Lillie McCloud, The X Factor's Most Controversial Contestant: "The Only Red Carpet I've Walked On Was One I Vacuumed"
Lillie Nicole McCloud, 54, always dreamed of being a singer. Since she was 5 years old she was singing and dancing around her house inspired by her mother's soulful voice. Originally from Rochester, NY, McCloud has since been an Orlando resident, and her latest mission is vying for her dream on The X Factor. Last night, she performed as one of the show's top ten.
All photos courtesy of FOX Broadcasting
But McCloud's talent, praised by X Factor judges including the notoriously picky Simon Cowell, has also led her into controversy. Some fans of the show have accused McCloud of lying about her past experience as a singer, claiming she's a professional who doesn't belong on an amateur talent competition.
During our phone interview with the singer, McCloud brought up the whole ordeal herself and said she wanted to clear the record.
"Some of the public was questioning or assuming that I was trying to keep a secret by calling myself Lillie instead of Nicole," McCloud says. "What do they want me to call myself? All of my names, which are Lillie Arlene Nicole Jade McCloud?" In the biz, she explains, you can't have more than three names, and she just thought Nicole sounded better than Lillie.
So for years, McCloud performed as Nicole. She got her start in the 1980s, when she went out to a nightclub with one of her girlfriends. There happened to be a live band and with the encouragement (and literal push) of her friend, McCloud took the stage and delivered a powerhouse performance. The club owner noticed her, and "he actually became the first investor and put the money behind my first record," says McCloud.
Using the investment, McCloud went out and found herself a producer. Soon, her songs were charting in the U.S. and Europe. "I thought at that time that that was going to really plunge my career into superstardom," she remembers. But her success was short-lived. At least for the time being.
"When you put a record out, there's no hiding, you put your name on the Internet and all the information is going to come up," McCloud says, "so I didn't understand how they [AKA the haters] could think that I was trying to hide."