Good news, everyone! Simon Cowell has finally filled the third judge's chair on the eagerly-anticipated U.S. version of his overseas hit, The X Factor (Paula Abdul for seat No. 4, anyone?). The lucky lady: none other than veteran U.K. judge Cheryl Cole.
Which begs the question, um, who the hell is Cheryl Cole? Why, we thought you'd never ask!
The short answer is she's Victoria Beckham light (though to our knowledge, Cowell never said Victoria was "crap" and "couldn't sing a note in tune." Oops). The long answer is so, so much more interesting. Here are the five things—and trust us, they are juicy—you should know about prime-time's newest addition:
1. She's Britain's Sweetheart: This, ladies and gentlemen, cannot be stressed enough. First, some basics: Cheryl Cole (who actually burst onto the scene as Cheryl Tweedy) is a member of Brit-pop supergroup Girls Aloud, which, believe it or not, is actually the most successful all-girl group ever to grace England's shores (and yes, that's including the Spice Girls). Secondly, Cole is perhaps singularly qualified to judge a singing reality-competition since that is in fact how she got her start—Girls Aloud was cobbled together on Pop Stars: The Rivals, and after a season of auditioning, Cole was one of the five girls ultimately chosen for the group. Incidentally, the judges on that show included Louis Walsh (her fellow X Factor judge in the U.K.) and Geri Halliwell.
Fast forward to today and you'd be hard-pressed to find a Brit who's covered more magazines, filled more column inches or been the cause of more press speculation—except maybe, maybe Kate Middleton—than Cole in the past few years (the dimples and general adorableness helped). All for good reason, however, which we'll get to shortly.
And while her hiring has long been rumored, it reportedly hinged on network executives' insistence that she take elocution lessons. Cole, you see, is a Geordie—that's someone from Newcastle to us on this side of the pond—in other words, no one would ever accuse her of speaking the Queen's English. Good luck, closed-captioning guy!
2. She's Had Her Share of Scandal. And Then Some: Look, let's just get this out of the way now. The 27-year-old fashion darling has been very publicly (and literally) screwed over. Twice. By the same guy. Who happens to now rightfully be her ex-husband.
Here's the short version: in 2004, Cole (née Tweedy) began dating England footballer (and David Beckham teammate!) Ashley Cole, with the tabloid darling duo ultimately marrying in 2006. In 2008, thanks to a tabloid kiss-and-tell, it emerged that Ashley had carried on an affair with a hairdresser. Cheryl canceled all her promotion and press engagements, began appearing in public without her wedding ring and eventually took him back. Until February 2010, when Ashley was revealed to be something of the U.K.'s answer to Tiger Woods and five more women stepped forward to confirm that they, too, were shameless hussies had been carrying on affairs with the sportsman. Needless to say, that time around, the split stuck and the duo were officially divorced last September. Cheryl ended up keeping her ex's last name.
Meanwhile, back in 2003, prior to her massive rise to fame, Cole was infamously involved in an altercation with a nightclub bathroom attendant. She was ultimately found guilty of assault causing bodily harm and sentenced to pay compensation to the victim and perform community service. You live and you learn, though, um, right?
3. She's No Stranger to Feuds: By now, you may be getting the sense that there are some parallels to be drawn between Cole and Victoria Beckham—both are spunky British girl band pop stars who married footballers and went on to become fashion icons (though in that regard, Cheryl still has a long way to go to catch up to dear Posh). And both of their husbands have been accused (one rightly, one not) of infidelity.
Well, Cheryl noticed the parallels, too, and after her final split with her ex-hubby, lashed out at Victoria's resistance to run to Cheryl's side or publicly support her through her marital breakdown.
"She was in my hotel room during the World Cup—we've had barbecues together—so I was quite shocked by that," Cole told British Vogue two years ago. "I mean, David's mum is friends with Ashley's mum."
Turns out, though, she was just being catty.
"I have a lot of respect for Victoria, but I said something I shouldn't have done once," she explained last year. "When I was asked whether it was true Victoria had been telling me how to wear my hair after everything had happened with Ashley. Like I'd give a s—t what my hair looked like during that time. So I retaliated by saying I hadn't heard from her."
4. You Know Her Boyfriend. Though She'll Never Admit It: In the wake of her super public relationship, it's no surprise that Cheryl wants to keep her love life private (good luck with that one), though she's all but confirmed that she's been spending the better part of the last year romantically involved with none other than Derek Hough.
The duo has never been spotted being romantic in public, though they have been spotted together on both sides of the Atlantic, frequently take international trips together and his family has more or less confirmed the coupling. So how in the world did those two meet? He was called in to choreograph (and star in) the music video for her 2010 hit, "Parachute."
She later appeared on Piers Morgan's U.K. talk show and expertly danced around the subject.
"I'm not willing to sit here and say, 'He's my boyfriend, he's not my boyfriend,' I'm not prepared to deny, admit anything. And I don't have to…We're very, very close, that's obvious. People can speculate however they like." Wink, wink. Say no more.
5. She Almost Died Last Year: Seriously. After her marriage imploded, Cheryl and some friends (among them, tellingly, Derek Hough) took a trip to Tanzania. It was on that trip that Cheryl contracted malaria, though she didn't realize it until after her return—fainting at The X Factor was the first massive clue. She incidentally credits Derek with saving her life, as it was at his insistence that she went to the hospital, where she was promptly taken into intensive care.
Her mother and Hough kept a sort of bedside vigil for the pop star, who was subsequently absent from a large portion of that season's show. At one point, she told Piers during the same TV interview, she was given just 24 hours to live.
"I thought I was going to die," she said. "I actually thought I was going to die. I thought if I'm going to die I want to die soon because I was in so much pain."
Luckily, she pulled through the ordeal and returned to the show to finish out the season. Now are you getting that whole Britain's sweetheart thing?