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X Factor judge Melanie Blatt hits back

The X Factor judge Melanie Blatt was staggered by the level of vitriol subjected to her contestant by Natalia Kills and Willy Moon. She gives her side of the story.

By Laura Weaser
The ugly side of reality TV reared its recently when The X Factor New Zealand judges Natalia Kills and Willy Moon unleashed a tirade against contestant Joe Irvine during the first live audition – shocking the Kiwi public, as well as fellow judges Stan Walker and Melanie Blatt.
With the controversial couple now out of the country, leaving for Los Angeles just hours after they were sacked from their positions, the dust is starting to settle. Touching down at LA airport, Natalia seemed far from remorseful but did tell reporters that she wished “Joe and my boys’ category all the best” for the rest of the competition.
Speaking to the Weekly, Mel, who turns 40 this week, recalls the moment when Natalia (28) began her attack. Mel was initially unable to hear exactly what she and Willy (25) were saying from the other end of the judges’ table, so it wasn’t until she watched the show at home that she realised the extent of their cruel comments.
“It was a bit weird,” Mel tells. “I didn’t know where her comments were coming from. Joe did a good job, considering where he started his journey... It took a lot of work to get that far and I definitely think something should’ve been said about that, but it wasn’t the focus at all.”
The tirade from Natalia Kills and Willy Moon shocked the world, provoking outrage from the likes of global stars Ed Sheeran and Ellie Goulding.
Natalia called Joe (25) a doppelgänger for her husband Willy, accusing him of lacking originality and describing his looks as “cheesy”, “creepy” and “disgusting” after his performance of Cry Me a River. “You’re a laughing stock,” Natalia continued. “I personally found it absolutely artistically atrocious. I am embarrassed to be sitting here in your presence, even having to dignify you with an answer of my opinion. “You make me sick.”
Mentor Mel reveals she was hands-on with Joe’s styling, directing the team to get him “suited, booted and looking fit”. On Joe’s “mood board”, which stylists use as inspiration, were images of Frank Sinatra, David Beckham – and Willy Moon. “The stylist put his photo up there because that’s the style we wanted, not because we wanted Joe to look like Willy Moon,” Mel says. “The vibe of it was like the Rat Pack in the 1950s, which is a look that Willy also does.”
It’s unknown if either Natalia or Willy saw the mood board before Sunday’s show, but looking back, Mel admits she suspected the couple might act up. During rehearsals, she spotted Natalia laughing and became concerned the Saturday Night singer might do something to disturb Joe. But she had no idea how bad it would be. “I had pre-warned him. I said, ‘I think Natalia might pick on you so be warned, keep your composure, don’t listen to them and just say thank you.’ And he did that and I was really proud.”
The way Joe has handled the tirade impressed music icons worldwide. British stars Ed Sheeran and Ellie Goulding were some of the first to tweet their support. Ellie “couldn’t stop myself from commenting on The X Factor New Zealand situation because I can’t stop thinking how mean it was. Thank goodness they’re gone,” while Ed told Joe not to “worry about what anyone else says”.
Mel is extremely proud of the way her mentee Joe Irvine handled the nasty criticism of him.
“It’s amazing the support he’s had,” Mel says. “He’s had a tough life and it’s definitely taken its toll on him – he’s obviously not very confident, so this support has boosted him.” But Mel’s worried that the spotlight on Joe is for the wrong reasons and wants to get “the attention away from Natalia and on to his talents”.
“I told him he really has to step up now to show he’s worth all their support. I actually feel sorry for him with all that added pressure!” With the new judges being announced as we go to print, the question is, what happens next for the groups and boys’ acts left in the lurch with the sudden departure of Natalia and Willy? But Mel is confident this is only a minor speed bump on their The X Factor journey and “they’ll be fine”. As for the new judges, Mel says she is hoping for people who have strong opinions and talent. “And someone who is nice would be quite good – deep down to their core!”

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