X Factor's Little Mix hit the big time
It WAS a sensational end to this year's X Factor final as Little Mix became the first girlband to win the show in a €1m production.
But Irish judge Louis Walsh has revealed how he'll be happy to put 2011 behind him after his "annus horriblis".
Speaking to the Herald backstage at Wembley Arena last night, he admitted that it had been a particularly tough year for him.
Last month saw Navan man Leonard Watters convicted of making two false reports to gardai that the X Factor judge had assaulted him in a Dublin nightclub.
As Louis attempts to put the controversy behind him, he told the Herald he is looking forward to a brighter 2012 as he jets off for a well-earned break in the Florida sunshine.
"I've learnt a lot, I've learnt who my friends are and I'm very, very wary now. I'm wary of people but I've learnt an awful lot. It's a shame but that's the way the business is. People will do anything for anything," he said.
Louis also said he was still in the dark as to whether media mogul Simon Cowell will bring him back for a ninth series. And the mogul will keep Louis, and his fellow judges Gary Barlow, Kelly Rowland and Tulisa guessing for another couple of months.
"I don't know - none of us do. But it's great to be even on the show. I would love to come back with Gary and Tulisa.
"I don't know if Kelly's going to come back. But it just worked, we all had good chemistry and we all got on incredibly well backstage.
"Yes, we fight for our acts but we're still the best of friends," he said.
"Tonight just blew everyone out of the water. It was the best final ever, with 10,000 people for two nights. It was electric. I didn't have any acts left but I'm so happy that Little Mix won because they're going to be a massive girlband and have success like JLS and One Direction."
Louis hit the headlines at the weekend after revealing how he had a €30,000 hair transplant carried out by Dr Maurice Collins - one of his guests at last night's show.
But Louis said he would draw the line at anything more radical. "No, that's it. I would never have plastic surgery or anything like Botox. That's it for me," he said.
Last night saw Little Mix - Jesy Nelson (20), Perrie Edwards (18), Leigh-Anne Pinnock (19) and Jade Thirlwall (18) - beat off competition from Marcus Collins to be crowned the champions.
More than 10,000 screaming fans were there to witness their victory, with performances on the night from Coldplay.
Last night marked the first time the super group played at the show, and they admitted to being "very nervous" before going on stage.
But the Herald can reveal how they forked out a cool €100,000 for their spectacular light show. Upon entering the venue, each member of the audience were given a pair of customised electronic bracelets which cost €5 a pop.
"Coldplay just wanted to do something a bit different for their first appearance and it looked absolutely amazing on TV," said a source.
Another headline act were Irish chart-toppers Westlife, who have performed on the show every series since it started eight years ago.
Band member Kian Egan flew home immediately after the show on a private jet back to Knock Airport, as he was eager to be with heavily pregnant wife Jodi Albert.
Shane Filan, who was there with glamorous wife Gillian, explained how it felt "so natural" to be performing at the massive venue. The boyband have now set a record for the act to take to the stage at Wembley the most times, having clocked up 29 appearances there.
"It was just amazing, it felt so comfortable to be on stage tonight and the audience were brilliant," he said.
The aftershow party was in full swing in Louis Walsh's dressing room following the final, with plenty of familiar faces spotted in the corridors.
And judge Kelly Rowland was obviously a closet Westlife fan, given her reaction upon spotting them in Louis Walsh's dressing room afterwards.
"You guys are the s***!" she said, before giving them all hugs and posing for pictures with them.
Also in attendance was Nicky Byrne's good pal, Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given with his glamorous wife Jane.
She explained how she was really looking forward to heading over to Poland for the Euro championships next summer to cheer on the boys in green. And despite the abundance of complimentary champagne flowing backstage, Shay made sure to stick to the water all night. "I'm in training so I don't drink at all," he said.
Also there was I'm A Celebrity star Sinitta, fresh from her stint on the Late Late Show on Friday night. She was with her new pal, TOWIE hunk Mark Wright.