Filan: “I bleached my hair to trick Cowell into signing Westlife”

Westlife star Shane Filan has revealed that he tricked Simon Cowell into thinking he was someone else by getting a sunbed tan and bleaching his hair after the music mogul had hated his first audition.

Shane Filan and Simon Cowell. Copyright for photo of Simon Cowell - Mercurial CC3
It turns out that Filan nearly ruined his chance of becoming a pop star when Westlife performed for Cowell in the late 1990s. He had spent the evening before drinking cocktails with his girlfriend and was too hung over to do himself justice the following day.

The band’s manager Louis Walsh was so furious with Filan for jeopardising Westlife’s chances that he slapped him in the face.

However, Walsh came up with a cunning plan to rescue the situation. He ordered Filan to spend three months on the sunbed, grow his hair long and get it bleached.

Westlife auditioned for Cowell again a few months later, with Filan in his new surfer-dude image, and sober as a judge this time.

Filan tells the story in his autobiography, My Side of Life, which is being released this week: “Simon was smiling and nodding. ‘Who’s the new guy Louis? He’s so much better than that other chap.’

‘Yeah,’ agreed Louis. ‘I got rid of him.’”

From then on Westlife went from strength to strength. They made history when they became the first band ever to get to number one with their first seven singles. Westlife were global stars of the late 90s and early 2000s.

Filan admits that the boys were partying hard in the early days: “We were never a drug band but we drank. Kian and I once got bananas 24 nights in a row. After a Sheffield Arena show we stayed up all night necking vodka. The next afternoon I was still p****d.”

The singer also describes the band’s rise to the top of the music business, and that he would spend his riches on sports cars: “Things just got madder. Like getting £500,000 to play a show for the Sultan of Brunei. He sent a private jet to fly us out there, and a Rolls-Royce to pick us up.

“In four months on tour we’d been to 22 countries, entertained 600,000 people and made £12million. We’d trashed our livers along the way – but Westlife were on top of the world.

“I felt very confident when I bought myself a Ferrari. It cost £94,500. Cars were like a drug to me.”

Westlife hit a major roadblock in 2004 though, when Brian McFadden sat his bandmates down and told them he wanted to leave. Filan admits he was angry at the thought of losing his income and security if the band lost their appeal, although he didn’t blame McFadden for his decision.

My Side of My Life by Shane Filan is being released on 9th October 2014.

Written by Andrew Moore

Andrew Moore

Andrew Moore is a writer for Irish Music Daily and Ireland Calling.
His favourite Irish music bands are the Dropkick Murphys and the Pogues.
You can follow him on

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Andrew Moore

Andrew Moore is a writer for Irish Music Daily and Ireland Calling. His favourite Irish music bands are the Dropkick Murphys and the Pogues. You can follow him on

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