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X Factor winners now – sex addict, ‘homophobia’, rehab and ‘skin bleaching’ pain

The X Factor dominated screens and almost guaranteed the Christmas number one single for seventeen years, raking in 10million viewers in its heyday.

Launching the careers of stars including Little Mix, One Direction, and Leona Lewis, Simon Cowell’s show became a pop culture time capsule, the success of which many subsequent competition shows tried, and failed, to replicate.

After declining viewing figures and two years without a series, Simon has confirmed today that the show has been canned, with “no plans” to renew it.

Sources close to the music mogul suggest there is very little appetite for the series to return, even if auditions were possible for a 2022 series.

Instead, he will be focusing on his brand new game show, Walk The Line, as well as America’s Got Talent and a Vegas spin-off show he has in the works.

The winning act is often cursed with a poisoned chalice, with the runners up generally achieving better chart success and more fame.

Some acts have gone platinum, others have been marred by scandal or fade into obscurity.

Let’s take a look at where the X Factor winners are now.

Dalton Harris – 2018



Dalton Harris blew the judges away on The X Factor but has not yet managed solo success




Jamaican-born Dalton Harris wowed the judges and viewers at home right from the start of his X Factor journey, having enjoyed some success in music previously in Jamaica.

Dalton came from poverty and and had an incredibly hard start in life with around 22 siblings. His mother and father were never together, his dad refused to admit he was his son, and he was reportedly abused as a child.

During the 2018 final, he once again blew everyone away, including guest star Nile Rodgers who said he performed perfectly every time – a near impossible task.

His winner’s song was a duet with 2012 X Factor winner James Arthur of The Power of Love, but Dalton has stayed largely out of the spotlight since.

In 2019, he released the song Cry, and on its day of release, he performed the song on the Live Final of The X Factor: The Band.

Rak-Su – 2017



Mustafa Rahimtulla, Myles Stephenson, Ashley Fongho and Jamaal Shurland of Rak-Su
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Rak-Su blew the audience and judges away weekly with their live performances and went on to win the show in 2017, already having a huge (largely female!) fanbase.

Four of their self-penned songs reached the top of the iTunes chart while they were on the show but weren’t eligible for the official charts.

Their debut single Dimelo was written by Wyclef and Naughty Boy and charted at number 2.

The band were dealt a blow in April 2018 though when they were jetting out of the country in a bid to crack America. Band member Ashley Fongho was denied a visa for a pinching a T-shirt when he was 13 and was forced to let the other lads head off without him.

Rak-Su supported Little Mix on the Summer tour in 2018 and the same year released their self-titled debut album.

Miles starred on I’m a Celebrity in 2019, where he placed 7th.

Matt Terry – 2016



X Factor winner Matt Terry
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Almost a year after winning the show, in 2016 the release of Matt Terry’s debut album was finally confirmed, with the first single from it, Sucker For You, dropping on Friday, October 13.

But the album became the lowest charting debut from an X Factor winner .

“I’m so excited for people to hear my new material. So far people know me as the guy who won X Factor. But when I look back on this time last year, I can’t quite believe how far I’ve come,” he told Digital Spy at the time.

“I’m so grateful for where I am now, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I can’t wait for the next step in my journey.”

In June 2018, Matt was dropped by RCA Records, but the next month, he made his acting debut in the UK production of Madagascar – The Musical.

In 2019, he returned to the Madagascar musical, portraying the role of Alex the Lion.

Louisa Johnson – 2015



Louisa is the youngest ever X Factor winner
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Louisa Johnson was just 17 when she won the show, making her the youngest winner ever. However, her debut single, Forever Young, only charted at number nine – which was an all-time low for a show champion.

In May 2016 she reached number five with her Clean Bandit track, Tears, and she featured on the Grenfell Tower fire charity single, Bridge Over Troubled Water in 2017.

In 2018 she released Yes featuring 2 Chainz but in July the same year she announced she had parted company with Syco, insisting it was a mutual decision and there were no bad feelings.

She also announced that she would be releasing a single on Sony’s Ministry of Sound label, and has had success with singles including Here We Go Again, a collaboration with Sigma.

In 2018, Louisa faced backlash for tweets she had made as a schoolgirl in 2013, which included the repeated use of a homophobic slur.

She apologised for the tweets, saying, “I was young and foolish, and hanging around with the wrong crowd & didn’t know any better”.

Ben Haenow – 2014



Ben Haenow was dropped by Syco after one year
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Ben Haenow won the eleventh series of The X Factor in 2014. His debut single, a cover of OneRepublic’s Something I Need, was released in December 2014.

On the same day as Ben’s 30th birthday on 6 January, it was announced that he had been signed by Syco Music, and he has been spending time in Los Angeles recording his debut album.

But his X Factor career burned bright – and fast – and he was unceremoniously ditched by the label one year later.

However, happy times arrived in August 2017 when he married his long-term partner Jessica Jones.

The 32-year-old singer wed Jessica in an intimate ceremony in Italy with his grandmother conducting the service.

“We got married in a small town in Northern Italy, where my nan grew up, near the river Brenta,” he confirmed to Mail Online.



The happy couple got married in 2017 after nine years together
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“We had a small ceremony of closest friends and family. I arrived nervous and excited for the biggest day of my life and left with the wife of my dreams after a fairytale wedding.”

He added: “This is the beginning of our happy ever after.”

In the same year, he launched a comeback with three singles and an album, Alive. However it only reached number 74 on the iTunes chart and didn’t even make a dent in the official charts.

In 2020, Ben recorded an acoustic cover version of the Blondie hit Heart of Glass, which featured on a Cafe Covers album.

He also released If You’re Lonely, a song dedicated to those suffering from mental health problems as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

All proceeds from the track went to Mind, a mental health charity based in England and Wales.

Sam Bailey – 2013



Sam says she does not want son Tommy to ever feel ashamed of his autism




Sam Bailey beat rivals “little” Nicholas McDonald and Luke “hairy” Friend to victory in 2013. Her winner’s single, a cover of Demi Lovato’s Skyscraper was the first since 2010 to take the Christmas number one spot.

Since then, she’s supported Beyonce at a live show in Birmingham and had the first X Factor number one album since Alexandra Burke’s 2009 debut.

There was some controversy about her previous music industry experience. Despite being billed as a prison warden, she was revealed to have performed on cruise ships, in clubs and at music festivals for years before hitting big on the reality show.

She released her autobiography and in February 2015, it was announced via Sam’s Twitter account that she had parted ways with Syco Music.

In 2015 she won the role of Mamma Morton in the UK tour of Chicago, and went on a tour of Butlins holiday camps in 2016. She self-funded the release of her album, Sing My Heart Out, which she toured around the UK in March 2017. The single of the same name charted at number 33.



Sam broke down in tears as she talked about how much Tommy had struggled in school
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She has also starred in panto and in Fat Friends – The Musical, and joined the charitable music project Stronger Together to support of LGBTI people living in fear in Chechnya.

Sam then starred in the Vampires Rock Musical tour, and her song Wonderful was later part of the original soundtrack of the film High Strung: Free Dance.

The star currently lives in Leciester with husband Craig Pearson, their three children – Tommy, Brooke and Miley, and their deaf Springer Spaniel, Molly.

Tommy has autism, and Sam opened up on Loose Women about how tough it can be to parent a child with the condition, and said he struggled in school with cruel bullies.

James Arthur – 2012



James Arthur has spoken openly about his battle with addiction




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James Arthur won series nine of the X Factor, and his winner’s single Impossible hit the number one spot, selling more than 1.25million copies in the UK.

He was knocked off the top spot by the Justice Collective’s Hillsborough Disaster charity single He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother, which was that year’s Christmas number one.

His eponymous debut album went in at number two in the UK, but after that, the wheels started to fall off. He became involved in a number of controversies, most notably about the use of homophobic lyrics in a song, which led to high profile Twitter face-offs with celebrities including Frankie Boyle and Matt Lucas.

iTunes even offered refunds on the album due to public outcry, and he dropped from Syco in 2014 despite his single Impossible being downloaded three million times and his debut album selling 400,000.

He has since said of the dark time: “James went on: “I don’t remember anything that went on back then, I was seriously f****d up. It’s well ­documented. It’s no big secret I was on ­drugs then.”



James, seen here with Simon Cowell, has achieved huge success with his solo career




But James has since managed to turn his life around and regain his past success, with massive chart success and collaborations with artists including Sigala.

He’s since been re-signed by Syco, and opened up about his mental health battles on This Morning.

“I couldn’t deal with the pressure. Mainly the pressure I was putting on myself,” James said.

“I wanted to be the best ever X Factor winner there had ever been. I got very lost.

“I would focus on the negativity. I was still a lost little boy and I didn’t know how to cope with it.”

The star also revealed a sex addiction left him contacting hundreds of women online – losing count how many he slept with after becoming addicted to smoking cannabis.

He also battled more agony in 2016 when he was bottled on the head in his hometown, with the jealous thug later jailed for five-and-a-half years, The Sun reported.

He also recently revealed he had become addicted to online poker during lockdown, blowing £370 “every couple of hours”.



James blew £370 “every few hours” on gambling sites in lockdown
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James revealed: “At the beginning of lockdown I was deep in the PokerStars app. I was entering $500 tournaments every couple of hours, just sitting on that app all day.

“I deleted the app for a little while as I sensed I was getting a bit carried away.”

He also started smoking cannabis again to cope with the stress and boredom.

“I was a bit of a wreck. I started smoking weed heavily again,” he added to The Sun’s Bizarre Column.

James also began eating a lot as he thought that it would be a while before he saw anyone again.

He had previously admitted to losing around £300,000 on gambling apps, and said he “didn’t realise” he was getting into financial trouble after placing a few “big bets” on footie matches.

However, James insisted he “didn’t have a gambling problem” but said he considered it “a blessing” when he was barred from using mobile betting apps.

Little Mix – 2011



Little Mix’s Jade Thirlwall, Jesy Nelson, Perrie Edwards, and Leigh-Anne Pinnock




Cobbled together as strangers during the audition process, Little Mix have since gone on to become one of the most successful girl bands of all time.

Their winner’s single, a cover of Damien Rice’s Cannonball, charted at number one the week before Christmas, but was knocked off by the Military Wives.

Since then, bandmates Perrie Edwards, Jesy Nelson, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Jade Thirlwall have had unprecedented success in the US, earning the highest debut US album chart position by a British group – an accolade previously held by the Spice Girls.

The girls have enjoyed five UK number ones and sold more than 60million records worldwide.



Perrie Edwards (left) and Leigh-Anne Pinnock (right) are both pregnant
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In 2020, Jesy announced she was leaving the band due to mental health struggles, and instead embarking on a solo career.

Shortly after becoming the first girlband to win Best British Band at the BRITs earlier this year, Leigh-Anne and Perrie announced within weeks of each other that they were both expecting babies with their respective partners, both footballers.

To mark their ten-year anniversary, waxworks of the band were unveiled at Madame Tussauds this week.

Matt Cardle – 2010



Matt Cardle has become a stage star since his time on The X Factor
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Essex heartthrob Matt Cardle triumphed in the 2010 X Factor over the juggernaut that became One Direction.

His winner’s single – a cover of Biffy Clyro’s only ballad, Many of Horror (retitled When We Collide) – regained Syco’s grip on the festive top spot, where it stayed for three weeks.

His debut album, Letters, stayed on the chart for 16 weeks, peaking at number two. Unfortunately, follow-up singles fared less well and he parted ways with Syco and Columbia records in 2012.

He also collaborated with Mel C on the track Loving You which reached number 14 in the singles chart in 2013.

In 2016 he found himself caught in the middle of a lawsuit, with the writers of his hit Amazing, suing Ed Sheeran for almost £14m.



Meghan Markle is said to have exchanged messages with Matt Cardle back in 2015
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Chart-topping writers Martin Harring­­ton and Thomas Leonard claimed Sheeran’s Photograph was a “verbatim, note-for-note copying” of their single which was released by the X Factor winner in 2012.

According to the writ filed in Los Ang­­eles both songs use nearly identical chord progressions, have notably similar melodies and share “39 identical notes”.

It adds: “The similarity of words, vocal style, vocal melody, melody and rhythm are clear indicators that Photograph copies Amazing. The similarities go beyond substantial, which is itself sufficient to establish copyright infringement and are in fact striking.”

Ed eventually settled, but Matt was quick to distance himself from the lawsuit, arguing: “This is not my lawsuit. I think Ed Sheeran is a genius and 100% deserves all his success.”

Last year he admitted that he told porky pies on the show, pretending to be a painter and decorator because “it sounded better”.



Matt admitted he lied about being a painter and decorator
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“The painting and decorating sorry wasn’t entirely true,” he told Digital Spy “I was doing anything for cash when I auditioned for that show but that sounded the best. Ha ha.”

In 2018, Matt admitted he’d battled addiction issues with alcohol, prescription drugs and illegal drugs after his career failed – forcing him to check into the Priory.

Thankfully by the time he revealed this, he was back on track and signed a new contract with Sony to release his fourth album, Time to be Alive, in April 2018. It reached number 28 in the UK charts.

He played the role of Pilate in Jesus Christ Superstar in 2019, and released album Purple Crayon in early 2021, explaining: “Purple Crayon is song about my struggles with addiction to Valium and the escape I found through using it.

“The song’s emotions are intertwined with imagery from my favourite children’s book Harold and the Purple Crayon.”

It was reported in 2019 he had shared messages with The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, back in 2015.

Matt said of their exchange: “‘It was just a very weird situation — very odd. And I really don’t know how it came about.

“Life’s got a course and I was not on that one. I’ve laughed about it, but it’s amazing thinking back.”

Joe McElderry – 2009



Joe McElderry has beefed up since his win




Joe’s winner’s single, a cover of Miley Cyrus’ The Climb, was caught up in one of the X Factor’s biggest controversies – and was the first to be beaten to the Christmas top spot for four years.

It was kept off the top by Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name, after a Facebook campaign in protest against the show’s grip on the Christmas number one slot.

His debut album, Wide Awake, peaked at number three and dropped out of the top 40 within three weeks. In total, the album had sold just over 100,000 copies by December 2010. His contract with Syco expired in 2011 and wasn’t renewed.

He’s since spoken of his unhappiness about his time with Syco, but that the split was “amicable.”

A consummate reality TV star, Joe also won Popstar to Opera in 2011 and The Jump in 2014. He went on to appear in Tommy The Rock Opera alongside Blue’s Antony Costa in Blackpool.



Joe was subjected to a campaign to keep him from getting Christmas number one




Meanwhile, little Geordie Joe, as mentor Cheryl affectionately nicknamed him during his time in the competition, is not quite so little any more.

The star has seriously beefed up from when he first burst onto screens as a fresh-faced 18-year-old back in 2009.

After being cruelly fat shamed when he appeared on the Lorraine show in 2015 , Joe has been working very hard in the gym to tone his figure.

He has played the lead in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, and released Saturday Night At The Movies, his fifth album since winning X Factor which features 14 hand-picked covers of some of the film industry’s biggest tracks, including I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing from Armageddon, and Love Is All Around from Four Weddings And A Funeral. It reached number 10 in the UK charts.

In 2016 he went on a nationwide arena tour, and in 2017 he released album Saturday Night at the Movies, a collection of songs from films and musicals.

Alexandra Burke – 2008



Alexandra toured with Beyonce after her X Factor win
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Alexandra Burke was hotly tipped to be the next Leona, and after beating JLS to win the X Factor, her winner’s single, a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah was the 2008 Christmas number one, despite a campaign to have Jeff Buckley’s version of the song beat her to it.

Since then she’s had a string of hits including Bad Boys, Broken Heels and Start Without You, several BRIT and MTV award nominations and toured with Beyonce.

In 2015 and 2016 she played the lead role of Rachel Marron in the West End version of The Bodyguard, and in 2016 began a 12-month residency in Sister Act The Musical.

Her third album, The Truth Is, was released in March 2018.



Alexandra Burke broke down in Race, Pop and Power over being told to bleach her skin




She also starred in BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing, where she was paired with Gorka Marquez.

Rumours were rife he was having a fling with contestant Gemma Atkinson, who is now his partner, and Alexandra admitted she was struggling to fake chemistry with him.

Alexandra has spoken about her horrific experience of racism in the industry, revealing on Instagram : “I got told when I first won the X Factor, ‘Because you’re black you’re going to have to work 10 times harder than a white artist because of the colour of your skin.



Alexandra starred on Strictly Come Dancing in 2017
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“You can’t have braids, you can’t have an afro, you can’t have anything that basically is my identity. You have to have hair that appeals to white people so they understand you better.'”

She said on Leigh-Anne Pinnock’s documentary Race, Pop and Power, she was told to bleach her skin, a request she called “absurd”.

She says she was later told by an unnamed record label: “You have to smile more because you come across aggressive,” and “you can’t release this type of music because white people don’t understand that.”

Alexandra dated footballer Angus Macdonald in 2019, and he says she supported him greatly while he battled bowel cancer during their relationship.

But the pair separated in late 2020.

Leon Jackson – 2007



Leon Jackson was an outsider to win The X Factor
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Scottish crooner Leon Jackson’s victory over rival Rhydian Roberts was described as “the biggest shock in the history of reality TV betting” in 2007.

His winner’s single, an arrangement of Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston’s duet When You Believe, was Christmas number one that year, reportedly selling 40 copies a minute in Woolworths at its peak.

But that was his last taste of the top spot. Follow-up single Don’t Call This Love peaked at number three, and debut album Right Now only made it to number four.

The album’s poor sales prompted Syco to unceremoniously drop Jackson, and he was voted the second biggest reality TV flop in a national survey – only losing out to Steve Brookstein.

Since then, a now-extremely buff Leon has been writing and recording, and did an acoustic tour in 2010, but further hits have failed to materialise.

He’s now living in LA but keeps a relatively low profile.

Leona Lewis – 2006



Leona Lewis won the show in 2006




After winning the 2006 series, Leona Lewis released a cover of Kelly Clarkson’s A Moment Like This, which made it to Christmas number one selling more copies than the rest of that week’s top 40 combined.

Her first post-X Factor single, Bleeding Love stayed at number one for seven weeks, and also topped the chart in Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, France, Germany, Norway, Swizerland, Belgium, The Netherlands, Austria, Canada and the United States.

Since then she’s had a string of hit singles and albums, including a cover of Snow Patrol’s Run, recorded the theme song for Avatar and embarked on two world tours.

Her Christmas track One More Sleep in 2013 was a hit but things turned nasty when she quit Simon’s record company to sign with Universal Island records the following year, and claimed the label threatened to say she’d been dropped.



Leona Lewis with husband Dennis Jauch




“I was threatened with the fact that if I left, it would come out that I had been dropped. That cut deep, but by this time nothing could stop me from walking away,” she wrote in an open letter to fans, admitting that her journey had left her feeling “extremely depressed”.

Leona collaborated with Calum Scott on the single You Are The Reason, which achieved international success, and had a recurring role on the American television series The Oath.

On a personal level, 2010 saw her split from childhood sweetheart Lou Al-Chamaa, and she married German dancer Dennis Jauch in 2019, with the couple residing in LA together.

Shayne Ward – 2005



Shayne won the show in 2005 with mentor Louis Walsh
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Shayne Ward, who won the second series in 2005, bagged the X Factor’s first Christmas number one with That’s My Goal.

He was given a million-pound contract with Cowell’s Syco label and his debut album, Stand By Me, was released in 2006 and was certified four times platinum in Ireland and platinum in the UK.

His follow-up album, Breathless, was an even greater success in Ireland, with the lead single, No U Hang Up, hitting the top spot.

However, he was dropped by Syco in 2011 after poor sales of third album Obsession, and became an independent artist instead.



Shayne’s character Aidan struggles to keep it in his pants in Corrie




He went on to appear on Dancing on Ice and in West End musical Rock of Ages, as well as starring in Coronation Street as philandering factory owner Aidan Connor.

The star proved to be a big hit since joining the soap in 2015, and was involved in one of the show’s biggest plotlines, which saw Aidan cheat on fiancée Eva Price with her best friend Maria Connor (not related!).

When Eva found out, she decided to pretend she was pregnant and take him to the cleaners, but her plan came unstuck when Maria blabbed all at Eva and Aidan’s wedding.

The storyline culminated in Aidan committing suicide in 2018.



Shayne was targeted by trolls over his weight gain
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Off screen, Shayne has been targeted by cruel trolls, who’ve accused him of getting fat.

“It is strange. I was 21 when I won the X Factor and my body’s changed – I’m 32,” he told the Loose Women panel.

“I’ve never been one for the six pack. I enjoy my food and I like my cuddly figure for my little girl. You are pressured in this day and age, especially being on Corrie.”

After leaving the soap, he was cast as a lead in psychological drama Stairs.

Steve Brookstein -2004



Steve was the first winner of The X Factor, but has been critical of the show since
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Soul singer Steve was the very first winner of the X Factor, and scored a record-breaking 6 million votes.

Fresh from his victory, his winner’s single, a cover of Phil Collins’ Against All Odds was pipped to Christmas number one by the Band Aid 20 revamp of Do They Know It’s Christmas?

But, proving he was a popular choice, Steve’s first release climbed to number one in its second week on the chart.

His debut album, Heart and Soul went in at number one in the official charts, but – unfortunately – that was his last taste of success.

He was dropped by SonyBMG just eight months into his contract and became embroiled in a feud with Simon Cowell over his treatment on the show.



Steve’s albums have failed to chart
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And he has been touring his solo show, Soul Journey, where he sings classic soul songs.

“The show gives you a platform but then pulls the rug from under your feet by making you sign to a certain record label and having no say in what happens next,” he raged to the Daily Mail.

“It should be about music and talent but it’s not. The X Factor is all one big theatre – it’s turning music into the WWF.

“It’s about killing music to make light entertainment. I’ve now got to break away from the X Factor, which is fundamentally cheese and regarded as so by anyone and everyone in the industry.”

In 2014 he released an album titled Forgotten Man, which failed to chart.

He then followed it up with a book about his time on The X Factor, titled Getting Over the X, which slated Cowell and co and became a hit on Amazon.

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