ByMichael Patterson, writer at
I Write. Sometimes. Follow me on Twitter: @MichaelP93
Michael Patterson

The X Factor has been a regular presence on UK TV screens for over a decade. The talent show has become a national treasure over the years, with audiences voting for who they believe is the "next big thing" in music. And the show itself has spawned countless remakes in various countries all over the world.

Love it or hate it, The X Factor is responsible for adding an immense amount of talent to the entertainment world, launching the careers of some of the biggest artists and best vocalists the world has ever seen. And it has also given us TV presenters and film stars.

Now, with the original UK show back on screens for its 14th Season, let's take a look back the greatest (and most successful) acts to grace that stage, and check out how The X Factor impacted their lives.

Leona Lewis

Leona Lewis became a global superstar. [Credit: ITV]
Leona Lewis became a global superstar. [Credit: ITV]
  • Placed: Winner — Series 3 (2006)

When a nervous, shy Leona Lewis first entered that audition room, nobody could have predicted the success that was waiting for her. Stunning the judges, and the audience at home, with her heavenly voice, Lewis sailed through the competition and became the show's first female winner. But that was only the beginning.

Following her victory, her debut single and album both topped the UK charts, but it was her single "Bleeding Love" that turned her into an international superstar, topping the US Billboard charts for four weeks and making her the first X Factor contestant to achieve success Stateside. Moreover, it also hit the Number 1 spot in almost every other country it was released in. Since then, Lewis has released four more albums, sung the theme song for , starred in the movie Walking On Sunshine and made her Broadway debut.

Without a doubt, Leona Lewis is one of the most magnificent vocalists of all time. But with two Number 1 albums, nine Top 10 singles, a film and Broadway performance all to her name, she is also one of the few globally successful acts to ever come from The X Factor.

One Direction

One Direction on 'The X Factor'. [Credit: ITV]
One Direction on 'The X Factor'. [Credit: ITV]
  • Placed: 3rd Place — Series 7 (2010)

Ironically, the five boys who auditioned separately for The X Factor would end up going on to become its most successful act. Liam Payne, , Zayn Malik, Louis Tomlinson and Niall Horan may have all been strong performers, but the judges felt that they would be better in a group, and thus, was formed.

After finishing third in the competition, the group would go on to conquer the globe, selling over 20 million albums worldwide and selling out concert arenas all over the world. Four of their albums went straight to the top of the US and UK charts while they amassed a passionate following that has been compared to Beatlemania.

While the band is currently on hiatus, that hasn't stopped the boys from doing really well for themselves, as all five of them have already carved out incredibly successful solo careers. Thus far, Harry has had the most success, releasing a globally successful solo album, and received acclaim for his acting when he starred in Christopher Nolan's film . But I think it's safe to say that we haven't seen the last of .

Little Mix

Little Mix also conquered the globe. [Credit: ITV]
Little Mix also conquered the globe. [Credit: ITV]
  • Placed: Winners — Series 8 (2011)

Much like with One Direction, Little Mix members Perrie Edwards, Jesy Nelson, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Jade Thirlwall all auditioned for the show separately, before they were put into the group. And this decision ended up being the right one, because they would go on to become the first and only girl band to win the competition.

Since their victory, Little Mix have enjoyed tremendous success, with their debut album reaching the Top 5 in the UK, Canadian, Irish and US charts. But that was only the beginning as they have since released three more albums, all of which have hit the Top 5 in the UK, with their most recent outing topping the charts. Moreover, two of those albums charted in the Top 15 in the the US — a feat that no other UK based girl group has ever accomplished before.

With four Number 1 singles to their name, world domination and a fan-base that could rival One Direction's, Little Mix aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

Alexandra Burke

Alexandra Burke stunned us all with her vocals. [Credit: ITV]
Alexandra Burke stunned us all with her vocals. [Credit: ITV]
  • Placed: Winner — Series 5 (2008)

Alexandra Burke wasn't even one of the early favorites during the fifth series, but that didn't stop her from making a lasting impression. As one of the only acts that could vocally rival Leona Lewis, Burke stunned week after week before a jaw-dropping duet with Beyonce won her the show. Her debut single, a cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" went on to become the biggest selling X Factor winner's single at the time and has sold over 1.38 million copies.

Described as the UK's version of Beyoncé, Burke went on to release a number of party anthems, including two Number 1 singles "Bad Boyz" (featuring Flo Rida) and "Start Without You," as well as three other Top 5 singles. But she also made time to show off her incredible vocal range on her Number 1 album with singles like "The Silence."

After her second outing didn't do quite as well, she moved into musical theater, and has received critical acclaim for her leading roles in The Bodyguard and Sister Act on the West End. She will now compete in dancing reality show, Strictly Come Dancing. And if you watch any of Alexandra's music videos, it's clear that this lady can dance. Let's just hope she returns to music soon, because her voice is simply phenomenal.

Olly Murs

Olly is one of the most successful 'X Factor' acts in history. [Credit: ITV]
Olly is one of the most successful 'X Factor' acts in history. [Credit: ITV]
  • Placed: 2nd Place — Series 6 (2009)

Olly Murs caught all of our attention way back in 2009 when he danced and sung his way into our hearts with his rendition of "Superstition." He enjoyed tremendous success on the show, being compared to British music legend Robbie Williams. And in the end, he just missed out to Joe McElderry, taking second place in the competition.

However, fast forward eight years and Murs has four Number 1 singles and four Number 1 albums to his name, and has collaborated with the likes of Demi Lovato, Flo Rida and Rizzle Kicks. With an endless repertoire of catchy hits, including "Please Don't Let Me Go," "Thinking Of Me," "Dance With Me Tonight" and "Heart Skips A Beat," it's easy to see why he has become one of the UK's most successful and beloved artists. Moreover, he has also found success at presenting, having co-hosted spinoff show The Xtra Factor in 2011 and 2012 with Caroline Flack before the duo hosted The X Factor itself in 2015.

One of the top three most successful acts in the history of The X Factor, you can bet that Olly Murs will be around for many more years to come. And when you're feeling down, you can always count on Olly to keep you dancing.

Ruth Lorenzo

  • Placed: 5th Place — Series 5 (2008)

Ruth Lorenzo began her X Factor journey by showing us her sensual Spanish side, but when she ended up in the Bottom Two, she unveiled the Rock Chick within and slayed "Purple Rain" in one of the show's most beloved performances. She would then go on to give us memorable performances of "Knockin' On Heaven's Door", "Love Ain't Here Anymore", "I Love Rock 'N' Roll" and "Always" before she rocked out with a stunning reprisal of the latter (which has become one of the all-time favorite performances among fans).

Since then, Ruth has gone on to become one of Spain's biggest artists (after she represented the country in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2014). She has had tremendous success as a songwriter, writing songs both for herself and her former X Factor mentor Dannii Minogue. But her greatest achievement is undoubtedly the release of her debut album, Planeta Azul, which charted at Number 3 on the Spanish album charts, as well as horde of Top 5 singles. Her latest single, "Voces" topped the charts in Spain, marking her first Number 1, as she now prepares for the release of her second album Loveaholic.

While many initially wrote Ruth off at the beginning, X Factor's Rockerita never stopped fighting to make her dreams come true. Undoubtedly, my favorite contestant of all time, she never failed to bring the house down with her incredible vocals, and now she gets to show the world just how talented she is. Rock on, Ruth!


JLS performing on 'The X Factor'. [Credit: ITV]
JLS performing on 'The X Factor'. [Credit: ITV]
  • Placed: 2nd Place — Series 5 (2008)

Boyband JLS kept surprising us week after week back in 2008. While many of us expected them to do well, they shocked a lot more when they made it to the coveted final and came in at second place, just behind Alexandra Burke. However, after the show ended, they soared to even greater heights. Their debut single "Beat Again" topped the charts before their self-titled debut album did the same. They would then go on to produce four other Number 1 singles and Top 3 albums, selling over $10 millions records worldwide.

The band split up in 2013 after releasing a greatest hits album. But much like One Direction, that hasn't stopped them from focusing on their solo careers. JB Gill and Marvin Humes have remained on our screens as presenters, while Oristé Williams has remained focused on a solo music career. Meanwhile, Aston Merrygold will be reuniting with Alexandra Burke as the two are competing on Strictly Come Dancing.


John and Edward made an unforgettable impact on the show. [Credit: ITV]
John and Edward made an unforgettable impact on the show. [Credit: ITV]
  • Placed: 6th Place — Series 6 (2009)

Irish twins John and Edward Grimes made an unforgettable impact on the show back in 2009 when they became one of the most polarizing acts in X Factor history. Known for their high hair and energetic performances, they often found themselves receiving harsh criticism from Simon Cowell and others. But their fanbase grew as the Jedward Paradox sweeped the nation.

After their elimination, Jedward released a cover of their most famous song on the show "Under Pressure (Ice Ice Baby)" featuring Vanilla Ice. It peaked at Number 1 in Ireland (three times) and Number 2 in the UK Charts. After this, they went onto release three Number 1 albums, represent Ireland twice in the Eurovision Song Contest and even cameo in 3, 4 and 5. The energetic twosome then reinvented themselves in 2014, and have written all of their music since and even direct their own music videos.

Described as the personification of Marmite (you either love them or hate them), nobody put more effort into their performances than John and Edward. And it's great to see them continuing to prove Simon wrong, as they do incredibly well in their successful careers.

Stacey Solomon

Stacey had a great personality and a beautiful voice. [Credit: ITV]
Stacey had a great personality and a beautiful voice. [Credit: ITV]
  • Placed: 3rd Place — Series 6 (2009)

Stacey Solomon made us all giggle during her first audition with her bubbly personality, but when she sang "What A Wonderful World," she made us fall in love with her. That dream team of her beautiful voice and unforgettable personality ensured that she impressed week after week. With incredible performances, most notably her outstanding renditions of "Who Wants To Live Forever" and "Somewhere," Stacey made it all the way to the final and came in at third place.

Since then, she has become a TV sensation. In 2010, she was crowned Queen of the Jungle, winning I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here. She then went on to host reality TV show The Love Machine and the I'm A Celebrity spinoff show, I'm a Celebrity: Extra Camp. As of 2016, she is currently a regular panelist on Loose Women, and never fails to make us all laugh. But all that TV didn't stop her from releasing music as she covered "Driving Home For Christmas" back in 2011 and finally released her debut album in 2015.

Amelia Lily

Comeback Kid: Amelia Lily stunned us with her rock vocals. [Credit: ITV]
Comeback Kid: Amelia Lily stunned us with her rock vocals. [Credit: ITV]
  • Placed: 3rd Place — Series 8 (2011)

Amelia Lily had quite the X Factor journey. Originally eliminated by her mentor Kelly Rowland in Week 1, she would return five weeks later after the audience voted her back in to replace the departing Frankie Cocozza. Back where she belonged, Lily stunned us with a show-stopping rendition of "The Show Must Go On." After unleashing her rock chick on us, she made it to the final and finished in third place.

In the summer of 2012, she exploded onto the music scene, with her debut single "You Bring Me Joy" hitting the Number 2 spot. Her follow up singles, "Shut Up (And Give Me Whatever You Got)" and "Party Over" hit Number 11 and Number 40 respectively. While her debut album was inexplicably never released, Lily then made her presence felt on the stage in a big way, receiving widespread acclaim for her performance as "Whatsername" in American Idiot on the West End. She then came 2nd in the 2017 edition of Celebrity Big Brother and is now collaborating with fashion retailer Jane Norman.

Luke Friend

Luke Friend never failed to impress. [Credit: ITV]
Luke Friend never failed to impress. [Credit: ITV]
  • Placed: 3rd Place — Series 10 (2013)

When Luke Friend first appeared on our TV screens, it was hard to notice anything else but his eye-catching dreadlocks. But the moment he started singing, all of that changed. With his raspy voice and trusty guitar, Luke was likened to a young Ed Sheeran, and soared through the competition. During his time on the show, he impressed us with his unique interpretation of Beyonce's "Best Thing I Never Had", powerful performance of Snow Patrol's "Run" and his roof-raising rendition of Mumford and Sons' "I Will Wait".

After finishing in third place, Luke released his debut single "Hole In My Heart" which charted in the Top 40. He then signed a new deal with BMG in Germany, with his song "Take On The World" serving as the official theme for the film Antonio, ihm schmeckt's nicht. He's also still working on his debut album, but has treated his fans to an EP of three original songs.

As he is one of the most unique and talented singers to ever set foot on the X Factor stage, I can't wait to see what's next for Luke Friend.

Joe McElderry

Joe McElderry had an amazing voice. [Credit: ITV]
Joe McElderry had an amazing voice. [Credit: ITV]
  • Placed: Winner — Series 6 (2009)

Joe McElderry made viewers swoon with his passionate performances and evident charisma. Possibly the best male vocalist in the show's history, McElderry received numerous standing ovations on his road to the final, and ended up winning the competition. His debut single became the New Year's Number 1 while his album made the Top 3. However, he parted ways with Syco Music after this.

McElderry then competed in Popstar To Operastar, winning the show by a landslide of votes. This led to his signing by Decca Records, through which he released his second album Classic — which peaked at Number 2, and shockingly sold over twice as much as his debut outing. He has since released three more albums, all of which landed in the Top 20. And amidst all this success, he also made time for musical theater, starring in the titular role in the UK tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.

Shayne Ward

Shayne Ward won the second series. [Credit: ITV]
Shayne Ward won the second series. [Credit: ITV]
  • Placed: Winner — Series 2 (2005)

In many ways, Shayne Ward was The X Factor's first real success story. Back in the pre-Leona days when it was still finding its footing, the show discovered Ward, who impressed audiences with his performances of "If You're Not The One" and "Over The Rainbow." He would go on to win the competition, with his winner's single, "That's My Goal" becoming one of the fastest-selling singles in UK chart history.

Ward's debut album topped the charts in both the UK and Ireland. His second had similar success, topping the Irish charts and hitting the Number 2 spot in the UK, producing a number of Top 2 hits. However, after a hiatus, his third outing failed to chart in the Top 10 and he was subsequently dropped from Syco.

But Ward bounced back in a big way, starring in stage musical Rock Of Ages. He then released his fourth album, Closer, independently in 2015. And since then, he has been a regular presence on our TV screens, starring in beloved British soap , where he portrays Aidan Connor.

Without a doubt, The X Factor has given us a heap of talented performers. With some of its greatest acts achieving success in the US, Spain and Australia, the UK talent show is undeniably a great way for any aspiring artists to break into the business. Moreover, it's also a great platform to diversity your talents, as the likes of Stacey Solomon and Amelia Lily have shown us by achieving success outside of music.

But with the show back for another year, the only question that remains is: how many talented superstars will The X Factor discover next?

Who is your favorite X Factor contestant? Let us know in the comments below!


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