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The X Factor hit by claims of shocking abuse of power by stars including Jedward and Matt Cardle

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SIMON COWELL made millions from The X Factor, which at the height of its success spawned some of the biggest pop stars of a generation.

But with the ITV show now off air and the music mogul desperately seeking his next big hit, the ghost of the TV juggernaut is looming large again — amid claims of shocking abuse of power by others behind the scenes.

Simon Cowell made millions from The X Factor, which spawned some of the biggest pop stars of a generation

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Simon Cowell made millions from The X Factor, which spawned some of the biggest pop stars of a generationCredit: Rex

After years of industry whispers, a string of former contestants including Cher Lloyd, Rebecca Ferguson and Irish duo Jedward allege that they witnessed appalling and exploitative behaviour among some senior executives.

Their comments follow similar allegations by The X Factor’s 2010 winner Matt Cardle, who recently said the show “used people” and insisted it was a “miracle” there had not been many tragedies as a result.

Those speaking out are not alone.

At least two other contestants have spoken to The Sun claiming they endured a miserable time and abuse during and immediately after their time on the show.

Little Mix departed SyCo in 2018 following a high-profile bitter dispute with the girl band’s management company

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Little Mix departed SyCo in 2018 following a high-profile bitter dispute with the girl band’s management company

A source said: “There have long been rumours swirling about things involving NDAs and legal threats, but suddenly a few well-known faces are speaking out at once.

“It has given others the confidence to think about telling their stories too, and the momentum is gathering.

“Some of those who feel they were exploited and allege they were abused are extremely well known, but always feared speaking out could end their careers. That seems to be changing.”

It is the latest headache for Simon, who recently closed down his record label after many of its signings split, left acrimoniously or faded from stardom.

Little Mix won The X Factor in 2011

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Little Mix won The X Factor in 2011Credit: Rex

SyCo had once housed X Factor winners One Direction and Leona Lewis.

But the departure of 2011 champions Little Mix following a high-profile bitter dispute between the girl band’s management company and SyCo in 2018 was one of the final major blows.

Singer Jade Thirlwall later said the abrupt decision to leave just days from releasing their fifth studio album LM5 had “f***ed them over”.

In a fresh outburst, Cher, who was just 17 years old when she appeared on The X Factor’s 2010 series, claimed she had been “sold a dream” and “exploited”.

Cher Lloyd claimed she had been 'sold a dream' and 'exploited'

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Cher Lloyd claimed she had been ‘sold a dream’ and ‘exploited’Credit: Rex
Cher was just 17 years old when she appeared on The X Factor’s 2010 series

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Cher was just 17 years old when she appeared on The X Factor’s 2010 seriesCredit: Rex

Her complaints followed Rebecca’s statement on social media yesterday in which she revealed she is due to meet Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to discuss how musicians are treated by industry executives.

Hitting out at “powerful” agents and managers, she called for an independent body to regulate the business and said she knew of acts who had contemplated suicide as a result of their experiences.

The Liverpool-born star, who came runner-up to Matt Cardle and has had four Top Ten albums, said: “People have warned me for years about doing this or have encouraged me not to speak out, and unfortunately, I realise that my career may be once again affected by speaking out.

“However, enough is enough and musicians/artists/creatives need change, a lot of my damage has been done but this is about protecting people in the future.

A string of former contestants, including Jedward, allege that they witnessed appalling and exploitative behaviour

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A string of former contestants, including Jedward, allege that they witnessed appalling and exploitative behaviourCredit: Instagram

“We need an immediate inquiry to take place to change the way people are allowed to operate in this industry.”

Jedward — consisting of twins John and Edward Grimes — then took aim at SyCo and Modest Management, who were responsible for the careers of several X Factor stars after the show ended, including One Direction, Little Mix and Olly Murs.

In posts on Twitter, the novelty act labelled Cowell “nothing but a bad facelift” and said their time on the 2009 series was “the biggest regret in life” and that they “should have told the judges to f*** off”.

The duo added: “There’s a reason SyCo is called Psycho! 1D and Little Mix can never speak out so we are!

Jedward, who starred on the show in 2009, have taken aim at SyCo and Modest Management

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Jedward, who starred on the show in 2009, have taken aim at SyCo and Modest ManagementCredit: ITV

“There’s nothing MODEST about their previous management dictating their every move from relationships to how they live their own lives! Justice for 1D & Little Mix.

“This isn’t our story to tell! It’s an insight of how corrupt the music industry is!

“We’re sending courage and strength to all artists being f***ed over! It ends now.

“Eating disorders and depression are very common in the music industry and it’s because nobody cares about the artist’s mental health, only the money!”

Rebecca Ferguson is due to meet the Culture Secretary to discuss how musicians are treated by industry executives

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Rebecca Ferguson is due to meet the Culture Secretary to discuss how musicians are treated by industry executivesCredit: Rex
Rebecca came runner-up to Matt Cardle on the show in 2010

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Rebecca came runner-up to Matt Cardle on the show in 2010Credit: ITV

Jedward added: “Non-Disclosure Agreements are very prevalent in the music industry!

“Resulting in no one talking about the abuse/stuff that happens!”

One Direction star Louis Tomlinson was among those who responded to Jedward’s post, with the pair then sharing his message with their followers.

It read: “You guys have lost the plot, hahahahaha you must be high.”

Misha B said her appearance on the show in 2011 had left her feeling suicidal

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Misha B said her appearance on the show in 2011 had left her feeling suicidalCredit: Rex
The singer claimed ill treatment from the show was racially motivated

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The singer claimed ill treatment from the show was racially motivatedCredit: Rex

Claims of wrongdoing and questionable behaviour on The X Factor are nothing new and have often been dismissed as a disgruntled pop failure with an axe to grind.

But never before has a torrent of so many appeared at once.

Last year Misha B said her appearance on the show in 2011 had left her feeling suicidal after it was edited to make her “look like a bully”.

She also claimed the ill treatment was racially motivated.

Matt Cardle said The X Factor 'used people'

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Matt Cardle said The X Factor ‘used people’Credit: Dan Jones

Former judge Tulisa Contostavlos labelled Misha’s allegations of racism as “ludicrous”, but did apologise for accusing the then 19-year-old hopeful of bullying in front of ten million viewers.

The former N-Dubz singer said: “If I was the person that I am today, who is more emotionally intelligent and has more life experience, I would have handled it in a very different way and that I am truly sorry for and I deeply regret.

“But to say and make claims — and I’m not saying she’s doing that, but people are online — that it was racially motivated, is ludicrous.”

So far Simon and his business partners at ITV and Thames have not responded to the new claims, but one former show staffer insisted many organisations and industry figures were involved behind the scenes.

2010 winner Matt insisted it was a 'miracle' there had not been many tragedies

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2010 winner Matt insisted it was a ‘miracle’ there had not been many tragediesCredit: TalkBack Thames

The production source said: “There were hundreds of people coming and going, and if some of them behaved badly — as at times people did — it’s hard to know who they even really worked for.

“The truth is that showbiz can be a ruthless industry, and The X Factor was no exception.

“It was high pressured and tensions sometimes spilled over.”

YOU’RE NOT ALONE

EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.

It doesn’t discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.

It’s the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.

And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.

Yet it’s rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.

That is why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone campaign.

The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.

Let’s all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You’re Not Alone.

If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:

Cher Lloyd appears to slam X Factor for exploiting her in TikTok video



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