Up until now Kelly Rowland has sat back and remained dignified and silent about all the controversial goings on in this year’s X Factor. But now the gloves are coming off. The Destiny’s Child singer is ready to fight for her girls Misha B and Janet Devlin, won’t be towing the line when it comes to judging panel infighting and says she’d prefer to quit than lose the group she’s worked so hard on.
“Dude, I’m not anybody’s puppet,” Kelly, 30, announces in her dressing room with her head wrapped up tightly in a chic Meg Mathews scarf. “If anybody is playing by the rules then they’re my rules.
“When Simon gave me the job he liked the fact I stood by my word.”
Mr Cowell has even left a permanent mark within Kelly’s dressing room – sat proudly on her dresser is a framed picture of Simon with a note reading, “Thank you Lippy for everything, Love Simon.”
“He calls me Lippy,” the make-up free star explains. “He likes me because I have a smart mouth. I’m not afraid of him and I respect him. I’m actually not afraid of him in any way. We would be electric on the same judging panel – can you imagine? I love my panel. I love being on a panel with Gary and Louis and I love being on the panel with Tulisa – despite what people are saying.”
She’s furious at shock plans being muted to shake up the show to gain better viewing figures. Rumours suggest judges will be forced to switch categories for the final stages of the competition. Clearly not having heard the news she says: “What? Uh-oh. I don’t want no body touching my girls. I’m not giving Misha and Janet up for anyone. I’d walk before I gave them up.
“Everybody is doing such a good job mentoring their own acts. And don’t know why they’d do that.”
Kelly takes huge lugs on a Dr Nelson’s vocal chord steamer inbetween speaking to me following her recent illness. On last week’s show she missed the live episodes throughout the weekend after falling ill in Los Angeles with a viral throat infection and not being able to fly home. She’s furious people have questioned her illness after she made a croaky phone call to the studio for the final eviction between Sophie Habibis and Misha B.
“I was pissed at that,” she says. “It was such a slap in my face. There was no reason to say that. I’m only half way back to talking my best now. I’ve got a hacking cough. When people started saying that I was annoyed. I don’t wish anybody to feel the way I felt last week. My neck to my jawline was swollen together. It wasn’t pretty. I looked like a lineback football player.”
But what did she do to keep herself busy? She was busy planning for her girls as well as studying the work of Cheryl Cole. She laughs: “I was watching Cheryl Cole YouTube performances and thinking what it would be like to perform on X Factor myself. I want to do that with my new album. I would love to get on that stage. I also looked at all the girls auditions from the beginning. I can’t not be honest with these girls. I can’t worry about hurting their feelings. Of course you have to be careful with words and the way you say things because they are 19 and 16 years old. But I am not here to hinder them and keep the truth from them because then they won’t grow.”
You definitely feel Kelly is fighting hard for Misha this week – especially after the star made the bottom two last weekend following her row the week before with Tulisa when she brought up the fact Misha was gaining a diva reputation backstage. Janet’s name hardly enters the frame.
“What should stand is what people do on stage,” she says seriously. “They’re not being judged on behind the scenes and that’s the point with Tulisa. Misha is like, ‘I eat this stage when I come on, thank you and thank you for the meal.’ Misha is the one I think could flip and make it to the States. I think that we’re only at the tip of the iceberg with Misha. That’s why it’s important for people to vote for her. Being in the bottom two has jump started her.”
Both Kelly and Tulisa Contostavlos seem keen to put their on-screen row behind them and move on with the competition. Kelly says she’s seen her three times during the week and rumours of in fighting and catfights are just not true.
“I spoke to her when I was away ill, I saw her at Gary’s house this week and I saw her at the Cosmopolitan Awards,” she admits. “To not talk to Tulisa would be very preschool middle school and I’m an adult. Don’t get me wrong I was very disappointed. And I wanted to make sure I was honest to myself and honest with her. We are cool now. Everybody needs to get on with it and move on. I have respect for Tulisa. We are not that dissimilar really. We both grafted and made our careers from scratch and have a strong work ethic. We’ve agreed to disagree over the Misha debacle. We didn’t row. I just disagreed with what she said and I hope that what she said means Misha isn’t stuck in the bottom again. It’s old news. I’m now just concentrating on moving on and keeping my girls in the competition.
“This is a competition and it won’t be the last time that me, Tulisa or Gary and Louis have a disagreement. Every time I see Tulisa she says hi. Neither of us want to be catty with each other but both of us want to be honest and real with each other. So we tell it like it is. We do our jobs and we are professional.”
You get the feeling the penny has finally dropped on what a big deal being a judge on X Factor in the UK is. She had no idea how much it would change her life.
She lets out a sigh and admits: “I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t know I would be so involved and it would be so time consuming. But it has been a great experience and it has completely changed my life for the better.
“It has made me up my game professionally because I cant tell the girls to do something and then not do it myself. Everything from rehearsal to voice lessons and bad habits. I feel like I’m talking to a mirror. And it’s exciting.”
Kelly’s new album Here I Am is out next week