Kelly judged The X Factor's U.K. edition in 2011 and is a self-described "smart" and "pretty cool person" in addition to an "honest" judge.
During a Tuesday conference call, Kelly talked to reporters about her new role on the show and the upcoming The X Factor season. Below are some highlights from her interview.
Could you talk a little bit about the judging panel's chemistry this year?
Kelly Rowland: To be honest, we're really just having fun. I remember the first day on the set and all the cameras were, of course, all on us. And I remember Demi walked up to me and she goes, "Hello! How are you?!" She was like, "I don't know how much more natural this can be." (Laughs)
But we just had a good time, to be honest. We had fun together and it's not about the judges. This is about talent, and I think that's why I love the show so much, it's because we're all focused on talent and finding great talent as well.
We have three girls on the panel and Simon. Is that a sign of some "girl power" we're going to see in action this year?
Kelly Rowland: I said it before, I'll say it again. It's the year of the women. Women rule, men are just left there. (Laughs) Simon is up there looking like a sad puppy dog with three women on the panel, just sad, it's hilarious actually.
Do you think the "Groups" category is going to be as strong as it was last year? Emblem 3 and Fifth Harmony are out there doing very well for themselves, so what do you think?
Kelly Rowland: The truth is, all of the categories are super strong. I'm so happy for all of us too, because we're all happy with our categories and we're all very passionate about our categories too. So, it's going to be an incredible year. I think America will actually be surprised with how much talent we have in each group.
Can you explain your own particular judging style? Do you have a hard time saying "no" to contestants or do you find that to be an easy task like Simon apparently does.
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Kelly Rowland: No, I'm constructive when it comes to criticism. I am firm but I like to be honest. I remember coming up in the music industry and I ran into people who had some harsh things to say, but I grew more from people who actually were constructive and gave details of how I can grow. I paid attention to those people and wanted to apply that to the way I'm a judge.
Because it's about seeing people grow and be better and become something wonderful and being honest with them if you possibly don't see something either. But it's a tactful way of telling them, to where you're not just killing somebody's dream. We are not dream killers.
From singing with Destiny's Child to becoming a solo artist, you have a lot of experience in the music industry. What advice would you give singers on shows like The X Factor?
Kelly Rowland: I would tell them to make sure that they're doing it for the right reasons. I feel like nowadays, fame and television, like sometimes, it can make everything look like it's just so glamorous.
But what I do admire about the contestants on the show and my experience fromThe X Factor in the U.K., is these contestants have a week to be prepared, to be ready for interviews, to be camera-ready, to get a makeover, to know the song, to know the placement onstage, to know a dance step -- that's a lot! And people are watching you each week. And it's a lot. You're pushed a little bit faster to grow, you know what I mean?
But I admire them taking this on, because it's a lot of pressure, but you either rise to the occasion or fall. And sometimes they'll fall because they didn't believe in themselves enough.
I truly believe that sometimes with people, we let ourselves get the best of us, and I just hope the contestants know what a unique gift they have and that they're ready and excited and hungry and passionate enough to give it to the rest of the world.
Why do you think Simon picked you as a mentor and what was the conversation like when you were told you would become a judge onThe X Factor in America?
Kelly Rowland: I am very smart and I've been in the music industry for a very long time, and I have a lot of knowledge to give and that I WANT to give to these contestants. And I love finding new talent, to be completely honest. My opportunity that I got to doThe X Factor U.K., it was just incredible.
I'll never forget it, and it was one of the best moments I've had, actually, in my career. Because I'm working with a specific group, and last year, I had the girls and was a part of their building process, and that makes me happy. I feel like I'm actually giving back. But Simon picked me because I'm smart and I'm definitely up for the job.
Did you fear yourself and/or the other judges might overlook real talent at times in the hopes of adding fun or entertainment to the show?
Kelly Rowland: I actually am completely honest with myself when it comes to talent. I don't -- I've actually turned somebody down because they've actually had a wonderful look and they sound awful. I'm not going to do that to myself and my integrity. I'm not going to do that to the rest of the world. I'm not going to even do that to the person that's auditioning, because it won't be fair to them.
Because I don't want them to just come into this competition just thinking they can get on by their looks. It's more than that. It's your talent, it's your passion, it's your hunger, it's your dedication. I felt like they weren't there when it came to those components as well, so I'm very honest with them and I'm very honest with myself. I don't cut any corners.
Could you describe all the judges in a couple or several words? Can you sum each person up?
Kelly Rowland: Yes, Paulina is adorable and witty and so beautiful. Demi, you fall in love with her immediately. She's passionate, she has such a beautiful heart, and I love the way she leaves the contestants with something hopeful -- something that they can hold onto when they leave the audition whether it's a yes or a no. Simon is very smart and I trust him. I trust him, and I think the rest of the world trusts him as well.
How do you think you would've fared as a contestant on The X Factor in the early days of your career -- or any other reality singing competition show for that matter?
Kelly Rowland: I was. I was on Star Search and I got three-and-a-quarter stars with my group that I was with at the time. (Laughs) We were called "Girl's Tyme" and it was myself and Beyonce and some friends that we went to school with. We got on Star Search and we lost and I remember what that three-and-a-quarter stars felt like! Once that red curtain closed, we were like little sad puppy dogs [howling].
We were just bawling our little eyes out and we were so sad. When we got to the hotel, I remember our parents going, "What do you guys want to do?" They were like, "You guys want to go to Disneyland?" We were just really sad. But I truly believe that when it's your time, it's your time. When you're prepared, you are ready for it. You really are!
A little off topic, but news Simon will become a father has recently broke. What kind of dad do you think Simon will be and why?
Kelly Rowland: (Laughs) I think Simon's going to be a pretty cool dad. I feel like he's guided so many people into their careers and he's been like a father-figure to several groups that he's put together, and I think that it's actually going to be a breeze for him.