From Nicki Minaj to Craig Revel Horwood: 10 of the best TV talent show judges

·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Dave J Hogan/Getty</span>
Photograph: Dave J Hogan/Getty

Craig Revel Horwood
Strictly Come Dancing

Strictly’s supervillain with a soft centre: Revel Horwood’s putdowns are as crucial to the annual BBC dance show as fake tan and flammable leotards. “It was like watching a stork who’s been struck by lightning,” he said of Jeremy Vine’s jive. But his insults are invariably rounded off with an affectionate “darling”, thus ensuring that no one actually punches him.

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Monica Galetti
MasterChef /MasterChef: The Professionals

The former protege of Michel Roux Jr can deflate a souffle at 50 paces. The Samoa-born, New Zealand-raised Galetti strikes fear into cooks everywhere, her expressions running the gamut from resignation to revulsion, while her icy poise stands in glorious contrast to the barking of presenters Gregg Wallace and John Torode.

Prue Leith
The Great British Bake Off

Few imagined that national treasure Mary Berry could be replaced on Bake Off without sending the viewing figures off a cliff. But they didn’t bargain for Prue Leith. Big specs and even bigger necklaces are Leith’s calling cards, along with the odd social media cock-up (she once tweeted the show’s winner before the final had aired).

Nicki Minaj
American Idol

Few judges can compare to La Minaj on American Idol 12, where she routinely addressed contestants as “little ladybug”, wowed with her outfits and had spectacular beefs with fellow judge Mariah Carey. Minaj’s feedback also came loaded with zingers. “I wanna skin you and wear you,” she told one would-be pop star.

Nicole Scherzinger
The X Factor

When the occasional Pussycat Doll first appeared on The X Factor in 2010, her feedback – “Schamazing”; “You’re just the bomb-dot-com” – instantly entered the TV talent show lexicon. We also have her to thank for saving Rylan, who repaid the favour by showering her in snot and tears.

Val Garland
Glow Up

Garland is a cosmetics supremo in statement specs who has worked with Lady Gaga and the Queen, and comes with a Miranda-from-The-Devil-Wears-Prada vibe. In Glow Up’s version of Bake Off’s Hollywood handshake, she greets makeup triumphs with a satisfied exclamation of “ding dong!”.

Margaret Mountford
The Apprentice

Former lawyer, businesswoman and “eyes and ears” of Sir Alan Sugar, Mountford had a benign Miss Marple-ish air that belied her lethal boardroom assessments. During her five-year stint, there was no more fearsome interrogator at the interview stage, her damning phrases instantly reducing interviewees to clammy wrecks.

Esme Young
The Great British Sewing Bee

The Incredibles’ Edna E Mode brought to life, Esme Young is a costume designer to the stars, Central St Martins tutor and a quietly merciless judge on Sewing Bee, on which she once appeared wearing hand-sanitiser bottles as a necklace. Small, fierce and all about precision stitching, Young’s seams are as sharp as her bob.

Michelle Visage
RuPaul’s Drag Race

A legend of the 1980s New York ballroom scene – she reckons Madonna stole her look – Visage is a reality TV fixture, having appeared on Strictly Come Dancing, The X Factor and Celebrity Big Brother. But it’s on Drag Race that she has truly sparkled, not least when judging Night of 1,000 Michelle Visages, which saw her faced with a parade of drag queens dressed as her.

Keith Brymer Jones
The Great Pottery Throw Down

Keith loves pots. Keith also loves people who make pots; so much so that he ugly-cries whenever they make a nice one. A master potter himself, Keith cries so much on The Great Pottery Throw Down that pots need to be fashioned to catch his tears. Keith is deeply invested in his role as pottery purveyor and so, as a result, are we.

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