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L.A., X: New ‘X Factor USA’ Judge L.A. Reid Discusses The Show, Cowell Bromance

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

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Rumors continue to swirl regarding who will join Simon Cowell on the "X Factor USA" judging panel this fall--Cheryl Cole? Nicole Scherzinger? Snoop Dogg? Paula Abdul?--but we do know that L.A. Reid will be on the show for sure. And considering the enthusiasm he exhibited when I recently interviewed him about his plum new TV gig, it's certain that he's the right man for the job.

Of course, with a résumé that includes co-founding of LaFace Records and working with the A-lister likes of  Mariah Carey, Pink, Usher, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Kanye West, Avril Lavigne, TLC, and Outkast, L.A. has all the qualifications for the job. But what struck me most about our interview was his unabashed admiration for Simon Cowell. While it's likely that a man with L.A.'s strong personality and music-biz experience will butt heads with Simon from time to time once "The X Factor" hits the airwaves in September, I'm suspecting there's going to be a total bromance going on between those two, too.

Read on for a sneak preview of what L.A. will bring to the show!

REALITY ROCKS: So this is your first time doing a show like this. What kind of judge will you be? The "nice one"? The "mean one"? The "wacky one"?

L.A. REID: Well, I like to think that I'm a nice person! I really don't know. I'm a Gemini; I have a lot of personalities. I'm not sure which one's going to show up when the camera starts rolling! I'm going to find it as I do it. But I'm always honest about who I am, I'm myself; I don't play a role or anything. I am a straight shooter. I can say things in a nice way; I can say things in kind of a sharp way. I am never nasty, that's not my thing, but I'm honest, and I don't say everything is "great." If it's not great, I don't call it great.

REALITY ROCKS: How are you getting along with Simon?

L.A. REID: I find Simon to be so charming and such a nice guy. Really smart, really creative, very self-assured...overall, I'm really impressed by Simon, just as someone who really admires him, apart from the show. I think he's a fascinating guy. So the fact that I'm so impressed with him certainly makes the relationship go in a certain direction, you know? I just really think he's the best there is.

REALITY ROCKS: Is there anything intimidating about being on the same panel with a famous judge like Simon Cowell?

L.A. REID: It's an honor. It doesn't intimidate me. By the way, NOTHING intimidates me. Intimidate? Me? Nah.

REALITY ROCKS: Awesome. We need a strong judge!

L.A. REID: I'm happy to be the backseat driver. I feel fortunate to be on the panel with, in my opinion, the most fascinating guy who's ever done this. But we don't always agree, and we won't always agree!

REALITY ROCKS: Is it important to you that "The X Factor" beat "Idol," either critically or in the ratings?

L.A. REID: Well, it's the Simon factor that makes this exciting, and has brought about so much anticipation for the show and so much popularity for a show that hasn't even aired in America yet. He was the original. So you'd have to ask Simon: Is he in competition with his own past? As a record man, I'm always at some level in competition with records that I've made in my past. I'm always in competition with artists that I've discovered. So in some way, you can't get around the fact that that we all compete with ourselves, right? So I'd have to say, if there's any competition, it's Simon competing with Simon.

REALITY ROCKS: There are so many rumors about the other judges in the mix. What can you tell me? Who's in the running?

L.A. REID: Here's the scoop. Simon Cowell created this format. He casts judges, and he knows this better than anyone alive. And when he finally casts this panel, you can bet that it will be fascinating. That man, Mr. Simon Cowell, knows what he's doing, and he will get this right. I'm a huge fan of all of the names that have come up, because I am a huge music fan, and a fan of music people. I think everybody qualifies in some way, but I have no idea who will make the cut.

REALITY ROCKS: So how did you come to be to first officially announced new "X Factor" judge?

L.A. REID: How did I get so lucky? I don't know! I can't explain to you how I've come to be so lucky--not only lucky enough to be a judge on "The X Factor," but just generally. I'm the luckiest guy in the world, and I don't know why.

REALITY ROCKS: Have you done any sort of reality TV before?

L.A. REID: Oh, no. I didn't even know this was "reality TV." You know what I thought this was? I thought this was a talent show. A television talent show, where people like me judged talent. Only a few minutes ago did it even dawn on me that this is actually reality TV show! I don't think of it that way. I think of it as a competition for performers. I think of it as a platform to find the next generation of superstars. It just never dawned on me that it was a "reality show"--and I know that sounds crazy, but it's true.

REALITY ROCKS: But on these types of shows, the judges are often the real stars. How do you feel about that? Obviously you're very well-known in the business, but people watching TV...

L.A. REID: They don't know me! [laughs] My goal is, with my history in music and my passion for working with artists, that the public will get a chance to see what it's like for people who really do this. It gives a bird's-eye view into how we do what we do. It's exciting. But what's most exciting to me is I hope I can bring out people for the auditions--I hope that my presence can really bring out people who ordinarily would not have come out for this kind of show. I'm hoping that my presence can really make a difference and maybe open it up a little bit, and bring out people from different genres of music. That's the idea.

REALITY ROCKS: That's an interesting point. There's not a lot of R&B, for instance, on shows like "Idol" and "Got Talent." Do you have any idea why that is, and will "X Factor" focus more on that genre?

L.A. REID: I think that has to do with the judges, honestly. I think it has to do with who's attracting the talent. Is it the judges that are attracting the talent? Or is it the idea of being on TV? Hopefully with Simon and myself and whoever we end up with as the other judges, we'll all have enough of a diversified reach that we'll get lots of people who really believe that they can do it. The artists that I've worked with can hopefully be an example of what I'm looking for personally--and professionally. And it's a little different than some of the people who've become famous from shows like "American Idol" or even "The X Factor U.K." Hopefully that different kind of taste and talent can come forward. And those people, they know who they are. They know I'm looking for them!

REALITY ROCKS: Well, I don't know! [laughs] Who are you looking for, exactly?

L.A. REID: Superstars! I want people who want it. I want people who are willing to give all that they have to give, give themselves completely over to the public, and sweat for it and fight for it and work for it. People who really want to be stars. People who have the X factor and move the air when they walk into the room. I wouldn't be doing this if it were limited to any type of genre OTHER than being a superstar.

REALITY ROCKS: How will the mentoring play a part in the show? Obviously being a mentor as well as a judge will make you get more emotionally invested in the contestants, plus make you competitive with the other judges, including Simon.

L.A. REID: You seem to know more about this show than I do, no kidding! [laughs] I'm going have to reserve comment until I'm actually in the chair and doing the job.

REALITY ROCKS: Well, since I know so much about "X Factor," if you're still looking for another judge, I'd be happy to do it!

L.A. REID: OK, let me search for you online and check you out, and get back to you... [laughs]

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