X Factor mogul Simon Cowell more famous than God and Queen (according to under-tens)
But today he is getting used to the idea that – as far as Britain's children are concerned – he is more famous than God.
The 49-year-old multi-millionaire pushed the Creator of the Universe and the Queen into second and third place in a poll of children aged under ten. Jesus came in at a lowly sixth in the poll, below Father Christmas and Harry Potter.
Cowell is thought to hold such sway with Britain's youth because they see him as a star maker, who can transform ordinary people into celebrities through shows such as The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent.
With an annual income of around 54 million and total worth an estimated 112 million, Cowell is certainly pulling in more cash than the talent show winners, who pick up a 1 million recording contract and 150,000 in cash. He hinted yesterday that he might quit The X Factor after the next series because of the show's gruelling and extended schedule.
Media expert Dr Kirsty Fairclough, of Salford University, who specialises in celebrity, said the poll of 1,600 children, which was carried out for National Kids Day, showed they see him as a "gatekeeper to celebrity".
"He is on their radar nearly constantly, which is quite a worry," she said. "I am sure he will be glad to be at the top of the list. It's indicative of Simon Cowell's place in the media, because that's what kids watch. I am not really surprised to hear he has topped it. Kids are using celebrity as something to look up to. I think that's why people look up to Simon Cowell, because of the idea that they can go on and be the next Leona Lewis or George Sampson (the teenage dancer who won the last series of Britain's Got Talent].
A record 15 million people tuned in on Saturday night to see Alexandra Burke win The X Factor, with more than 60 per cent of all Saturday night television viewers watching at one point.
Like all X Factor winners, the singer is now automatically signed up to Cowell's Syco Records, which has a big incentive to turn her into a superstar.
Her version of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, which went on sale immediately after the show, is certain to be a huge hit.
It is almost guaranteed the Christmas No 1 slot in the UK singles charts, with Ladbrokes offering odds of 1/8.
HMV also named it the fastest ever download in history yesterday. The music retailer said thousands of fans of the soul singer logged on to download her track hours after she won the show.
HMV spokesman Gennaro Castaldo said: "Hallelujah promises to be the biggest X Factor release yet, and the chances are that Alexandra will have the Christmas No 1 single in the bag even before her CD single officially hits the stores in midweek.
"Alexandra's biggest challenge for the festive top spot is likely to come from Peter Kay's alter-ego Geraldine McQueen's Once Upon A Christmas Song, Leona Lewis (currently No 1 with Run], and Terry Wogan and Aled Jones.
"But the reality is that while they may sell in the tens of thousands, Alexandra will sell in the hundreds of thousands."
Having started out as a mail-room boy at EMI Records, Cowell is now widely seen as the real winner of the new brand of talent shows that grew from 2001's Pop Idol, in which he first appeared as a judge.
The following year, he took the idea across the Atlantic and created American Idol, which regularly enjoys tens of millions of viewers.
Both shows' extensive audition processes, in which thousands of young hopefuls queue for the chance to sing in front of the celebrity judges – and high-production values have made them stand out from earlier television talent shows, such as Opportunity Knocks and New Faces.
Last month, Cowell was voted 16th in a list of the 25 smartest people in American television by Entertainment Weekly.
Leona Lewis, who featured at No 9 in the most famous list, is by far the most successful of all the previous X Factor winners, having sold 4.5 million albums and singles.