‘Britain’s Got Talent’ bosses have admitted that the first Golden Buzzer act of the new series was scouted and asked to take part in the show.
Viewers saw 15-year-old singer Sarah Ikumu wow the judges on Saturday night’s first episode of the new series with a pretty incredible rendition of ‘And I Am Telling You’.
Her version of the Jennifer Hudson song from the musical ‘Dreamgirls’ saw Simon Cowell use his Golden Buzzer, sending her straight through to the semi-finals.
But it’s now come to light that the schoolgirl was spotted by show bosses and encouraged to audition for the show, but they have insisted this is completely normal practice as they seek out the country’s best talent.
A ‘BGT’ spokesperson said: “As the only show of its kind in the country, we want to showcase the best talent around and therefore, we travel the length and breadth of the country to find the best talent and make them aware of the show and auditions.
“We do then encourage acts to apply but any such acts will be required to audition on the same basis as any other applicant and normal programme rules apply. All acts are judged on their performance during their audition.”
Meanwhile, a show source has insisted that Simon had no idea about Sarah’s background or that she’d been hand-picked to audition.
A source revealed: “A BGT scout spotted Sarah towards the end of last year, when she was performing at a local event. She was asked to audition on the show.
“She auditioned shortly after, and of course completely blew the producers away. There was no special treatment and she had to audition like every other act from then on.”
The source added: “Simon Cowell had no idea who Sarah was when she first stepped on stage, the scouts worked completely separately, and he was unaware of her and her history.”
Following her flawless audition, Simon told her: “I have heard that song a lot.
“I thought it started great and then it’s like you became possessed halfway through, it was quite incredible.”
Watch Sarah’s incredible audition below...
Jules and Matisse aren’t the only winners who faced a backlash, though, with Attraction’s victory being met with a lukewarm reception from some critics, due to the fact they’re originally from Hungary (The Sun wrote at the time: “To us it makes a mockery of the show’s premise if foreign acts enter, let alone win.”)
Simon Cowell brushed off the controversy, though, insisting: “I see it as a testament to how we are as a country. We want everyone to do well, no matter where they are from. It’s a positive not a negative.”
Susan Boyle’s audition in the third series of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ made her an overnight sensation, eventually shooting her to worldwide fame the world over.
However, by the time she made it through to the live finals, producers were accused of exploiting a vulnerable woman, with reports repeatedly suggesting she was struggling to cope with the media attention surrounding her.
Writing in the Daily Mail
, Simon Cowell has later said: “Looking back on it all, it has become clear to me that we didn't handle the situation with Susan as well as we could have. Yet to be honest, when I analyse exactly what happened, I don't know that I could have done it any differently.”
And on the subject of exploiting those in a vulnerable position, 10-year-old Hollie Steel’s performance in the ‘BGT’ semi-finals back in 2009 made the headlines, when she broke down in tears during a performance of ‘Edelweiss’, asking if she could start it all again.
Although Simon Cowell later allowed her to perform again at the end of the show, it was a memorably uncomfortable moment for ‘BGT’ viewers, who questioned whether children should be allowed to take part in such a high-pressure competition.
The subject of featuring young children on the show reared its head again in 2013, when Arisxandra’s performance of ‘One Night Only’ was criticised by some viewers, who suggested a song about a one night stand probably wasn’t the appropriate choice for an 11-year-old girl.
Each year, the judges are given one chance to put fast-track an act through to the semi-finals by hitting the golden buzzer, which has given memorable ‘BGT’ moments to acts like Paddy and Nico, Revelation Avenue and Callum Scott.
However, David was met with a backlash from viewers
when he made the unpopular decision to put through Christian Spridon, after his *ahem* unique take on Tom Jones’s ‘Sex Bomb’.
Simon Cowell is no stranger to hiring and firing TV judges at the drop of a hat, but one star who was not happy with being given the boot was Kelly Brook, who later hit out at the show when she was sacked after just six days.
Claiming she was“relieved” to have been let go early, she added: “[Simon] was hours late. We would have to start at 9am and he wouldn't get there until 1pm. It was disrespectful to me, Amanda Holden and Piers Morgan. Throughout my career, if I have a call time of 9am, I'll be there at 8.30am ready to go. Simon didn't work like that, it was his party and he did it his way.
“It wasn't what I wanted to do anyway, I wanted to act. So when it didn't work out I wasn't bothered, it meant I could go back to doing what I really wanted to do."
When Jenny From The Block paid a visit to ‘BGT’ in 2013, her skimpy on-stage costume and dance routine raised eyebrows among more conservative viewers, prompting complaints to Ofcom about whether the number was suitable for a family audience.
J-Lo later insisted: “I don’t think I’m any racier than any other female pop artist. OK, I’ll wear a sexy outfit, but I think it’s more because my body shape’s a little different to other body shapes, so that’s not very fair.”
After viewers complained to Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator eventually ruled that ‘BGT’ had breached their code by showing one of the gruesome illusionist’s more graphic numbers way back in the show’s first series.
Jules and Matisse weren’t the only animal act who caused a stir in 2015, with ventriloquist Marc Métral being accused of mistreating his dog by making her wear a mask around her muzzle as part of their routine.
As Ronan Parke grew in popularity during the competition, a blog - claiming to be set up by an executive at Syco - suggested that the teenage singer had been groomed by Simon Cowell’s record label for the past two years, with the hopes of landing him a place on ‘BGT’.
Eventually, the company issued a statement, insisting: “There has been speculation on the internet that Britain's Got Talent finalist Ronan Parke was known to and worked with Syco/Sony Music before entering the show. There is no truth in this story whatsoever. Ronan first came to Syco/Sony's attention when he entered this year's competition.”
Simon also addressed the controversy live on air, claiming: “There has been an allegation made in the papers - not in the papers actually, on the Internet - that Ronan Parke had a previous recording contract with me, that I’d bet him beforehand, both of which are complete and utter lies. He entered the show of his own accord, he’s 12 years old, this is a deliberate smear campaign.”