Hello, My Name Is… Simon Cowell
Simon Cowell may have the bigger bank balance, but I had the name first. Only just, mind you.
Up until the early 2000s, I thought I was the only one.
I had been presenting programmes about wildlife since the 1980s and by 1996 I had a series called Wildlife SOS with Channel 5, which ran for 18 years.
Ricky Gervais once said I’m like David Attenborough, but with tourettes.
I think it’s why, when the other Simon came to be really well known after Pop Idol, I just took it in my stride. I’m the first Simon, after all.
Even when he became more famous than me, I’ve never felt bitter.
Especially because I really like the guy. I’ve never met him – although I have tried to get in touch a few times as it would be lovely to meet – but I think we’re pretty similar characters with really similar interests.
Hello, My Name Is…
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While the entertainment mogul might get a lot of flack for the scathing criticism he gives acts on shows like X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, I just see him as honest. I am too. I am what I am and I say it how I see it.
He also believes in the power of music, which is something I whole-heartedly agree with.
Growing up, I had the most horrible stutter but I could sing. I would join choirs and take part in school musicals. I get a lot of pleasure from music and I always thought I would get into it professionally. But I’m of the belief that life tracks a path for you and you make decisions day by day that shape your existence.
I occasionally think that I could, very easily, have gone down a similar road as my namesake.
And with his tremendous empathy for animals – he’s campaigned with PETA and given huge sums to animal rescue charities – he could easily be where I am today too.
I now run one of the biggest wildlife hospitals in the UK, which I founded in 1980. The Wildlife Aid Foundation started with two or three volunteers and now there are over 370.
It’s my work with animals that got me an MBE in 2006. It was a very heartwarming experience, but I knew I would have never been able to get one without all the charity’s amazing volunteers.
When they asked me if I wanted to go to the palace to receive the honour, I instead asked for them to present it at our headquarters in Leatherhead. It was for all of us.
At the time, I remember my friends seeing ‘Simon Cowell’ on the Honours List and assuming it was the other Simon Cowell. I got a few texts saying, ‘I bet you wish that was you.’ Until I was awarded it I couldn’t tell anyone it actually was me!
I reckon it was probably worse for him when he didn’t get one! I hope he’s not sulking.
There have been a number of times we’ve been confused though. I’ve definitely been booked in to give a few talks where they obviously assumed they were getting him.
No one mentioned anything but the look on their faces gave it away – and I wasn’t about to bring it up!
I’ve received fan mail meant for him; a few drawings of ‘me’ and lots of CDs from music hopefuls thinking I can rocket them to stardom.
It’s always useful when I try to book a restaurant. There are never any questions until I show up. We look nothing alike, and my usual get up doesn’t involve a V-neck T-shirt and tight blue jeans.
Clearly being Simon Cowell comes with a lot of benefits – but I would never swap my life for his. The only thing I would want is his chequebook! If I had it I would just spend it on doing more of what I do with wildlife.
We’re currently working on one of the biggest rescues we’ve done in a long time. There’s a swan stuck in a massive lake with a hook in its mouth. We’ve already visited it three times but the lake is so vast we’ve had real issues getting to it.
This time, a swarm of us are going to remove the hook. Without being seen, the swan won’t be able to eat, so it is a race against time.
Having to go out four times is really frustrating, but fortunately it’s rare as on most occasions we are able to save the animal on the first visit.
I will whinge every day about everything that we have to do, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
In my job you really have to think on your feet and my days are never planned. I never plan anything.
When I was very young, I thought I would be a vet but unfortunately I didn’t have the academic qualifications needed. All my relatives were farmers, so I went to agricultural college with the view to doing the same.
Instead, I went on to be a commodity broker in London for 23 years. I had a nervous breakdown in 1994, which is when I decided to leave London and dedicate all my time to the charity.
I don’t regret not doing it sooner as I know I had to do what I had to do, and go through what I did, to get to where I am today. That’s just how life is – and I’m sure the other Simon Cowell will have been through his own ups and downs.
All in all, sharing a name with him hasn’t been too bad. I’d love to one day meet him and shake his hand.
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