The charitable side of: Simon Cowell

Indira Das-Gupta

You might not know it from his TV performances, but the acid-tongued music judge has a weakness for cuddly animals.

Simon Cowell, the man who gave the world Michelle McManus and Sinitta, was blasted this week for overstating the charitable side of X Factor: Battle of the Stars.

One of the 'celebrity' contestants, Rebecca Loos, who is best known for an alleged affair with David Beckham, was keen to emphasise she was doing it for her chosen 'charidee', Save the Children, and not to boost her flagging or non-existent career. To which one of the judges, Sharon Osbourne, was quick to reply: "You mean, you are your own charity."

Although this was presented as a charity fundraiser, only 10p out of the 50p it cost to vote for a singer went to his or her charity - the same as the amount donated from this year's Big Brother, which isn't billed as a charity event.

As the owner of the production company behind the show, Cowell was always likely to be the real winner of The X Factor. But when asked how much he made, his agent said the information was "confidential". He declined to give a list of charities Cowell supports - but the music bigwig has fronted Peta's anti-fur campaign.

Poorva Joshipura, director of Peta Europe, said: "Simon Cowell may be a tough judge, but he has a real soft spot for animals."

Cowell was also an anti-bullying spokesman for a Kidscape initiative last year, despite having reduced contestants on his programmes to tears. One of his more memorable comments was: "You sing like Mickey Mouse on helium".

Despite his fearsome reputation, Cowell maintains that he himself was a victim of bullying, and said: "It's the people who are picked on that are the cool ones. The bullies are the ones with the problem."

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