Who Is Cheryl Cole And Why Does Simon Cowell Need Her On ‘X Factor’?

Admit it. It’s kind of hard to get excited when Snoop Dogg, Elton John, Mariah Carey, Diddy and, hell, even George Michael have allegedly been in the judges’ panel mix, and then the big name Simon Cowell reveals for his upcoming American version of the “X Factor” is … Cheryl Cole.

Like most Americans, your first thought was not “How will she get along with Paula Abdul?” but rather “Cheryl Who?”

Although Cole is a major star in England (think of her as a kind of mix between a more vocally talented Aubrey O’Day and Eva Longoria), when it was revealed on Monday that Cowell is close to signing her as one of the four judges on “Factor” a lot of people rushed for Wikipedia to find out who she is.

Here’s what you need to know:
Cole, 27, was born Cheryl Tweedy on June 30, 1983, in Newcastle upon Tyne, England (also, coincidentally, birthplace of Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler and near Sting’s hometown).

She’d been a dancer with the Royal Ballet’s summer school program and a model before trying out for “Popstars: The Rivals” in 2002, where she was hooked up with four other young ladies to form the lady group Girls Aloud. The act was immensely popular, landing 20-straight top 10 singles in the U.K. over the course of five albums. During the band’s 2009 hiatus, she released her smash solo album 3 Words, which featured the #1 hit “Fight For This Love.” That album also signaled the beginning of a long-standing collaborative musical relationship with the Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am, who executive-produced the album.

A second solo album, Messy Little Raindrops, was released in November 2010, featuring vocals by will.i.am, Travie McCoy and Dizzee Rascal.

She was added as a judge for the fifth season of the original U.K. version of “X Factor,” replacing Sharon Osbourne. She quickly became a favorite of Cowell’s for her witty TV banter and sharp judging skills. During her first year, she coached the female contestants and it was her protégé, Alexandra Burke, who won the contest; her team also won in 2009.

Cole has also been a tabloid staple in England, landing on the covers of the nation’s notoriously catty rags on an almost weekly basis thanks to her off-screen exploits. Her most well-known escapade came in 2003 when she got into a fight with a bathroom attendant and allegedly hurled racial epithets at the woman. Though initially charged with engaging in a racially aggravated assault, Cole was exonerated on that charge during the trial and found guilty of assault and sentenced to 120 hours of community service.

The other tabloid headline in her past is linked to her 2006 marriage to soccer player Ashley Cole after two years of dating. But, just two years after their splashy nuptials, her husband was accused of a number of infidelities, including dalliances with a hairdresser and a model. The couple reconciled, but when news emerged last February that at least five more women claimed to have slept with the soccer player, Cole separated from her husband and filed for divorce.

She’s believed to have contracted malaria on a 2010 trip to Tanzania, and realized she was sick during an “X Factor” audition episode during which she collapsed.

With her bronzed skin, pinup curves and picture-perfect smile, Cole has won a number of “best-dressed” and style-icon awards over the years and is such a well-known figure in England that when Cowell referred to her by her maiden name on “Factor” last year, it was headline news.

So, there you have it. She’s huge in England, but until we get confirmation on whether she’ll try to pull a Victoria Beckham and conquer these shores, it remains to be seen if Cole will soon be a household name in the U.S.

Are you excited about Cheryl Cole judging on ‘X Factor?’ Let us know in comments below!