Hamish Bowles Channels Britney Spears on ‘X Factor’

Hamish Bowles Simon Cowell X Factor

Photo courtesy of VOGUE/Joseph Cultice

Hamish Bowles and Simon Cowell.

He’s had to brave outdoor survival camp and a game of one-on-one with New York Knick Amar’e Stoudemire—Hamish Bowles is nothing if not dedicated to providing Vogue with madcap tales for his magazine. But the latest may top them all: auditioning for the X Factor, complete with stage persona (Leo Mercuré, a hairdresser), an over-the-top ensemble, and his very own song.

On assignment from Anna Wintour, who insisted that Bowles could sing based on a Fashion’s Night Out performance in 2009, Bowles skipped the early elimination round and went undercover, performing “Oops!…I Did It Again” for Simon Cowell, Nicole Sherzinger, Paula Abdul, and L.A. Reid.

“As a boy soprano in the high school choir I later sang a solo during the carol service at Canterbury Cathedral, but I was too young to secure the Freddy Eynsford-Hill role in our production of My Fair Lady—and far too timid to have thought to audition for it,” Bowles wrote of his childhood musical aspirations in Vogue's October issue. “Any Broadway dreams I may have harbored languished for decades until Fashion’s Night Out unleashed the caterwauling diva within.”

But still—he says he was nowhere near prepared for his television debut (we can only pray that a video of this will surface in the near future).

“By the time I reach the area where my fellow contestants are waiting, my terror is so real it practically has a heartbeat,” he wrote. “Time is a thief and a bitch, and soon I am being summoned downstairs to the holding area. We can hear someone onstage being loudly booed by the crowd. Would a dramatic fainting spell get me off the hook?”

No such luck—Bowles put on quite a show (complete with, in his words, “a saucy little hip swing”) to the great amusement of the audience. Though the judges declined to send him to the next round, he got an “I adore you, and it was fun,” from Abdul, and a “I love your swagger” from Reid.

Mr. Cowell, fittingly, was not so sweet.

Bowles recounted: “’What I was thinking was, Great, our first Brit, so excited,’ says Simon ‘And then you were rubbish. Not to be rude!’”

You’ll always be a star in our eyes, Hamish. But until that big break, we can’t wait to see where Anna sends you next…

In related news, check out Bowles' take on the event of the summer: Kate Moss’ wedding.