‘America’s Got Talent’: Simon Cowell Has a Softer Side the Cameras Don’t Catch

Simon Cowell is one of the original American Idol judges, and now, in his new role as a judge on America’s Got Talent, a whole new generation is discovering his acerbic wit.

Cowell, who achieved great success in the record industry before turning his attention to the judge’s seat, is well-known for his seemingly brutal takedowns of acts or performances that he doesn’t like, and many viewers have described his style as mean and even cruel.

However, it seems as though there’s more to Cowell than meets the eye. Cowell’s co-star on America’s Got Talent recently opened up about Cowell’s multifaceted personality.

How did Simon Cowell get famous?

Simon Cowell from America’s Got Talent | Art Streiber/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Cowell was born in 1959 to an upper-class family in London. Following a series of menial jobs, which Cowell reportedly did not succeed in, he began a career in the record industry. He formed Fanfare Records and started signing a wide variety of acts all throughout the ’80s. Following his stint at the record company, he became a talent scout and consultant, creating a respected reputation for himself. 

Of course, most viewers first became aware of Cowell when he was cast as a judge in the first season of American Idol, which debuted in 2002. Fans both loved and hated Simon Cowell — while his humor and originality was very appealing, his harsh criticism of contestants, which frequently included commentary on physical appearance, was off-putting to some. Regardless of how many people liked his personality, the show was hugely successful and is widely considered to be the gold standard of singing competition shows.

How long was Simon Cowell on ‘American Idol’?

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Although Cowell stayed on American Idol throughout its initial popularity and into the show’s “golden years,” he officially announced his retirement from the show in 2010. While the news disappointed many fans (even those who didn’t really enjoy Cowell’s style of judging), he wasn’t quite done with the world of competition shows just yet.

In 2011, Cowell began appearing on the UK-spinoff show The X Factor. He was a fixture on The X Factor for several years, skyrocketing the show to national popularity. By this time, singing competition shows were all the rage, with viewers tuning in on a regular basis to interact and vote for their favorite performers. Following the success of The X Factor, Cowell became an executive producer of a brand-new show called America’s Got Talent

Is Simon Cowell really nice when the cameras aren’t on him?

Fans were pleased to see that Cowell’s judging style hadn’t changed much in the years since American Idol. His signature sarcasm continued to entertain viewers as a wide variety of contestants, all displaying various skills, paraded across the stage. Of course, Cowell does sometimes get negative feedback for his often-blunt criticisms of those that appear on America’s Got Talent. His fellow judge, Howie Mandel, opened up to Mario Lopez and revealed that Cowell is much more sensitive than he appears on television.

Mandel claimed that in between takes, on commercial breaks, Cowell would go up to contestants who were overwhelmed, or who hadn’t performed well and console them. “He’s everyone’s dad,” Mandel said, which caused Lopez to break into a disbelieving grin.

It is possible that becoming a father for the first time in February 2014 has changed Cowell for the better, and caused him to become a much more empathetic human being. It could also be that Cowell has always had a softer side, but only chooses to reveal it when not on camera, in order to keep things interesting for viewers. Whatever the case, Cowell will no doubt continue to be a fan favorite for years to come, in spite of his grumpy persona.