 2012 and exposed scandalous details about her personal life. In the lawsuit, Sam Lutfi claimed to have been her manager in 2007 and part of 2008, when Spears had her notorious public meltdowns. Lutfi sued Spears and her parents for unpaid fees and defamation. The lawsuit ended up being dismissed because of lack of evidence. Because Spears, 31, is under a conservatorship due to her psychiatric problems, a judge ruled that she did not have to testify. Spears also did not attend the trial.
Before the case was thrown out of court, testimony from Lutfi and other witnesses (including Spears’ parents) revealed that Spears was a heavy user of methamphetamine during the time that Lutfi claimed to have been her manager. According to statements made by her parents’ attorneys during the trial, Spears became depressed and addicted to drugs after her three-year romance with Justin Timberlake ended in 2002. Her family said that they tried to help her but claimed that Lutfi interfered and illegally gave Spears drugs, which is a claim that he denies and was the basis for the defamation part of his lawsuit.
Spears also avoided a trial in the sexual-harassment lawsuit filed against her in 2010 by her former bodyguard Fernando Flores. She settled that lawsuit in September 2012, just one day before her first “X Factor” episode aired. Terms of the settlement were not publicly disclosed.
Spears being hired as an “X Factor” judge was controversial enough for many viewers (and “The X Factor” U.S. lost millions of viewers after she joined the show), but her behavior on the job also stirred up controversy. She walked out of auditions at least twice (including her first day on the job), and the show tried to deny that she walked out, by saying that Spears was merely “taking a break.” In interviews, Spears kept changing her story about the walkouts. In an interview with Elle magazine, she admitted that she walked out because she was having panic attacks. In other interviews, she denied the walkouts and panic attacks.
Many viewers and TV critics slammed Spears for being dull, robotic and disconnected as an “X Factor” judge/mentor. She was also ridiculed for her negative and uncomfortable facial expressions and her limited vocabulary on the show, such as her over-use of the word “amazing.”
Spears has been a regular in tabloid media for years. And 2012 was no exception. Many of the tabloid stories had to do with her relationship with her former agent Jason Trawick, whom she’s been engaged to since December 2011. Various tabloid stories in 2012 have alleged that Trawick has been physically abusive and unfaithful to Spears. Her representatives have denied these allegations. There have also been conflicting tabloid stories about the status of their relationship. Some tabloids wrongly reported that the couple would get married in December 2012, while other tabloids keep reporting that Spears and Trawick are on the verge of breaking up.
Regardless of what happens with Spears and Trawick in their relationship, it’s only a matter of time before her relationship with “The X Factor” ends. There have been several reports that Spears will be fired from “The X Factor” U.S. in 2013. (Representatives for “The X Factor” U.S. aren’t commenting.) Despite all of the publicity and the millions of Twitter followers that Spears has, she still failed to bring more viewers to the show, whose ratings dropped to 8 million U.S. viewers per episode in 2012, compared to the 12 million U.S. viewers per episode that the show had in 2011. Spears was reportedly paid $15 million to be on “The X Factor,” and that fee has turned out to be one of the biggest rip-offs in TV history.
3. Simon Cowell (“The X Factor” executive producer)
“The X Factor” executive producer Simon Cowell, 53, is notorious for being controversial. In 2012, he did something that he rarely does: He made a public apology. The reason for the apology was all of his bad behavior that was revealed in Tom Bower’s 2012 unauthorized biography “Sweet Revenge: The Intimate Life of Simon Cowell.” Cowell did several interviews with Bower for the book, but Cowell relinquished final control of the book’s content.
Cowell did not dispute or deny what was in the book. In fact, Cowell attended the official party in London to celebrate the book’s publication. (Cowell and Bower posed for smiling photos at the party too.) During a speech at the party, Cowell said he was sorry to anyone who may have been hurt by the book’s revelations.
“Sweet Revenge” detailed things that were already public knowledge years ago: that Cowell is a womanizer who cheats on his girlfriends and who has had flings with strippers and porn actresses. But what “Sweet Revenge” revealed for the first time was that Cowell and Dannii Minogue had a passionate fling while they were judges on “The X Factor” U.K. in 2008, when they were both unattached. Cowell was widely criticized for making this comment in “Sweet Revenge” about why he had a fling with Minogue: “It was Dannii’s hair, the sexy clothes and the tits.” He later admitted that Minogue refused to talk to him after “Sweet Revenge” came out.
In “Sweet Revenge,” Cowell claimed that Sharon Osbourne (who was a judge on “The X Factor” U.K. from 2004 to 2007) was jealous of his attraction to Minogue and that was one of the reasons why she quit the show. Osbourne, who currently co-hosts the CBS daytime chat show “The Talk,” was so upset by this allegation (an allegation that she denied) that she ripped into Cowell in a diatribe against him on “The Talk,” by saying she didn’t want to be associated with his “sleazy affairs” and saying that she quit “The X Factor” U.K. because she didn’t like Minogue’s personality. Osbourne later said that she and Cowell have resolved their differences.
Cowell also admitted in “Sweet Revenge” that he had a fling circa 2010 with former “X Factor” Australia judge Natalie Imbruglia. Cowell said he tried to re-ignite the affair in 2011, but Imbruglia turned him down. (Cowell has never been married and he has no children.)
The book also claimed that former “American Idol” makeup artist Mezhgan Hussainy was one of the women Cowell cheated with when he was living with “Extra” correspondent Terri Seymour. (Seymour and Cowell dated from 2002 to 2008.) Cowell and Hussainy were engaged from 2010 to 2011, and they hid their breakup from the public for several months, according to “Sweet Revenge.” In January 2012, after playing guessing games in the media for several months about the status of his relationship with Hussainy, Cowell finally admitted that he and Hussainy had split up.
When it came to his work life, Cowell couldn’t stay away from controversy. He has openly feuded with people from “American Idol” and “The Voice,” two “X Factor” rival shows that he repeatedly insults in interviews. (And some of the people from “American Idol” and “The Voice” have also blasted Cowell in the media.) And he has reportedly been feuding with ITV (The U.K. network for “The X Factor”) over various issues, including his wish to fire “X Factor” U.K. judge Gary Barlow, who has had a rocky relationship with Cowell for years.
Cowell has also continually been slammed by famous music artists and several other critics who say that “The X Factor” has ruined the music industry. In one extreme example, Depeche Mode guitarist Martin Gore told Music Week in a November 2012 interview: “I think somebody should shoot Simon Cowell.” In a series of messages on Twitter, Cowell responded to Gore’s comments by calling him “weird and stupid.”
And there have been constant accusations that Cowell and other producers of “The X Factor” have rigged or fixed the contest to pre-determine the winner. (He and other representatives from the show have always denied these accusations.) He has also been blamed for the “staged” reality-show scenarios on “The X Factor,” as well has the show’s much-criticized over-the-top production and emphasis on contestant sob stories.
Cowell was branded a disloyal “coward” by former “X Factor” judge Cheryl Cole, who was notoriously fired from “The X Factor” U.S. in May 2011 after less than a month on the job. She detailed her firing in her 2012 tell-all memoir, “Cheryl: My Story,” and she ripped into Cowell for being fickle, rude, and not brave enough to fire her in person. Cole claims that Cowell sent another “X Factor” executive producer instead to tell her the bad news.
Then there was all the blame that Cowell got for the declining ratings for “The X Factor” U.S. and “The X Factor” U.K. in 2012. Many critics said he should pull the plug on both shows, but both shows were renewed for 2013. In 2012, Cowell hinted in interviews that he has a backup plan if he decides to end “The X Factor.” For now, he will not return to “The X Factor” U.K. as a judge since he is committed to being a judge on “The X Factor” U.S., but people are speculating that he might return to “The X Factor” U.K. after “The X Factor” U.S. is inevitably cancelled.
4. Christopher Maloney (“The X Factor” U.K. third-place contestant in 2012)
Christopher Maloney, 34, was by far the most controversial contestant on “The X Factor” U.K. in 2012. (He came in third place on the show.) He was originally eliminated by “X Factor” U.K. judge/mentor Barlow, who felt that Maloney’s nerves were too shaky for “The X Factor,” but Maloney won a place back in the competition by receiving the majority of public votes to be the “wild card” contestant.
It was later revealed that for the first seven weeks of public voting on the show in 2012, Maloney was ranked No. 1 as the contestant who was receiving the most votes. However, Maloney was continually slammed by “X Factor” U.K. judges Louis Walsh and Contostavlos, who both called Maloney an insincere, cheesy karaoke singer. During his “X Factor” audition, Maloney gave the impression that he had been discouraged from singing all of his life and that he never had an opportunity to a professional singer, but it was later revealed that he used to work as a singer on a cruise ship.
When Maloney was the frontrunner, tabloid reports also surfaced that Cowell hated the idea of Maloney winning and Cowell was trying to manipulate the votes so that Maloney would be eliminated. (Representatives for “The X Factor” denied this allegation.) It was around this time that former “X Factor” U.K. contestants, including Kye Sones and members of Little Mix, began to publicly slam Maloney in interviews, by saying that Maloney appeared to be humble on camera, but that in reality behind the scenes, Maloney was an arrogant, phony diva who distanced himself from the other contestants. Representatives for “The X Factor” U.K. confirmed reports that Maloney would sometimes skip or be tardy for rehearsals.
Then the bombshell dropped: In November 2012, the Sunday Mirror published an explosive interview with Janette Galbraith, a former cruise-ship singer co-worker of Maloney’s who claimed that he tried to strangle her during an argument that they had on Christmas Eve 2005. Maloney denied all the allegations in the tabloid article, which also claimed Maloney was fired from another job for violently lunging at a female manager during an argument.
After Maloney came in third place on the show, he was supposed to be part of a group performance in the show’s final episode of the year on December 9, 2012. The show’s Top 13 contestants of the year were scheduled to do a medley of Christmas songs. However, Maloney was not part of the performance.
According to several published reports, Maloney showed up drunk for rehearsals, called former “X Factor” U.K. contestant Carolynne Poole a “c*nt,” argued with “X Factor” producers, and stormed off when he found out that he was only getting one line as a solo in the group performance. Maloney then reportedly changed his mind and showed up at the arena to be part of the group performance, but he was told by “X Factor” producers that it was too late. (All of this alleged backstage drama was never televised.)
The next day, Maloney let loose a series of rants on Twitter (which he later deleted) in which he claimed he was the victim of “bullying” and a “witch hunt.” He also claimed that he cancelled his “X Factor” appearance because he was sick with a “chest infection.” Meanwhile, rumors circulated that Maloney would be kicked off of “The X Factor” U.K. 2013 tour (those rumors turned out to be false), but given all the controversy surrounding him, it’s highly unlikely that Maloney will get a major record deal.
5. Khloe Kardashian (“The X Factor” U.S. co-host)
Hiring reality star Khloe Kardashian, 28, to be a co-host of “The X Factor” U.S. was a controversial decision from the beginning because she had no experience hosting a TV show before and is not known for having an talents as an entertainer. And all of the people who predicted that she would be a train wreck on the show were right: She often fidgeted and flubbed her lines on the show, and she was called unprofessional by the majority of the show’s viewers who commented about her on the Internet. (The show’s other co-host was Mario Lopez, an experienced TV host.) Numerous people said they would boycott “The X Factor” U.S. as long as Kardashian was hosting the show. And ratings for the show dropped by an average of 1 million viewers after Kardashian became the co-host.
Her “X Factor” debut on October 31, 2012, was also controversial because she chose to wear a low-cut, see-through blouse with no bra. As she shamelessly flirted with Cowell on the show, he made a smarmy joke that implied that Kardashian’s breast nipples (which could clearly be seen on TV) were being affected by the temperature of the room. Kardashian got a lot of viewer complaints for her nipple publicity stunt. She later made the not-very-convincing excuse that she wore that revealing blouse because her original wardrobe choice had not arrived on time.
Then there were the constant tabloid rumors that Kardashian and her husband, basketball player Lamar Odom, were getting divorced in 2012. He reportedly did not want her to take “The X Factor” job, and he was seen leaving a divorce attorney’s office the week that she started on “The X Factor.” Kardashian repeatedly denied the rumors that she and Odom were getting divorced. The couple, whose 2009 wedding was televised, was still together by the end of 2012.
Kardashian’s marriage may have lasted in 2012, but her “X Factor” job is pretty much over, as many people have demanded that she get fired from the show. It’s hard to imagine that “X Factor” producers and Fox executives would ignore this huge public backlash against Kardashian by keeping her on the show in 2013.
6. Harry Styles of One Direction (“The X Factor” U.K. third-place contestant in 2010)
One Direction (which came in third place on “The X Factor” U.K. in 2010) because the biggest global act to emerge from “The X Factor.” In 2012, the group had No. 1 hits and sold-out tours in many countries. And no other member of One Direction generated as many tabloid headlines as Harry Styles, 18, whose love life was the subject of a lot of controversy and gossip. In January 2012, Styles ended a controversial four-month fling with “The Xtra Factor” co-host Caroline Flack, who is 15 years older than Styles.
He also had a reputation for being a ladies’ man. In 2012, after Styles broke up with Flack, he was romantically linked to several women, including model Cara Delevingne, former “Made in Chelsea” star Caggie Dunlop, model/actress Emily Atack, singer Lily Halpern, singer/former “X Factor” Australia judge Imbruglia, model Emma Ostilly, photographer Sarah-Louise Colivet and Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Taylor Swift. Since his breakup with Flack, Styles has refused to publicly comment on whom he might be dating.
Then there were the constant rumors that Styles is secretly gay or bisexual. Many One Direction fans got in huge fights on the Internet and elsewhere by debating about Styles’ “true sexuality.” Louis Tomlinson of One Direction and openly gay Nick Grimshaw (a DJ at BBC Radio 1) were rumored lovers of Styles. Tomlinson has adamantly denied the rumors, while Grimshaw has not commented.
In 2012, the Sunday Mirror reported that Styles had a secret affair in the autumn of 2011 with radio DJ Lucy Horobin, who is 14 years older than Styles. Her estranged husband, Oliver Pope, later confirmed the affair in an interview with Mirror. Pope blasted Styles by saying that Styles is a sexual predator who ruined his marriage. Pope said that he and Horobin are getting divorced because of the affair she had with Styles. Horobin and Styles had no comment.
Considering all the scandal and controversy about Styles’ love life, he was behind another controversy that seems minor in comparison. At the 2012 Brit Awards, One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” won the award for Best British Single. In the acceptance speech, Styles accidentally thanked Radio 1 for the award. The only problem was that the award was voted on by Capital FM listeners. Capital FM temporarily banned One Direction’s songs until an apology was issued.
As 2012 came to an end, Styles and Swift (nicknamed “Haylor” as a couple) seemed to be in an intense romantic relationship, but there were still plenty of naysayers who said that Styles is really gay or bisexual and his relationship with Swift is fake and manufactured for publicity.
7. Rylan Clark (“The X Factor” U.K. fifth-place contestant in 2012)
Every year on “The X Factor” U.K., there is a polarizing contestant in the Top 10 whose off-key singing becomes a point of contention. While many people hate that the contestant advances in the competition over more talented singers, fans of the contestant defend his or her popularity by saying that “The X Factor” isn’t just about singing talent but is also about personality and charisma. In 2012, that controversial contestant was 24-year-old Rylan Clark, who came in fifth place on the show. People either loved or hated Clark’s over-the-top antics and flamboyant behavior.
“The X Factor” U.K. judge Barlow made it clear that he wasn’t a fan of Clark’s, as Barlow continually said that Clark needed to be eliminated from the competition. Barlow angrily stormed off at the end of an episode when Poole, one of the contestants in his mentor group, was eliminated instead of Clark that week. The other judges on the panel (Contostavlos, Walsh and Scherzinger) were supportive of Clark because they said they found him entertaining. Clark agreed that he was more adept at entertaining than singing, and he often admitted that he wasn’t the best singer in the contest. Still, there was a huge backlash against him as he continued to advance in the competition, week after week.
Clark also caused a minor controversy in October 2012, when he and fellow contestant Lucy Spraggan were caught on paparazzi video acting like drunk fools during a night out in London. At one point, Spraggan pulled down Clark’s trousers to show his naked bottom. Their intoxicated antics got Clark and Spraggan banished to another hotel that was separate from the other “X Factor” contestants. He and Spraggan later made public apologies for their drunken behavior.
As controversial as Clark was on “The X Factor” U.K., he is one of those novelty contestants who most likely won’t get a record deal and will fade into obscurity in a few years, if not sooner.
8. Zayn Malik of One Direction (“The X Factor” U.K. third-place contestant in 2010)
While One Direction’s Styles was the group member who got most of the tabloid attention in 2012, One Direction’s Zayn Malik, 19, was also the subject of some controversy. Gossip blogger Perez Hilton has labeled Malik the “troublemaker” of One Direction and has repeatedly spread rumors that Malik has cheated on his girlfriend Perrie Edwards of Little Mix. (Malik has adamantly denied the rumors.)
Malik also caused an uproar in August 2012, when he quit Twitter for two days because he said he was “tired of the hate” that he was getting from people attacking him. Malik said he was getting bullied on Twitter for several reasons, but the attacks that bothered him the most were those against him and his family members for being Muslim and Pakistani. Malik returned to Twitter after numerous people begged him to come back, and he said that he didn’t want to disappoint his fans.
Even though Malik briefly quit Twitter for cyber-bullying, he instigated some Twitter attacks of his own. In November 2012, Malik sparked more controversy when he got into a highly publicized Twitter argument with Max George of The Wanted. (The Wanted and One Direction have been in a rivalry for several months.) In a series of insults at George, Malik accused George of having a sexually transmitted disease, by calling him “chlamydia boy,” while George implied that Malik smokes marijuana by telling him to “lay off the bud.” George invited Malik to settle their differences in person, but so far Malik has not taken him up on that offer.
9. Louis Tomlinson of One Direction (“The X Factor” U.K. third-place contestant in 2010)
One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson, 21, also got into Twitter conflicts in 2012. When a fan suggested that Tomlinson and One Direction’s Styles were having a secret romance, Tomlinson lashed back with a profanity-laced denial. He has made other public denials in the media that he is gay or in a romantic relationship with Styles.
In fact, the debate over Tomlinson’s “true sexuality” has polarized and stirred up controversy among One Direction fans. Many insist that he is a closeted gay man whose relationship with University of Manchester student Eleanor Calder is fake. Many other One Direction fans insist that Tomlinson and Calder (who have been dating since late 2011) are a real couple. Tomlinson has declared his love for Calder on Twitter and in interviews and says that he is in a monogamous relationship with her. And yet the controversy continues, as a large percentage of One Direction fans say that they will never believe that Tomlinson is heterosexual.
10. CeCe Frey (“The X Factor” U.S. sixth-place contestant in 2012)
The most controversial contestant on “The X Factor” U.S. in 2012 was CeCe Frey, 21, who had viewers debating her sincerity and talent during her entire time on the show. (She ultimately came in sixth place.) During the heavily edited auditions and boot camp episodes, Frey was shown to be a catty and arrogant contestant who would insult other contestants behind their backs. After judge/mentor Demi Lovato told Frey that she was coming across as unlikable, Frey toned down her harsh edges and made a concerted effort to appear more sympathetic (such as telling her sob story about the death of her older sister), but many viewers felt that Frey’s new-found humility was fake.
Frey also had the most extreme image makeover on the show in 2012, as Lovato insisted that Frey change her hair color from brunette to blonde and dress in more flamboyant clothing. The result was controversial (Cowell and most viewers said they hated the makeover), and Frey ended up being a Ke$ha look-alike.
As for her singing abilities, Frey’s supporters think she is an underrated talent, while her critics bombarded social media with complaints that Frey did not deserve to be in the competition because they think she’s a terrible singer with a horrible personality. Will Frey turn out to be a star? Or will she be just another reality-show contestant whose 15 minutes of fame were on the show? Only time will tell. One thing’s for sure: Cowell said he doesn’t want to sign her to his record company.