The age factor in X Factor
The X Factor is at the centre of a cruelty scandal after show judge Gary Barlow admitted the youngest contestants are too fragile to cope with rejection from the UK show.
Barlow and his Take That bandmate Robbie Williams expressed their concerns as teenage hopefuls such as Luke Lucas were left distraught after being axed from the competition.
It comes just weeks after producers were accused of bullying vulnerable Ceri Rees, 54, by allowing her to go through the audition process four times in six years, only to be rejected by the judges each time.
Contestants have to be at least 16 to audition for the show — but as a string of young performers cracked under the pressure, Barlow and Williams admitted that the limit may be too young.
Luke, who won over audiences with his cheeky charm, could not hold back the tears as he struggled to perform in front of Barlow and Williams, who joined the show as an adviser to his bandmate during the Judges' Houses stage of the competition.
Luke's second performance was so bad that Barlow stopped it, driving the youngster to run off the set in tears.
Luke said: "I can't explain in words how much I want this. Being the youngest, it's hard because older people have had a lot more experience."
He was seen sobbing and demanding to be taken home because he could not face the rejection, which drove concerned viewers to take to forums to complain. One wrote: "Luke is a mess. He is obviously not ready to be there. Just too young."
In Miami with judge Kelly Rowland, show insiders said Hollie Repton, also 16, was crying and clinging to her teddy bear after performing her two songs.