PHOTOS: X Factor: Simon's Got A Situation Cooking Up In New Jersey


Apr. 15 2011, Published 8:36 a.m. ET

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Turns out Snooki and The Situation aren't the only reality TV forces in New Jersey.

Simon Cowell’s latest TV import, The X Factor, drew more than 20,000 hopefuls to The Prudential Center Thursday, all of them hoping for a chance to capture the show's grand prize: a $5 million recording contract.

Contestants gathered as early as 2 am ET to stand in line for the audition; by 9 am, show officials estimated the line spanned the space of two city streets.

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"We see a lot of great New Jersey swagger out there and we are really excited about today," the show's executive producer Rob Wade said in a statement. "The turnout is fantastic."

As we previously reported, the criteria for the show's talent pool opens the door to a bigger group of hopefuls than Cowell's former show, American Idol, as musical groups are allowed to enter and the age limit starts at 12.

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Nineteen-year-old Thatcher Iliff was among the hopefuls looking to become Jersey's next big reality star, brandishing a sign that read "Beyonce wishes she could sing like me."

"It's true," Iliff said of his bold statement. "She wishes she had that country feel I do."

Sarah Ross and Hailey Cullers, both 16, dressed up as cheerleaders and brought a sign picturing a shirtless Simon with the phrase, "Sexy Simon says, 'You both have the X Factor.'"

Simon Cowell
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"We're singing for Simon," Cullers said. "This beat's going to school!"

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The X Factor -- which has been a hit in the UK for several years, spawning pop star Leona Lewis -- hits U.S. airwaves this autumn.

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