Earlier this week, after several months of speculation, Simon Cowell announced that Paula Abdul and British import Cheryl Cole will join him as hosts on his upcoming American X Factor reboot. Abdul made sense in a “getting the band back together” kind of way, but Cole was a puzzling decision: She, as Vulture noted, is “a virtual unknown in the U.S.,” despite her three seasons hosting the British X Factor alongside Cowell. You’re probably not too familiar with her unless you spend your tabloid time reading about soccer WAGs (we’ll explain) and U.K. girl groups. Fortunately, that’s how this Vulture writer does spend her time! So in preparation for next season’s X Factor debut, here’s a helpful primer on everything you need to know about your future arbiter of all things pitchy.
1. She’s the breakout star of British girl pop group Girls Aloud.
Girls Aloud, a five-person girl group formed à la O-Town on the 2002 British reality show Popstars: The Rivals, filled the U.K.’s post–Spice Girls void for the better part of a decade (they took a hiatus in 2009 to pursue solo projects — mostly Cheryl’s). We recommend “The Promise,” their BRIT Award–winning 2009 hit, for its glam video and the more polished sound, but you should also take a gander at the humbler, Oasis-sampling “Life Got Cold,” from 2003. Pay close attention to the second verse, when Cheryl (with her short hair) gets a solo. Why is she singing so weirdly? Because …
2. She’s a Geordie.
A Geordie is someone from the area around Newcastle, in northeast England. As you will immediately notice, Geordies have crazy, sometimes-unintelligible-to-the-American-ear accents, and Chezza, as she is known in the tabloids, is no exception. British newspapers have expressed some concern over Cheryl’s exportability, given her accent, though to our ear it just sounds slightly theatrical and charming. Wouldn’t you rather hear Randy Jackson talk about “feeling it” with a lilt? We agree.
3. She used to be Queen of the WAGs (and still sort of is, in an honorary sense).
WAGs stands for “Wives and Girlfriends,” usually of soccer (football) players. And in the U.K., WAGs claim a place in the celebrity hierarchy somewhere on par with 2005-ish Paris Hilton or the Kardashians. As a pop star in her own right, Cheryl vaulted to top WAG status (right behind Victoria Beckham) when she married Chelsea defender Ashley Cole in 2006. Sadly, he turned out to be a total sleazeball who cheated on poor Cheryl repeatedly until finally she divorced him late last year. England rejoiced.
4. She was arrested for punching a nightclub bathroom attendant in a fight over some lollipops.
Yes, that happened. But it was in 2003, her early Chav years, before the makeover and the heartbreak and the musical redemption. Also, people punch other people a lot in England; see Skins for further proof.
5. She gave the world the truly excellent “Fight for This Love.”
We’re also partial to “Promise This,” but “Fight for This Love” is undeniable pop magic. Even Vampire Weekend agrees!