As a former talent show winner, X Factor‘s newest judge – and Girl’s Aloud singer – Cheryl Cole believes she knows exactly what it takes to be a star

How did it feel to sit among the judges on your first day?
“The night before the first auditions I didn’t sleep a wink. I’ve always been a big fan of the show so I was so excited to be taking part, but it was also scary to think I was going to be a judge. I didn’t know what to expect.”

Did the fact that you were once a contestant help you to judge the auditions?
“The fact I was a contestant myself in theory should help. Not only me, but hopefully the contestants, as they know I’ve been in their shoes. I know how much the nerves can affect you, your performance and your ability. The contestants have a few minutes to convince us, so I have to concentrate on whether or not they can sing and are just a bit overwhelmed.”

What kind of judge are you?
“I feel a bit uncomfortable about being called a judge. I’d like to think I’m there to give my opinion and advice. Just like I would do when I watch it at home talking to the TV! I really don’t know what kind of judge I am. I try to be honest and tell them what I think, but also be fair to their feelings.”

What do you look for in an audition?
“To me, the ‘X Factor’ is something that someone has which draws you to them, but you can’t quite work out what it is. It’s sometimes just a presence or how they hold themselves. For me, it’s not just about being amazing vocally, it’s about a package. There are millions of people out there who can sing, but that’s where it stops – and that’s usually why they never make it.”

What do you enjoy most about the audition stages?
“I like the people who have talent but have had a tough time of it and you know they are there to change their lives. Watching their faces when you say ‘yes’ is an amazing feeling. Also the people that leave the room and you still feel excited because you know they have the potential to be amazing.”

What about those who are perhaps not so talented?
“My favourite part of the auditions are the characters as they brighten my day. Sometimes it’s like being back at school, you know you shouldn’t laugh, but you can’t help it and the more you try not to, the more you want to.

What have been the most memorable auditions this year and why?
“The most memorable auditions for me this year have been a couple of solo girls we’ve seen that were amazing to the point where you go home and continue to think about them. There is also a young boyband we saw that I immediately wanted the group category!”

Which of your fellow judges do you tend to agree with?
“We all have our own opinions but I have to say I do love Simon’s honesty. I’d say 90 percent of the contestants want Simon’s opinion even though he can be blunt. But it’s not only a hard thing to hear, but also a hard thing to say to someone with a false hope or dream.”

Which category would you like to mentor this year and why?
“If I could choose, I would want to mentor the groups. Partly because it’s what I have the most experience with, but also because a group has never won The X Factor and I would love to be the first mentor to win it with that category. I also think there’s a niche in the market for a new pop group.”