One Direction might be the most famous band to come from The X Factor UK, but surprisingly, the talented boys didn’t actually come in first place. Instead, Leona Lewis and Little Mix are a few famous faces that actually reigned their year on the show.
To find out who else made the number one spot and what has happened to them since, here’s a list of X Factor winners and their success after the show…
Year Won: 2004
Steve was the first contestant to ever win The X Factor and being coached by Simon Cowell, there’s no surprise why! His career started off positively with his first single Against All Odds going straight to number one. Yet, he was dropped by his record company Sony after just a year, having argued with mentor Simon Cowell. Over the years, he’s appeared in musicals and has remained in the public eye due to his controversial opinions.
Year Won: 2005
Runner-Up: Andy Abraham
After bagging the number one spot on the show, Shayne went on to reign the Christmas chart with his single That’s My Goal. Following his chart success, he went on to release four albums before following a career in musical theater. In 2015, he took a dive at acting and appeared on the TV drama Coronation Street for three years. Since then, there have been rumors that he’s moved onto other acting gigs and is set to return to music.
Year Won: 2006
Runner-Up: Ray Quinn
Despite winning the show over a decade ago, Leona is one of the most successful X Factor winners of all time, having sold more than 20 million records worldwide. As a firm favorite from the start of the show, it comes as no surprise that her winner’s single A Moment Like This broke a world record and was dubbed the second best selling single of 2006.
Since then, she’s changed labels and is currently signed to Universal Music’s Island Records, and has released five successful albums. She’s also performed in the Broadway musical Cats and has regularly appeared as a guest judge on The X Factor show.
Year Won: 2007
Runner-Up: Rhydian Roberts
2007’s winner Leon Jackson was more of a one-year-wonder, compared to his previous contestants. His winner’s single When You Believe was a huge success, but his career ended there. After releasing a poor-performing album, he was dropped by Sony BMG and decided to drop singing and stick to song-writing.
Year Won: 2008
Alexandra Burke reigned the 2008 singing competition, beating popular boy band JLS. Over the last decade, she has released two successful albums, was the face of Dolce and Gabbana and performed in West End hits, The Bodyguard and Sister Act. In 2017, she also came close to winning Strictly Come Dancing.
Year Won: 2009
Runner-Up: Olly Murs
Joe McElderry won the 2009 series when he appeared for a second time on the show beating finalist, Olly Murs. Despite having killer vocals, he was dropped by his record label in 2011 and joined a rival show OperaStar in which he won. Like many other of his predecessors, he went on to join a musical called Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat in 2015.
Year Won: 2010
Runner-Up: Rebecca Ferguson
Since beating One Direction in the live finals, Matt Cardle went on to release three successful albums. However, he left his label early on when he realized they were paying more attention to the boyband. In his later career, Matt performed in musicals called Memphis and Strictly Ballroom.
Year Won: 2011
Runner-Up: Marcus Collins
After being put together on the show, the girl group has grown from strength to strength in terms of their relationship and popularity. Since their win, the girls have supported Ariana Grande on tour, have gone on their own world tour, and have released 5 chart-topping albums. They’ve also developed and sold their personal merchandise including t-shirts, dolls, bags and lashes.
It’s safe to say Little Mix are probably the most popular winners and have been most successful following their win on the talent show – they’ve sold more than 50 million albums and have broken records The Spice Girls previously held!
Who is the best singer in Little Mix? Check out our ranking and let us know your thoughts!
Year Won: 2012
Runner-Up: Jahméne Douglas
James Arthur stunned the nation in 2012 with his unique voice and killer lyrics and went on to dominate the charts with his winner’s single Impossible. The track was the fastest selling X Factor single ever, having sold over one million copies.
After releasing his first album, his success all came crashing down when he made a homophobic comment and was immediately dropped from his label. After battling his mental health disorder, he teamed up with Columbia Island Records and came back with a bang in 2015 with his album Back From the Edge. James then went on to release two more albums and embark on major tours.
Year Won: 2013
Runner-Up: Nicholas McDonald
The prison-officer-turned-singer stunned viewers with her powerful voice when she auditioned for the 2013 competition. Following her win alongside judges, Gary Barlow, Sharon Osbourne, Louis Walsh and Nicole Scherzinger, Sam dominated the charts with her number one single Skyscraper. However, like many prior contestants, Sam left SyCo records by 2015 and followed the music theater route accepting roles in Chicago, Friends and Vampire Rocks.
Year Won: 2014
Runner-Up: Fleur East
Despite beating Fleur East to The X Factor crown, Ben has had far less success than the curly-haired queen. Although his winner’s single topped the Christmas charts, after his duet with Kelly Clarkson, Ben disappeared from the music scene. He departed from SyCo records in 2016 and hasn’t released anything substantial since.
Year Won: 2015
Runner-Up: Reggie ‘n’ Bollie
Louisa Johnson is the youngest singer to have won the singing contest, and although she has everything going for her, she failed to make a huge imprint on the music scene. She toured with Olly Murs and has released a single with Clean Bandit called Tears, but has yet to create a chart-topping album.
Year Won: 2016
Runner-Up: Saara Aalto
Matt scored himself a hit-single when he teamed up with Sean Paul and Enrique Iglesias for their track Súbeme La Radio, but his solo album Trouble failed to make the same impact. A year later, he was let go from his record deal and joined the musical theater stage by performing in Madagascar the Musical.
Year Won: 2017
Runner-Up: Grace Davies
The boyband was a breath of fresh air when they hit The X Factor stage and were a firm favorite throughout the show with their unique content and dance moves. After their win, Rak-Su succeeded with their own track Dimelo, which featured Wyclef Jean and Naughty Boy. They also supported Little Mix on tour and have dominated Tik Tok with their fun videos.
Year Won: 2018
Runner-Up: Scarlett Lee
Dalton Harris reached number four in the charts with his single The Power of Love (featuring James Arthur). Yet besides his strong start, he has stayed pretty quiet and failed to release more music. In 2019, he came out of hiding with his single Cry and has been focusing on finding himself and his style of music since.
Over the 15 series, The X Factor has provided much entertainment and has curated great artists that we love today. Whether they were a huge success like Little Mix or they flopped like Leon Jackson, their talent has shined no matter what – and we enjoyed watching their journeys every Christmas!
Let us know who your favorite past X Factor winner was by leaving a comment in the section below!
Want more from the world of TV? Check out our list of the most popular TV series of 2020!