X Factor 2013 winner Sam Bailey was 'secretly mentored' throughout her time on the show, it's been claimed.
The singer won the series in this month's final, but new claims suggest that she may have had an unfair advantage.
Sam told previously how she was initially rejected by Simon Cowell as part of a duo in her teens, and again when auditioning for The X Factor in 2007.
The Daily Mail now reports that Sam's success this year was down to PR guru Max Clifford, who encouraged Simon to give her a chance.
"As a result the music guru and his fellow executives were amazed by her voice and Sam went from strength-to-strength through the televised rounds of public votes," a source told the newspaper.
The supposed insider claimed that Sam's 'mentoring' had become one of the show's best kept secrets... until now.
They explained: "Nothing of Max's involvement in the years leading up to Sam's fame could have been publicised beforehand because people would have argued Sam she had an unfair advantage.
"His involvement needed to remain under wraps - in fact, Max's role in talking to Simon about her talents, was one of the show's best kept secrets."
70-year-old Max Clifford however played down his involvement, telling the newspaper: "Sam's voice bowled me over.
"All I did for her was to open a few doors and talk to several influential people. The rest was up to her - and now she's big-time. But her success is all really down to her and her alone."
Reps for Sam did not respond to requests for comment.