Superstar and talent show judge Cheryl Cole has been accused of racism after she told a black singer she was out of the UK’s biggest talent competition.
Cole, 27, had earlier told Nigerian Gamu Nhengu that she had an outstanding voice. But last weekend she told the hopeful: “You’re extremely adorable. You’ve got a great voice. It’s just a question for me now as to whether you brought the star quality that I was looking for yesterday.”
Nhengu, 18, had been one of the favourites to win the annual contest, says the Daily Mail.
Cole’s decision came in a stage of the competition in which contestants, having been split into categories – boys, girls, over-28s and groups – sing at judges’ homes. Each category is allotted one of the judges as a mentor.
The next major stage of the competition features the contestants back before the judges’ panel and an audience in a series of live shows, culminating in the picking of a winner.
The Mail quotes a fan writing on a website as saying (following Cole’s recent bout of malaria contracted while she was in Tanzania): “Cheryl is so daft. I mean, just because Africa gave you malaria doesn’t mean you should take it out on poor Gamu.”
And a fan writing on Digital Spy’s forum is quoted as saying: “If these decisions were made on U.S. X Factor, there’d be a race riot. I swear to God, African-Americans would go mental.”
There has even been a dedicated Facebook group set up as criticism of Cole’s decision, says the Mail.
Advice of production team
The paper adds: “Friends said her black friend, the rapper Will.i.am, was with her when she decided against Gamu – and she had in fact acted on the advice of the production team.
“Show sources claimed there were concerns over Gamu’s immigration status because her mother was in the process of renewing her visa to obtain leave to remain in Britain.”
A friend of Cole jumps to the singer’s defence: “Cheryl is the least racist person imaginable. How can you say she is racist when she was married to a black man [soccer player Ashley Cole] and had a black man sitting next to her at judge’s house?
“She takes her advice from the production team and is extremely upset by these slurs. She is mortified. Cheryl is really, really upset, to say the least. It’s unfair to blame her solely for the fact that Gamu was not able to go through to the live shows.
“Cheryl is a professional to her core and she loves the show. She was told by the producers that Gamu had some visa issues and they were worried about problems occurring later on during the show.”