He's a music industry heavyweight and reportedly The X Factor's most brutal judge, so how did Antonio "L.A." Reid get to his power position?

Credit: Fox © 2011 Fox Broadcasting Co. Photo: L.A. Reid Bio

Like many successful record label executives, L.A. started out as a musician. He played drums in bands while growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and later joined R&B band The Deele, who had a hit in 1988 with "Two Occasions."

Shortly after the band broke up, L.A. and bandmate Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds founded LaFace Records at parent company Arista/BMG in 1989. At LaFace, L.A. signed a string of successful musicians including Usher, TLC, and Outkast.

After selling LaFace to BMG in 2000, L.A. took over as head of Arista Records. He signed Avril Lavigne and P!nk, who went on to immortalize him in her song "Don't Let Me Get Me."

In 2004, when Sony and BMG merged, L.A. was released from Arista, only to land at Island Def Jam soon after. L.A. helped bring Mariah Carey back to success with her 2005 smash The Emancipation of Mimi. L.A. and Mariah are still close friends, and it's rumored that she'll also join The X Factor this fall.

Other superstars L.A. helped mentor while at Island Def Jam include Kanye West, Rihanna, and Justin Bieber, another act who is likely to pop up on The X Factor this fall. L.A. stepped down in March 2011 to accept his judging spot on the Fox series, but he quickly found a new music-industry home as head of Sony Music's Epic Label Group, which includes Epic and Jive Records.