A List of X Factor Winners – Their Success After the Show

x factor winners

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…

Steve Brookstein

Year Won: 2004
Runner-Up: G4

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.

steve brookstein
stevebrookstein | Instagram

Shayne Ward

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.

shayne ward
shaynetward | Instagram

Leona Lewis

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.

leona lewis
thexfactor | Instagram

Leon Jackson

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.

leon jackson
leonjacksonmusic | Instagram

Alexandra Burke

Year Won: 2008
Runner-Up: JLS

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.

alexandra burke
alexandraburke | Instagram

Joe McElderry

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.

Joe McElderry
joemcelderryofficial | Instagram

Matt Cardle

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.

matt cardle
mattcardleofficial | Instagram

Little Mix

Year Won: 2011
Runner-Up: Marcus Collins

After being put together on the show, the Confetti 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 6 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!

little mix x factor
thexfactor | Instagram

Who is the best singer in Little Mix? Check out our ranking and let us know your thoughts!

James Arthur

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.

james arthur
thexfactor | Instagram

Sam Bailey

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.

sam bailey
thexfactor | Instagram

Ben Haenow

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.

ben haenow
benhaenow | Instagram

Louisa Johnson

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.

louisa johnson
thexfactor | Instagram

Matt Terry

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.

Matt Terry
thexfactor | Instagram


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.

thexfactor | Instagram

Dalton Harris

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.

Dalton Harris
thexfactor | Instagram

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!


Tale Teller

  • Joanna Zambas

    Joanna has a history in the fashion world; having studied lifestyle and fashion journalism at BA and MA level, she then proceeded to work in the hustle and bustle of fashion PR. These days you can find her working in the marketing sphere, content writing and religiously following the ins and outs of the entertainment world. She’s obsessed with celebrity style and the Kardashians – but who isn’t?!

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1 year ago

Joe McElderry is my favorite. I think he has the best voice ever.

Kira Dwyer
2 years ago

Although she didn’t win it Rebecca Fergus was great and should have won. Alexander Burke is my favourite winner

2 years ago

Leona Lewis is my favorite. I think she’s amazing.