Camilla Cabello, Harry Styles, Kelly Clarkson on How Simon Cowell Built His Hit Factory

Skip around the radio dial and you’re bound to hear an artist who’s one degree of separation from Simon Cowell. Disciples of his brand of musical boot camp include “American Idol” season one winner Kelly Clarkson and season four victor Carrie Underwood; “America’s Got Talent” champ Grace VanderWaal; “The X Factor” alums One Direction, Susan Boyle, Camila Cabello, Bea Miller and James Arthur; and supergroup Il Divo.

“Look at the careers of artists that Simon has been a part of and you will most likely find one common denominator: confidence,” Clarkson tells Variety. “I’m not sure that Simon could ever work with people that are insecure, and if he has or does, I’m almost certain he would be annoyed by it. Simon has been a part of so many careers and all the artists are very different from one another, but I do think, for the most part, he is attracted to working with people that know who they are, are good humans and are hard workers.”

That goes back to his earliest years in the music business when the hardest-working person in the room was Cowell himself. It says a lot that one of the most powerful men in the industry started at the lowest rung of the ladder, toiling in the mailroom at EMI Music Publishing. His segued to record labels with a move to form his own E&S Music and later Fanfare Records, whose specialty was making exercise videos until Cowell’s golden ears discovered Sinitta’s 1986 hit “So Macho.” Other successes penned and produced by Stock Aitken Waterman (Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman) followed.

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