X Factor hopeful thrown out of Miss GB

Eccentric X Factor hopeful Shirlena Johnson has been thrown out of this year's Miss Great Britain contest after organisers discovered her real age when they watched her TV audition.

Millions of viewers saw Johnson, a single mother, get through to the boot camp stage of the X Factor on Saturday night after she performed, in leopard skin leggings, a bizarre rendition of the Duffy track Mercy.

Johnson told the X Factor judges that she was 30, but the age on her online Miss Great Britain form was 28, said a spokeswoman for the contest, which is for those aged 29 and under.

The aspiring star had applied for the competition in February and was due to compete in the next regional heat, Miss Essex GB, on Saturday, spokeswoman Charlotte Ellis said.

She had failed to get through the Miss London and Miss South East regional heats.

Miss Great Britain chief executive Liz Fuller said: "It's such a shame to lose Shirlena, though she did apologise. I have great warmth for this girl as being one of the most eccentric contestants I had. I hope the advice I gave will help her."

Johnson was seen shrieking, wailing, kicking and moaning during her performance on the X Factor, and got through despite confessing that she had forgotten the words to her song.

Simon Cowell, who voted Johnson through, told her: "It was like a musical exorcism," but added: "I have to say I love you. You are completely crazy but I like that. You are fantastically nuts."

The show returned for its seventh series on Saturday night and was watched by 12.6 million viewers, a record for an X Factor opening episode.

Miss Great Britain celebrates its 65th anniversary this year.

A friend of Johnson, who has a three-year-old daughter, said she had put down her age incorrectly on the Miss Great Britain form and had tried without success to correct it.

Ron Street said: "She put down the wrong age and tried to correct it but couldn't get back online. She gave her right age on the X Factor so there was no deliberate lying."

Johnson was barred from Miss Great Britain as the X Factor was embroiled in a row with viewers who have accused the show's editors of using technology to improve some of the contestants' voices.

Fans have taken to internet forums to rail against the use of "autotuning" during the programme, particularly with teenage contestant Gamu Nhengu, who sang a version of the Katrina And The Waves' hit Walking On Sunshine.

After hearing her effort, Cowell told the 18-year-old from Clackmannanshire, Scotland, she was "really talented" before she was unanimously voted through to the next round.

But some viewers went online to accuse the producers of using autotune - often seen in studios to improve performances by correcting pitch and disguising off-key mistakes.

In June, a beauty queen was stripped of her title in the Miss England contest after it emerged that she lied about her age and where she lived.

Laura Anness, 27, was crowned Miss Cornwall after claiming to be from Saltash and 22. She was actually 27 and from Devon.

She later entered Miss Great Britain, with its higher upper age limit, and won Miss Plymouth City. She will be competing in the final in November.

In January Danielle Lloyd had her Miss Great Britain title reinstated after the model had been stripped of the 2006 crown for posing nude for Playboy.

The contest's new boss, Ms Fuller, said Lloyd should have been given better career support.

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