Steve Brookstein – 2004
The first ever X Factor winner has learned the hard way that a win isn’t an automatic route to long-term success. After the initial wave of glory died down, Brookstein was dropped by his SonyBMG label just eight months into his contract and his second album debuted at number 165 in the charts. Ouch. He’s since had some pretty public rows with Simon Cowell over his treatment on the show and has written a tell-all autobiography Getting Over The X.
Shayne Ward – 2005
Ward has fared a little better than Brookstein. His debut album, That’s My Goal (which featured The X Factor’s first number one Christmas single) went platinum four times over in Ireland and once in the UK. His follow-up album Breathless did even better in Ireland. Cowell dropped him in 2011 after poor album sales from his third LP, but he’s since carved out a career as a reality and stage star by appearing on Dancing on Ice and 80s musical Rock of Ages.
Leona Lewis – 2006
Remember that beautiful first audition to Somewhere Over The Rainbow which had Cowell grinning like the Cheshire Cat? It was the start of what has been a pretty brilliant recording career for Lewis, netting her three Grammy and seven Brit award nominations as well as 20 million record sales. She’s now estimated to be worth around £15 million. Who says nice girls finish last?
Leon Jackson – 2007
A Leona-level of success the following year for Leon Jackson was sadly not to be. Like Brookstein, his first single When You Believe sold at lightning speed, but what followed was a quick slide into obscurity. He was dropped by Cowell in 2008 and though he’s kept writing and recording has failed to have any real chart hits since.
Alexandra Burke – 2008
Burke had a pretty good run of it with those punchy, Whitney Houston vocals of hers. After being mentored by Cheryl Cole – which peaked with THAT Beyonce duet in the final – she followed up with a number one album and even a modelling deal with fashion house Dolce and Gabbana. Though she hasn’t quite enjoyed the international success of Leona, her latest performance in The Bodyguard at the Adelphi Theatre has earned her rave reviews. She’s said to be worth around £4 million.
Joe McElderry – 2009
After he won The X Factor babyfaced McElderry lost out on a Christmas number one after a Facebook campaign to put Rage Against The Machine’s ‘Killing In The Name Of’ up there instead. He’s since turned lacklustre record sales (which led him to be dropped by SyCo in 2011) into a successful reality career, winning Popstar to Opera Star in 2011 and The Jump in 2014. He’s now preparing to play Joseph in a musical theatre tour next year.
Matt Cardle – 2010
Cardle’s story feels like one of the unluckiest, mostly because he arrived in the same year as that little-known band One Direction, who despite coming third went onto achieve stratospheric success. Rebecca Ferguson, who came second to Cardle, has also received critical acclaim (if not quite the same level of mania) for her follow-up work. When he was dropped in 2012 he criticized Cowell for allowing music by the runners up to be released before him, though despite all this he’s stayed close to his mentor Dannii Minogue and recently received wide critical praise for his role in West End musical Memphis.
Little Mix – 2011
They were cobbled together One Direction-style from four solo auditionees but Little Mix have since enjoyed chart success in the UK and – most crucially – the US, where they broke the Spice Girls’ record of the highest debut chart position from a UK group. Right now they’re touring America to promote their new album, which includes their guilty pleasure track Black Magic.
James Arthur – 2012
It all began so well. And had Arthur not let bad judgement and a hot temper get the better of him, his music career could still be on track. Since his win it’s been a conveyor belt of public Twitter spats - most notably over the use of homophobic lyrics in his songs – and bad kiss and tell stories. He’s also burned pretty much every showbiz bridge going by publicly slagging off (among others) Simon Cowell, Matt Lucas, One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson and Rita Ora. Despite all this there could be a reality TV light at the end of the tunnel: Arthur is rumoured to be in the new I’m A Celebrity line-up, though with his track record he might not make so many friends in the jungle.
Sam Bailey – 2013
Former prison warden Sam was a refreshingly mature X Factor winner, but despite a best-selling album and a leg supporting Beyonce on the UK leg of her tour, she has now parted ways with Syco.
Ben Haenow – 2014
He ditched his job as a van driver after winning The X Factor in 2014 and recorded his first album in LA under Syco, but Ben's stardom didn't last long. Simon dropped his winner after just a year, and Ben's last single only reached 21 in the charts... Ouch.
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