X Factor's REAL winners… and what happened to those that finished first


For 16 years The X Factor crowned Britain’s biggest new singing stars, promising them fame and riches beyond their wildest dreams. But for many their moment in the limelight was brief.

Today former contestants are queuing up to hit out against the British music industry for ‘exploiting’ and treating them like ‘cattle’ since their overnight rise to fame.

Rebecca Ferguson has called for an urgent parliamentary inquiry to help protect young and emerging artists and an independent tribunal to hold those responsible for poor treatment within the industry to account. 

Her fellow contestant Cher Lloyd, 27, and double act Jedward, both 29, who appeared on the show the previous year, have now also hit out at the industry and claimed they were also poorly treated. 

One Direction, made up of Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson, Liam Payne, Niall Horan and Zayn Malik went on an indefinite hiatus at the peak of their success in 2016. Jesy Nelson has recently quit girl band Little Mix to help her mental health after the pressure of being in the group started to take its ‘toll’ on her.  

And often it was the show’s runners up, including One Direction and JLS, who did the best after their time on the show was over and are now worth more than £300million in total. Little Mix did win the title, and are worth £25million in total.

But many of the show’s winners have failed or been dumped as their careers floundered, with more X Factor contestants claimed preparing to speak out about show ‘abuse’. 

These are the show’s biggest winners, and losers: 

The REAL winners rich list.. 

ONE DIRECTION: £250million ($300million)

One Direction came third on the X-Factor - but are by far the most successful act to emerge

One Direction came third on the X-Factor – but are by far the most successful act to emerge

They continued after bandmate Zayn Malik left - and are said to be worth at least £50million each

They continued after bandmate Zayn Malik left – and are said to be worth at least £50million each

They’re the world’s biggest boyband – and now the richest in history thanks to their stint on X Factor.

Despite coming third on the show in 2010, the boys have gone on to release five smash-hit albums, played plenty of tours and gigs and won countless accolades for their efforts.

Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson and ex-bandmate Zayn Malik are each worth an estimated £50million, giving them a combined wealth of £250million.

According to Forbes, their payday is more than twice as high as that of the Rolling Stones thanks to their musical talents, as well as the endorsements that have come with it. 

LITTLE MIX: £25million ($32 million) 

Little Mix were crowned the winners of The X Factor in 2011 when they become the first band to ever win the show in its history

Little Mix were crowned the winners of The X Factor in 2011 when they become the first band to ever win the show in its history

They had almost ten years together until Jesy Nelson quit to help her mental health after the pressure of being in the group started to take its 'toll' on her

They had almost ten years together until Jesy Nelson quit to help her mental health after the pressure of being in the group started to take its ‘toll’ on her

Little Mix were crowned the winners of The X Factor in 2011 when they become the first band to ever win the show in its history.

The band has since gone on to become one of the biggest ever girl group’s in the UK, scoring number one hits including Wings, Black Magic and Shout Out To My Ex.

They were signed to Simon Cowell’s record label Syco until November 2018 when they switched to rival label RCA.

Little Mix won two BRIT Awards for their 2017 hit Shout Out to My Ex and their 2019 single Woman Like Me featuring Nicki Minaj.

Other achievements include five Global Awards, six MTV Europe Music Awards, a Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award and two Teen Choice Awards.

The band had a total of six successful tours, they were due to be touring this year for their Summer 2020 Tour but it was cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis.

Only recently, the band had great success with both their brand new album Confetti as well as their talent show Little Mix: The Search. The album reached Number 1 on the Official Irish Albums Chart while it peaked at Number 2 in the UK.

Jesy Nelson quit last year citing the need to protect her mental health. 

JLS: £24million ($36.02million)

JLS came second in 2008, but went on to make the most money, selling more than 10million records

JLS came second in 2008, but went on to make the most money, selling more than 10million records

British boy band JLS certainly had the last laugh since coming second to Alexandra Burke on The X Factor in 2009.

Following their time on the show, Simon Cowell turned down the chance to sign them, so they went on to sell over 10million records following their deal with Epic Records.

In 2009, both their debut single Beat Again and album went to No.1 in the charts. Over their nearly four and a half years in the charts, they enjoyed ten Top 10 hits, including five No.1 singles.

Star JB Farmer now lives on a £1.7million farm in Kent where he breeds turkeys, while presenting TV shows.

He admitted that at the peak of their powers they were paid five-figure and six-figure sums for private gigs with sets lasting no more than 20 minutes. 

He added: ‘Once, we were paid a huge amount to have dinner with a wealthy gentleman and his daughters. We didn’t sing at all – we just ate with the family. That was pretty cool’.

Marvin Humes has also built a successful career as a broadcaster, and is married to Rochelle Humes, who was in The Saturdays. The couple have built considerable wealth presenting shows and advertising together.  

LEONA LEWIS £21million ($30million)

Leona Lewis and Dennis Jauch at the Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party

Leona Lewis and Dennis Jauch at the Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party

The glamorous pop and R&B songstress who hails from Hackney, east London, rapidly hit the big time when she took the third X Factor crown in 2006.

Her debut single A Moment Like This was reported to have been downloaded 50,000 times in 30 minutes and made number one in the hit parade in time for Christmas. Soon afterwards she signed a £5million record deal in the US and has had several number one singles in many countries, including a breakthrough number one in the US. In 2010 she went on tour for the first time as a showcase for her two albums.

Lewis, who is vegetarian, has also fronted advertising campaigns such for Cotton Incorporated, America’s Cotton Producers and Importers industry body and has her own ‘ethical’ perfume. She also published her memoirs Dreams.

She is believed to be worth at least £21million ($30million).

OLLY MURS: £10million ($15milllion)

Olly Murs failed to win the show but has had great success on stage and screen

Olly Murs failed to win the show but has had great success on stage and screen

He was runner-up in 2009’s X Factor and has had plenty of number one singles and hit albums since finding fame on the show.

Olly returned to X Factor as a presenter alongside Caroline Flack on the Xtra Factor in 2011 and then co-presented the show with his friend in 2015. He shared a close friendship with Caroline over the years and confessed that it’s still difficult to realise that ‘she’s not here anymore’.

Olly has also penned an autobiography and toured the UK.

He had a four-year stint as a coach on The Voice and now Olly is gearing up to launch his solo presenting career, and will helm the forthcoming Stars In Their Eyes reboot, titled Starstruck.

The star, 36, is said to be ‘absolutely thrilled’ about his exciting new gig, with ITV bosses certain he’s ‘the right choice to present’.

Starstruck will begin filming in May, and BAFTA-winning actress Sheridan Smith will take to the judging panel alongside singers Beverley Knight and Adam Lambert, according to the outlet.

Stars In Their Eyes ran from 1990 through to 2006 and was hosted by Matthew Kelly.

ALEXANDRA BURKE:  £8million ($12million)

Alexandra's big breakthrough came on X Factor in 2008, and her debut single, Hallelujah, sold 105,000 copies in a day.

Alexandra's big breakthrough came on X Factor in 2008, and her debut single, Hallelujah, sold 105,000 copies in a day.

Alexandra’s big breakthrough came on X Factor in 2008, and her debut single, Hallelujah, sold 105,000 copies in a day, making her and Simon Cowell a fortune. Her career has enjoyed many ups since then

Alexandra’s big breakthrough came on X Factor in 2008, and her debut single, Hallelujah, sold 105,000 copies in a day.

Thanks to this, she secured her position as European record holder for single sales in a 24-hour period.

She had five more number one singles, starred as a judge on the show to cover for an unwell Kelly Rowland, as well as on So You Think You Can Dance.

Alexandra also curated a clothing range with JLS, was the face of Dolce & Gabbana, and created her own lip gloss.

She also replaced Beverley Knight in the lead role of Rachel Marron in West End musical, The Bodyguard.

FLEUR EAST: £4.5million ($6million)

Fleur East didn't win the show in 2014, but became far more successful than the winner Ben Haenow

Fleur East didn’t win the show in 2014, but became far more successful than the winner Ben Haenow

Stephen Mulhern and Fleur on ITV's Saturday Night Takeaway, with Ant and Dec

Stephen Mulhern and Fleur on ITV’s Saturday Night Takeaway, with Ant and Dec

Fleur was once told she would not sell records because she has such curly hair.

The X Factor star, 32, revealed that it was important for her to embrace her culture and roots and wear her afro ‘proudly’ when she went on the singing competition in 2014.

Before taking part, Fleur claimed that she had been asked to straighten her hair to improve chances of selling records – but she was the real winner from the 2014 show. 

The Saturday Night Takeaway presenter, 33, has appeared on I’m a Celebrity, and is married to Marcel Badiane-Robin.

STACEY SOLOMON: £3.7million ($5million) 

Stacey finished in third place on the sixth series of The X Factor

Stacey finished in third place on the sixth series of The X Factor

Stacey is married to fellow TV star Joe Swash, and have three children.

Stacey is married to fellow TV star Joe Swash, and have three children.

Stacey finished in third place on the sixth series of The X Factor – but went to number one in the charts with a cover of ‘You Are Not Alone’.

It catapulted her to fame and fortune, winning her the tenth series of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! and then getting a regular place on the panel of Loose Women.

She is married to fellow TV star Joe Swash, and has three children. 

JAMES ARTHUR: £3.7million ($5million)

James Arthur is hugged by his mentor Nicole Scherzinger after winning the X Factor

He has enjoyed a string of hits

James Arthur is hugged by his mentor Nicole Scherzinger after winning the X Factor, and has enjoyed a string of hits

James shot to fame after competing on the 2012 edition of The X Factor, which he went on to win.

Last month he admitted at times he was was up to £300,000 in debt due to big bets on football matches – but made it back from record sales and appearance fees.

The 2012 X Factor winner, 33, who has previously battled anxiety, depression and drug addiction, revealed he didn’t realise he owed money until his accountant alerted him to his bank balance.

He said to The Mirror on Saturday: ‘I was like £200… £300,000 in debt’, and admitted it was a blessing in disguise to be blocked on betting platforms as it ‘forced’ him to stop gambling.

Before reflecting on his betting woes, James recalled the mistakes he made in his personal life including his relationship with Rita Ora.

He expressed regret over claiming in his 2017 autobiography, Back To The Boy, that a fling with Rita turned him into a sex addict.

The X Factor victor first made the shocking revelations about his relationship with the 30-year-old singer during a freestyle rap in 2013, and would later peg their brief romance to his trysts with countless other women.

The singer-songwriter has admitted that he regrets making such bold public statements, particularly because he didn’t consider the feelings of those involved at the time. James is now in a long-term relationship with his dancer girlfriend Jessica Grist.

Dalton Harris, the most recent winner, has seen his career slow due to the pandemic

Dalton Harris, the most recent winner, has seen his career slow due to the pandemic

DALTON HARRIS: £1.1million ($1.7million)

Jamaican-born X Factor winner Dalton Harris was forced to leave the UK just days after his show triumph as his visa expired 

He reached number one in the the Official Vodafone Big Top 40 chart after being crowned winner of the show.

The singer duetted with previous X Factor winner James Arthur on a cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s 1984 hit single, The Power of Love, and after entering the charts at number four, but rose to take the top spot a week later.

In 2010, Harris became the youngest winner of the Jamaican singing competition where he won a cash prize of $1.5million.

His career has been hampered by lockdown, releasing one single before the pandemic began.

LOUISA JOHNSON: £1million ($1.5million)

The X-Factor's youngest ever winner Louisa Johnson duets with Olly Murs on the show

The X-Factor’s youngest ever winner Louisa Johnson duets with Olly Murs on the show

Louisa Johnson became The X Factor’s youngest ever winner when she was crowned champion of the 2015 series of the TV talent show.

The then 17-year-old singing sensation beat double act Reggie ‘N’ Bollie to the title as the eleventh season of the ITV series came to a dramatic conclusion at the live finale held at London’s Wembley Arena.

Louisa – who was mentored to success by new judge Rita Ora – had been the bookies’ favourite since the beginning of the competition and it was now claimed she could be bigger than 2006 champion Leona Lewis. But it hasn’t worked out that way.

Louisa recently claimed the UK’s lockdown ‘saved [her] in a lot of ways’ as it made her learn to look after herself and helped her manage her anxiety.

The X Factor winner, 22, spoke exclusively with MailOnline, and detailed the benefits of having time to work on herself and her career while staying indoors amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Reflecting on her lockdown experience Louisa, who was speaking at Hotels.com Dream Screen, explained that she used it in a ‘positive way’ as she said: ‘It actually helped my anxiety a little bit, only because I was at home and was just relaxing. 

JEDWARD: £5.5million ($8million)

Despite being a novelty act, Jedward have made millions since not winning the show

Despite being a novelty act, Jedward have made millions since not winning the show

Jedward – aka John and Edward Grimes – are twins who starred on X Factor in 2009, finishing third.

They have gone on to release three albums, two of which went double platinum in Ireland.

They represented Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2011 and 2012 and presented children’s TV shows, as well as starring on Celebrity Big brother.  

They have also posted a string of allegations against the show and the music industry on Twitter.

‘It shouldn’t be normal that all artists have to face the emotional and legal battles when all they wanted to do is sing,’ they posted on their joint account.

They added: ‘The Biggest regret in life was not telling the judges on X Factor to f*** off.’ ‘The fact that every contestant has to act like their judge mentors them! When in reality all they care about is their pay cheque!’ 

SAM BAILEY: £4.5million ($6million)

Sam Bailey was a prison officer from Leicester catapulted to fame after winning the show seven years ago.

Sam Bailey was a prison officer from Leicester catapulted to fame after winning the show seven years ago.

Sam Bailey (left on the show, right in 2018) was a prison officer from Leicester catapulted to fame after winning the show seven years ago.

The performer, who won the tenth series of X Factor in 2013, was able to quit her job as a prison officer and pursue her passion for singing.

But within 14 months Simon Cowell decided to part ways with her as she was not re-signed to his record label Syco. 

After winning the The X Factor almost eight years ago, Sam hit the No. 1 spot with her debut single Skyscraper.

Sam’s first album, The Power Of Love, sold 72,644 copies in its first week went and became the fastest selling album at the time, before going on to be certified Gold. 

But since then the hits have largely dried up. But she has kept singing.

Bailey currently lives in Leicester with her husband Craig Pearson and their three children—Tommy, Brooke, and Miley.

REBECCA FERGUSON: £1.5million ($2m)

The singer, from Liverpool, has recalled in interviews how she ‘came from nothing’ and had to start working at 14 to support her family. 

Her first job was helping out in a clothes shop, where she would frequently do shifts instead of going to school because she ‘hated it so much’. 

She had unsuccessfully auditioned for X-Factor before when she broke through on the 2010 show, singing a cover of Duffy’s Distant Dreamer at the final.  

Rebecca Ferguson on X-Factor in 2010

Ferguson in a photo recently posted on Instagram

Rebecca Ferguson on X-Factor in 2010 (left) and (right) in a photo recently posted on Instagram 

Despite finishing as the runner-up to Matt Cardle, she was quickly signed up by Syco Music, and signed a record deal in January 2011. 

Ferguson’s debut album, Heaven, was released in December 2011 and sold 128,000 in its first week, making her one of the fastest selling debut solo artists of the decade. 

She released her third album in 2015 and regularly tours. 

Asked how her overnight success changed her, she told the Telegraph in 2014: ‘After X Factor I got loads of gigs, then I went on holiday just after the tour and bought my Rolex in Tenerife. 

‘I needed to go through that phase – splurge and see that it’s worthless – to get it out of my system. Soon afterwards, I thought: “Actually this isn’t that much fun,” and I jolted back down to earth.’ 

….And those who faded away 

LEON JACKSON: £3.7million ($5 Million)

Leon Jackson was mentored by Dannii Minogue, and performed with her sister Kylie in the final

Leon Jackson was mentored by Dannii Minogue, and performed with her sister Kylie in the final

Leon was mentored by Dannii Minogue during the competition’s fourth series and released a cover of Mariah and Whitney duet When You Believe as his winner’s single, beating Rhydian Roberts to the title in 2017.

Reports claim it sold 40 copies a minute in Woolworths at its peak, but his follow-up track Don’t Call This Love peaked at number three and debut album Right Now only made it to number four.

Leon regularly treats his Instagram followers to snapshots of his bulging biceps and rippling muscles, looking a far cry from the skinny 19-year-old who won over the nation 13 years ago.

Now based in Los Angeles, the star is still in the music business and can be seen performing at regular gigs. 

JOE MCELDERRY: £3.7million ($5million)

Former X Factor winner Joe beat Olly Murs to the coveted title in 2009.

Former X Factor winner Joe beat Olly Murs to the coveted title in 2009.

Former X Factor winner Joe beat Olly Murs to the coveted title in 2009 (left) and has gone on to star in several musicals after being dropped by Simon Cowell

Former X Factor winner Joe beat Olly Murs to the coveted title in 2009.

Joe, now 28, moved into an apartment in an exclusive area of West London after winning, but within 16 months he was back living with his mother Eileen at her modest terrace home in South Shields, Tyneside.

Mr Cowell had hailed the baby-faced hopeful as a major new talent and pledged to take him to Hollywood to be ‘the new Zac Efron’.

Mentored by Cheryl Cole, Joe fast became a viewers’ favourite before going on to win in December 2009.

But the performing arts student was told 16 months after winning that his record deal was not being renewed.

The singer has worked hard to lose weight after he sported a fuller frame during an appearance on ITV daytime show, Lorraine, in 2015. 

Two years later, however, he had an athletic physique as he took to the stage shirtless during his performance of Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat. The singer trained with former Miss Universe finalist Caroline Dixon and following a strict diet.

CHER LLOYD: £3million ($4.5million)

Cher Lloyd finished fourth on the show in 2010 being mentored by Cheryl and immediately cracked America

Cher Lloyd finished fourth on the show in 2010 being mentored by Cheryl and immediately cracked America

Cher Lloyd finished fourth on the show in 2010 being mentored by Cheryl Tweedy (left) and immediately cracked America. Yesterday Miss Lloyd (right) claimed that people ‘sold me the dream just to exploit me’

Cher Lloyd finished fourth on the show in 2010 being mentored by Cheryl and immediately cracked America – something the contestants find tricky.

Her most popular song, Swagger Jagger, stayed in the charts for weeks and she went on to release plenty more hits, including With Ur Love featuring Mike Posner.

She mainly stays out of the limelight and instead focuses on her music and husband. 

Miss Lloyd was just 17 when she was plucked from obscurity to appear on Simon Cowell’s Saturday night show and has claimed that people ‘sold me the dream just to exploit me.’

In a video posted on TikTok, she sang: ‘How could I be so naive? They sold me the dream just to exploit me.

‘Said darling, darling you’ll go far if you shake that a** and date a star. And if the record’s taking off we’ll take the money.’

SHAYNE WARD: £2.1million ($3Million) 

Shayne Ward's first single 'That's My Goal' was one of the biggest selling in history

Shayne Ward’s first single ‘That’s My Goal’ was one of the biggest selling in history

He went on to play Aidan Connor in Coronation Street for three years

He went on to play Aidan Connor in Coronation Street for three years

Shayne Ward won the X-Factor 15 years ago, its second series.

His debut single ‘That’s My Goal’ reached number one in the UK Singles Chart, shifting 313,000 copies on its first day of sales, making it the third-fastest-selling single of all time in the UK, behind Elton John’s ‘Candle in the Wind 1997’ and Will Young’s ‘Evergreen’.

In November 2010, after a three-year break, Ward released his third album, but it flopped. A year later Ward was dropped by Syco.

In 2015 revealed that he was only invited to audition for his role as Aidan Connor on Coronation Street after fans mistakenly thought he had already been offered a part on the British soap and generated a ‘hype’.

The 34-year-old star, who starred on the ITV soap until 2018, explained that supporters started congratulating him on the role of Callum Logan, when it was in fact actor Sean Ward who had landed the part

Shayne’s character Aidan took his own life after struggling with depression. He said: ‘I was heartbroken initially when I found out I was leaving because I love being in Coronation Street. But this is bigger than anything that I will ever do in my career.’

He is engaged to his long-term girlfriend Sophie Austin, who starred in Hollyoaks. 

RAY QUINN: £1.5million ($2.25million)

Ray starred on Brookside back in 2000 and came second to Leona Lewis on the X Factor in 2006.

Ray starred on Brookside back in 2000 and came second to Leona Lewis on the X Factor in 2006.

Ray Quinn starred on Brookside back in 2000 and came second to Leona Lewis on the X Factor in 2006

Ray starred on Brookside back in 2000 and came second to Leona Lewis on the X Factor in 2006. He went on to win Dancing on Ice in 2009 and All Stars in 2014.

Ray has starred in lots of West End productions, most notably Grease, Jack in the Beanstalk and Aladdin.

In January 2015, he was a contestant on the celebrity talent show, Get Your Act Together, which he wonRay has remained largely out of the limelight in recent times following his well-documented split from his wife, Emma Stephens. 

MATT CARDLE: £1.2million ($1.8million)

Matt Cardle was made a millionaire overnight but his career struggled and he fought drug addiction

Matt Cardle was made a millionaire overnight but his career struggled and he fought drug addiction

Matt beat One Direction to the winner’s crown in 2010 and won a £1m contract with Syco – but he didn’t fare as well as the boy band.

His winner’s singer, When We Collide, was the second biggest-selling single of 2010 with 815,000 copies sold within two weeks. 

He has also teamed up with Mel C on a single and has toured the UK but fell off the radar after that. 

Matt voluntarily entered The Priory clinic in December 2013 to deal with a prescription drug problem.

Cardle has combined album and single sales of over 2million, and was linked to a reported romance with Meghan Markle.

RAK-SU: £1.1million ($1.7million)

Rak-Su were dropped just two years after winning the talent show

Rak-Su were dropped just two years after winning the talent show

They were the hugely popular winners of the X Factor 2017, destined for a glittering music career.

Rak-Su, made up of Myles, Ashley Fongho, Jamaal Shurland and Mustafa Rahimtulla, became the first boy band to win the show, beating Grace Davies in the nail-biting final. 

However, less than two years later, Rak-Su were dropped by their record label RCA after poor record sales in a familiar tale for X Factor winners.

The four-piece failed to release a full-length album when record bosses decided to axe them. 

Rak-Su enjoyed initial success with their debut single, featuring Wyclef Jean and Naughty Boy, with the song reaching No2 in the charts.

However, their follow-ups didn’t achieve big commercial success, with their 2018 track I Want You To Freak in 2018 only hitting number 39 on the official chart.

BEN HAENOW: £720,000 ($1million).

Ben Haenow described struggling with rejection after he was dropped by his record label despite winning the show in 2014

Ben Haenow described struggling with rejection after he was dropped by his record label despite winning the show in 2014

Croydon-born Ben Haenow won the show in 2014, with his first single Something I Need going straight to the top of the charts, selling and sold 214,000 copies and becoming that year’s Christmas number one.  

In May 2018 Ben told MyLondon how he struggled after being dropped by SyCo, who backed runner up Fleur East instead. He was limited to playing small gigs to a band of around 15 super-fans.

He said: ‘It’s a crazy, crazy thing to be involved in, to go from being unknown to being on TV. It’s an incredible thing.

‘You are kind of in a bubble for that year. Once that bubble bursts, it’s a hard thing.  

‘After a little while I didn’t really go out. I’m not going to say I slipped into depression [but] it was really hard to deal with.

‘It was then I lost my way a bit. I lost my confidence going out.’ 

Steve Brookstein was the show's first winner - but sunk into obscurity

Steve Brookstein was the show’s first winner – but sunk into obscurity

STEVE BROOKSTEIN: Worth £720,000 ($1million).

Steve was the first person to win the X Factor in 2004.

He was initially popular with fans – but judge Sharon Osborne disliked him.

She said: ‘Steve is not what he seems. He’s a fake, he’s not fabulous. That is bull**** that he puts out each week. He is overly confident – he has been full of himself from the first day – and an average singer.’ 

After winning the reality talent show, he released his first single, a cover of Phil Collins’ 1984 power ballad Against All Odds which went to number one.  

But he was dropped by Simon Cowell and record label Sony less than a year after selling only 100,000 albums and falling out with the impresario. 

He went on to make a living from gigs, theatre and in the past has performed on P&O ferries, and claims Simon Cowell has ‘has a lot to answer for’ over the treatment of X Factor contestants.    

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