The X Factor has featured some memorable characters over the last three years. We’ve seen pub singers, strippers, bin men and choir mistresses reach the closing stages of the talent competition. But what has happened to these contestants since their success on the show? Who’s still top of the pops, and who’s fallen to the bottom of the bargain bin…?
The pub singer from south London won the first X Factor contest in 2004. His performance at the final became best-known for provoking Sharon Osbourne’s outburst on live television, during which she called him ‘over-confident’ and ‘a fake’. Steve’s first single, a cover of Against All Odds, went to number one in the UK singles charts. His debut album Heart and Soul was also a chart-topper. However, he was dropped by Sony BMG record label in 2005, reportedly following a fall-out with his X Factor mentor Simon Cowell. Steve, 38, was last spotted entertaining the crowds on summer ferries in June, along with other ex-X Factor stars Chico Slimani and Journey South.
Mentored and now managed by Louis Walsh, Shayne won the second X Factor contest in 2005. The good-looking northern lad, a former shop assistant, is often described as ‘A Manc Justin Timberlake’. Shayne, 22, scored a Christmas number one and a Brit Award nomination with his first single, That’s My Goal. He then disappeared from the British music scene to tour abroad, achieving number one singles across Asia. He is now launching a UK comeback – new single If That’s Okay With You is due out on 20 August.
Andy narrowly missed out on winning the second series – Shayne Ward pulled in just over one per cent more votes than him in the final show. Nevertheless, the former bin man impressed the judges with his covers of soul and motown classics. His debut album, The Impossible Dream, went platinum in the UK. Andy, 43, is signed to Louis Walsh’s management team and is currently working on his third album.
Brenda, 38, made it to the semi-finals in the second series. An orphan who was raised by her grandparents, she began singing in her local Sunday school choir in Luton as a young girl and later became the choir mistress. After her success on the show, Brenda was offered the role of Matron “Mama” Morton in the West End show Chicago. She is currently playing Pearl in the musical Carmen Jones, as well as doing her own gigs across the country.
Chico is one of the most memorable X Factor contestants, despite only reaching the second series quarter-finals. He was raised in Morocco and worked as a goatherd, a hairdresser and a stripper before auditioning for the show. Simon Cowell walked out of Chico’s first audition, calling his falsetto singing style ‘loathsome’ and branding fellow judges ‘“pathetic’ for allowing him to progress to the next round. However, Chico’s energetic pop performances eventually won over Cowell and the public. His first single It’s Chico Time knocked Madonna off the top spot in 2006. His new single Coca Cola Bottle Body is due out on 24 September. Chico, 36, also co-wrote and starred in the BAFTA-nominated short film Winner Takes All. He is currently working on a new film called Lunchbox, based on his days as a stripper.
Last year’s winner Leona is perhaps The X Factor’s biggest success story so far. Her mentor Simon Cowell claimed that she was the show’s best ever contestant. Leona, 22, boasted an amazingly powerful voice and performed big ballads such as Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You during the show. Her first single, a cover of Kelly Clarkson’s A Moment Like This, scored a Christmas number one and a prestigious Ivor Novello Award. Leona has multi-million pound record contracts in both the UK and the US. She is currently working on her debut album.
Cheeky Ray was last year’s runner-up. The student sang Rat Pack classics, wore dapper suits and even sported a gelled quiff for his performances. Ray, 18, released an album of easy-listening covers last year, and he is due to start a UK tour in September. Ray is currently appearing alongside Bonnie Langford as a judge on ITV1’s talent contest Baby Ballroom. Before entering The X Factor, Ray had been studying performing arts in Liverpool and had acted in Brookside.