The year was 2008, and Payne was just 14 years old at the time — auditioning in front of Cheryl, Simon Cowell and Irish entertainment manager Louis Walsh for the U.K. version of The X-Factor.
He would be cut a few rounds later, but Payne told judges he was “here to win” during his first audition. He then launched into a smooth cover of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” — even winking at Cheryl during his performance.
“I like you,” Cheryl, then 24, told Payne while critiquing him. “I think you’re really cute. I think you’ve got charisma. You know, you gave that really cheeky wink.”
They’d meet again at Payne’s second X-Factor audition in 2010 — where Cheryl told him he had what it takes to move on in the competition. “Your voice is really, really powerful,” she said. “[It’s a] yes for me, definitely.”
Payne would go on to be grouped in with fellow contestants Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson and Zayn Malik on the show — forming One Direction. They went on to global stardom before splitting with Malik and going on hiatus this year.
She, meanwhile was married to footballer Ashley Cole both times she met Payne. The two split in 2010 after 4 years of marriage. The former Girls Aloud member then married Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini in 2014 — though their divorce with finalized in October.
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Cheryl, 33, and Payne, 23, began dating late last year. They made their red carpet debut in May at Eva Longoria’s Global Gift Gala in Paris, where Cheryl was awarded the Global Gift Philanthropist Award.
Since then, they’ve been open about their affection for each other on social media. And although they have yet to officially announce the pregnancy, Cheryl let her baby belly do the talking on Tuesday when the two stepped out for the St. James Christmas Carol Concert in London.