Cheryl starts X Factor row by picking Cher not Gamu
Accusations of racism fly as Cheryl Cole selects two singers who flunked auditions for the talent show final
The producers of The X Factor must be delighted after the latest episode of this year's talent show/soap opera set internet chat rooms and social networking sites ablaze. The controversy was caused by the decision of judge Cheryl Cole to pick two contestants who flunked their final auditions to go through to the live stages of the show.
Cole, who is mentoring the girls in this year's competition, selected Malvern teenager Cher Lloyd (above left) and receptionist Katie Waissel at the expense of the popular Gamu Nhengu (above right), sparking outrage on message boards like Digital Spy.
There were immediate accusations of racism against Cole - and suggestions the show's producers were concerned about Gamu's immigration status. Within hours, a Facebook group, 'Gamu should have gone through' had 128,000 members while another was called 'I hate Cheryl Cole! She is racist'.
Cole was said by X Factor producers to be deeply upset by the allegations, which may have been prompted by memories of a 2003 incident in a nightclub when Cole was charged with racially aggravated assault on a toilet attendant.
The Girls Aloud singer was found not guilty, but was instead convicted for "assault occasioning actual bodily harm" and sentenced to 120 hours community service.
Both Lloyd, who has been a favourite of Cole since her first audition, and Waissel were seen breaking down in tears during Saturday night's show as they tried to perform for Cole and celebrity guest judge Will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas.
However, on Sunday, when the judges chose their three finalists from a shortlist of eight, Cole picked both girls along with 23-year-old single mother-of-two Rebecca Ferguson from Liverpool. Fans of Gamu, who has performed flawlessly throughout the show, were incensed by the decision.
There was also criticism for Cole on Twitter, where the phrase 'Hate Cheryl Cole' began trending after the show went out. Several users accused her of not picking Gamu because of her African heritage while others suggested that her decision was caused by the malaria she picked up earlier in the year. "Cheryl clearly blames all of Africa for her malaria," posted one Gamu fan.
The worst offender during the auditions was 17-year-old Lloyd, who was suffering from tonsilitis, and had to be consoled by Cole after a first abortive attempt to perform. Her second effort was not much better and she bailed out after just a few seconds and fled the room in tears, clutching her throat after croaking "I'm done" at a startled Cole and Will.i.am.
That performance has not stopped the teenager from being installed as the bookies' favourite to win the competition.
Cole defended her decision to pick Lloyd, saying: "Cher fell apart but when I go back to when I first saw her I was buzzing. I got a real buzz. Then when I watched her at boot camp she was amazing so I have to remember that actually she was poorly."
And it was reported today that X Factor's producers were concerned about Gamu's right to remain in the UK. Her family moved from Zimbabwe to Scotland in 2002 so that her mother could study at Stirling University.
Gamu's mother is now a qualified nurse and the Nhengus applied for leave to remain in the UK in August this year. It will take up to two months for their application to be processed.
However, there could be a second chance for Gamu and the other rejected contestants. Viewers have been promised a "twist" in next week's show, and many people believe that at least one, if not more, of the discarded performers will be voted back in. ·
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