By Paul Revoir
Style wars: Kelly Rowland shows off her toned figure in a yellow crop top and black skirt with towering Christian Louboutin heels at the X Factor auditions in Birmingham yesterday
She is ignoring Simon Cowell’s calls after being dropped from the U.S. version of the X Factor and refusing to rejoin the UK team.
So you might have expected the hosts of the ITV show to avoid any mention of Cheryl Cole’s name.
But as auditions began, the new judges were quick to praise the former Girls Aloud star - so quick, in fact, that fans began speculating that the whole thing was a PR stunt.
Slinky: Tulisa Contostavlos covers up in a black DKNY jumpsuit as the judges arrive at the Birmingham auditions
Take That star Gary Barlow, N-Dubz singer Tulisa Contostavlos, Kelly Rowland of Destiny’s Child and show veteran Louis Walsh arrived in Birmingham yesterday to begin filming.
Although Miss Cole, 27, is still in hiding, singer and songwriter Barlow, 40, said: ‘I’ve spoken to her and I think she has turned a corner now. I would say she is going places.
‘I’m sad that she’s gone, but do you know what, she will move on to something else.
Exciting new venture: Kelly and Tulisa have both been staying at the Hotel Du Vin
‘I know Cheryl quite well and she is an ambitious girl, she’s very together and she’ll get over this no question.’
Irish music manager Louis Walsh, meanwhile, said that Miss Cole had been in good spirits as she had sent him text messages to ‘wish him well’ on the show – and told him to ‘give them hell’.
Praise: The new judges were quick to praise the former Girls Aloud star, pictured on last year's X Factor with Simon Cowell. Fans were beginning to think the whole thing was a PR stunt
The hunt for new talent is on: New judge Gary Barlow, left, joins the show's only original judge Louis Walsh on the red carpet in Birmingham
‘Cheryl’s great, she’s a great girl - we’re on really good terms,’ the 58-year-old added.
‘There is no bitterness – not with me anyway!’
But Miss Contostavlos, 22, seemed less keen to discuss her predecessor, saying: ‘The Cheryl thing is a mystery to me.’
And fans were dubious, with Nigel Stoneman writing on Twitter: ‘Am I the only one who has twigged that the whole Cole X Factor carry on is one massive PR stunt?’
And Jenni Fryer wrote: ‘Fiver says Cheryl will be back on X Factor... I smell a PR stunt!’
Face in the crowd: The N-Dubz star is surrounded by press and fans
First day at work: Old-timer Louis Walsh, far left, heads up the new judging team from left, Kelly, Tulisa and Gary
The new crew: The official new line-up, Gary Barlow, Tulisa Contostavlos, Kelly Rowland and Louis Walsh, pose together for the first time on the X Factor stage
Who's got the X Factor? Hordes of hopefuls turned up for the first day of auditions
Excitement: Kelly does the X Factor symbol, while host Dermot O'Leary looked glad to be back, if a little more covered up than judge Kelly, in a turtle neck sweater
Is there another Leona Lewis in here? Thousands of wannabes queue outside for a chance to become a star
What a crowd: Barlow was greeted by screaming fans as he arrived for his first day on his new job