If you think the deepest thing about Simon Cowell are his signature V-necks, a different man accepted MIPCOM’s Personality of the Year award Tuesday night in Cannes.
Cowell, who was honored for changing both the music and the TV industries when he reinvented the talent show and format formula a decade ago, became choked up on stage describing how the birth of his son, Eric, changed his life and how he wished that his late father, also named Eric, was there to see him accept the award.
“This whole year, starting with Eric, has just been glorious. He changed my whole life for the better,” Cowell told the audience assembled in the ballroom of the Carlton Hotel. He said he was humbled by the award, as well as being able to even make TV, which seemed out of reach when he was growing up.
The evening was opened by a special set from X-Factor U.K.-winner Ella Henderson, who sang an acoustic version of her number one British chart topper “Ghost” and a selection of new songs from her new album, which dropped Monday.
Rocker-turned-reality star Gene Simmons and ex-CNN host Piers Morgan were in the crowd to congratulate Cowell, along with Morgan Spurlock, Sir Philip Green, Maker Studios’ chief content officer Erin McPherson and Disney president Anne Sweeney.
A tribute video was a who’s who of the global stage from the boys of One Direction to U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minster David Cameron.
“What you may not have in tact, you certainly have in talent,” said the British leader.
Politics aside, Rupert Murdoch and former host and bickering partner Ryan Seacrest (“He’s an inspiration from everybody in the industry”) were bookended by models Heidi Klum and Bar Rafeali (“I usually win sexiest woman of the year awards, but personality is important too,” she joked), as well as Oprah Winfrey and Harvey Weinstein.
In the video, Weinstein said Cowell changed the industry with style and class, adding that he is “just such a good person.” An always-positive Oprah praised his candidness as a judge: “He is a master because he has turned honesty into an art form.”
The MIPCOM team and tribute also recognized his philanthropic and charitable work in Kenya, Haiti and on behalf of animals and animal rights’ charities.
Cowell noted that during yesterday’s keynote speech, X-Factor formats lit up most of the world map, with Mongolia being the most glaring exemption. “For some reason it just pissed me off,” he said of the blank spot, adding that Mongolia bought the format today.
This article originally appeared in THR.com.