Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty; Allen Berezovsky/WireImage; Dia Dipasupil/FilmMagic Camila Cabello, Simon Cowell, Harry Styles
In a new interview with Extra, Cowell spoke about the superstar musicians' careers he's helped create via the British and American versions of The X Factor, a reality singing competition series created by the former American Idol judge in 2004.
Styles, 28, auditioned for The X Factor UK in 2010 as a solo artist — and so did Zayn Malik, Louis Tomlinson, Liam Payne and Niall Horan, all of whom were then eliminated as soloists and encouraged to form a band in order to stay in the competition. They obliged and became a group eventually titled One Direction, placing third in the competition.
One Direction went on to release five studio albums and notch several hits including "What Makes You Beautiful" before announcing an extended hiatus in 2015. Styles has since released three albums and scored many smash singles including the Billboard Hot 100 chart-topping "Watermelon Sugar" and "As It Was."
"I remember his audition like it was yesterday," Cowell told Extra. "He was very charming, he was very confident, he was very funny, and I liked him."
"I just thought there's something … special about him," added the British entrepreneur. "You never forget those moments, and, like I said, genuinely if we weren't making people's careers successful, I would never be making these shows today."
Elsewhere in the interview, Cowell spoke about Cabello, 25, who similarly auditioned for The X Factor U.S. in 2012 as a solo artist before getting eliminated with the option of returning as a group alongside fellow hopefuls Lauren Jauregui, Normani, Dinah Jane and Ally Brooke. After trying out a few names while on the show, the group became known as Fifth Harmony and — also like One Direction — placed third in the competition.
Fifth Harmony then signed to Cowell's Syco record label and released three albums, which spawned the hits "Worth It" and "Work from Home." Cabello left the group in 2016, prior to the third album's release, and has gone on to drop three albums of her own and earn the No. 1 hits "Havana" and "Señorita."
"She wasn't really supposed to audition," Cowell revealed. "I happened to go backstage, and I saw her crying, asked her why she was crying, and she said, you know, it was too late for her to audition because she was a reserve, whatever that meant."
He continued, "I said to her, 'Well, I'm one of the producers, you just got an audition.'"
Cowell also spoke at-large about the superstar careers he's played a hand in launching and said their success is what inspires him to keep going.
"When those moments work, and seeing Camila today or Harry Styles, Leona Lewis, Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, there's been so many times luckily where I've been there at that moment where their career is going to go in a completely different direction," he told the outlet. "If we didn't have those things happen, then there'd be no point making the shows."