As The X Factor returns for a fifth series, ruthless judge Simon Cowell reveals that he’s on the hunt for a global megastar

How is The X Factor going to be bigger and better than ever before?

“New year, new search and I am feeling optimistic. People turn up for this show for one simple reason – they want to change their lives for ever. If you’re a part of that it’s a fantastic feeling. They can walk in and you have the ability to change their lives – that’s a big responsibility.”

What are you looking for?

“Somebody who is going to be an international star. I want someone who is going to represent this country all over the world over the next 10, 20 years. I want somebody who is different and unique I want to find somebody as good as Amy Winehouse – I’d love to do that.”

What do you think new judge Cheryl Cole will bring to the show?

“I’ve always wanted Cheryl Cole on this. It’s fantastic that you’ve got somebody who’s come through a competition like this, who’s now judging the competition. She genuinely knows what these contestants feel like. Cheryl Cole’s a fighter and I want her to bring honesty to the panel – that’s what she’s here to do.”

What is your role on the judging panel?

“My role is a reality check to everybody. At the end of the day you’ve got to find a recording artist and turn them into a star so just get real and stop putting all the characters through. I’m there to give the correct advice to these people.”

Which category would you like to mentor this year and why?

“I don’t care which category I’m given as I think I have the ability to find the best in any category – that’s what I do better than any of the judges. When Leona won, I felt like I won and I want to win this competition again! I think the idea of Dannii winning again this year is unbearable!”

How do you know when you’ve found the one?

“I’ll never forget the day that Leona Lewis walked into the audition room and I want to have that same feeling again. You win this show, you make the right record and you can become an international star – it is as simple as that. Leona Lewis is the biggest reality show winner in history. Fact. It’s because of The X Factor and that’s what this show can do for you.”

How would you sum up this year’s show?

“This year’s X Factor is completely unpredictable. There are some of the strangest auditions I have ever heard and also one or two great people. This is about normal people all over the country with a talent, who want one opportunity. That’s what The X Factor is – the peoples’ competition.”