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Vogue Auditions For The X Factor, Sings Britney Spears

Sep 23, 2011 By Amy

Forget the articles in Vogue for a moment, because the character of personalities that work for the various editions of the publication around the globe are walking stories themselves. From Anna Dello Russo to Andre Leon Talley, being over the top is more than all right with them. Editor at large, Hamish Bowles and his not-so-secret talent of singing landed him a very peculiar assignment- audition for the X Factor. If you’re not familiar with the TV show, it’s kind of like the adult version of American Idol, where anything goes. The show is currently receiving negative press after a contestant dropped his pants while singing on stage. While the manbits were bleeped out, that’s considered a huge “no no” by the FCC, or in fashion terms, a faux pas!  It seems peculiar for the luxury magazine to align itself with the program, but the order came directly from Anna Wintour herself. Personally, I have a feeling this was some sort of paid promotional stunt by the show, especially since the judges were aware there was a Vogue editor amongst the contestants, but regardless it’s still entertaining.

In his detailed account of the event and his reaction when he first laid eyes on Wintour’s email Bowles writes,”There, buried like a time bomb in a bouquet, was this chilling sentence: ‘I have signed you up to compete in The X Factor. You can sing,’ says Anna, who has heard me warble some comedic Noël Coward songs at the Rug Company during Fashion’s Night Out. ‘This will be easy for you.’ Her enthusiasm buoys me along, until a moment over dinner at the Metropolitan Opera – after Jonas Kaufmann’s celestial voice during Act I of Die Walküre has brought tears to my eyes – when she insouciantly announces that she is, in fact, completely tone deaf.”

So, Anna Wintour is tone deaf and can use email? The things we’re learning today! Continuing with the stage name Leo Mercuré, Bowles ventured to the audition wearing Louboutins, a Philip Treacy fedora, and an unbelievable gold Thierry Mugler suit. One thing’s for sure, he was certainly the best dressed contestant! This all happened back in April when the editor made his way to Newark (a place the fashion crowd wouldn’t typically go) for the open casting call with about another 20,000 hopefuls.

Bowles re-accounts the day, “I clasp my ill-gained golden ticket (number 39910) like a badge of shame and grow determined to justify its possession. It’s been decided that I will leapfrog these early elimination rounds and perform for the judges on June 8 under an assumed name; they will know there is a Vogue editor in the lineup, but I won’t be announced as such. I have only two months to mold a quavering voice that is clearly in need of all the help it can get.”

Of course his Vogue budget afforded him a top of the charts voice coach to help perfect Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time”. However, mastering his nerves was a whole other ordeal when it came time to return to this mysterious land of Newark. He penned the “terror is so real it practically has a heartbeat.”

Bowles continues, “…an urgent call comes from the producer asking for my entire set list—of five songs. Lest the judges have any warning signs that I am Mr.Vogue, I must submit the standard number of audition songs required of every contestant. “They probably won’t ask you to sing any more than the two you’ve prepared,” adds the producer, unreassuringly. I think I may projectile vomit. I add “You Couldn’t Be Cuter,” “Somewhere Only We Know,” and “Someone Like You,” try to remember the lyrics, and pray to the Baby Jesus that I don’t get called on to perform them.”

And then it wasn’t too long until it was time for Bowles to hit the stage…

For the first “Oops,” I give them a saucy little hip swing (as though I’d been pinched on the bum), which seems to amuse the audience no end; several “Oops”es later, some of them are up and gyrating themselves, and I can even see a giggly Simon and Paula mouthing the word and bumping their hips together.”

As for response from the judges?

“Thank you, Leo,” says Simon [Cowell]. “We’re just going to go to a straight yes or a no, I think. L.A.?”

“I love your swagger, Leo,” says L.A [Reid]. “You’re fly, man. The whole thing, it’s fly. I’m going to have to say no today, but I did enjoy you.”

“That was the first I ever heard a ‘proper’ version of Britney Spears,” says Nicole [Scherzinger], laughing. “And I really liked it. You’re a lot of fun, Leo, you are. But I don’t know if it’s what I’m looking for today, so I’m going to have to say no. Thank you.”

“You’re an exquisite odd bird, really,” says Paula [Abdul], genuinely straining to break it to me gently. “I would love to hang out with you. I adore you, and it was fun, but . . . not for the $5 million prize.”

“Leo, nice to meet you, but it’s a no,” says Simon. “Thank you.”

Ouch! He didn’t make it to the next round, but afterwards Bowles’ big secret of really being Mr. Vogue was revealed to Simon who said, “You fooled us, Hamish, so full marks to you.”

Hamish Bowles’ full X Factor article is available on Vogue‘s website.

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