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The X Factor past winners

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There has been a winner each year since The X Factor first hit our screens in 2004 and Steve Brookstein took the top spot. Each winner has battled through the arduous audition process, the boot camp, the judges' houses and the live shows to take their places in the final show.

To get through the various hurdles is no mean feat – any contestant who achieves this does not only rely on the support of the judges but more significantly the support of the British TV viewers whose teleporting is key in them succeeding.

With that sort of national support, each winner has been ensured some level of success by securing a recording contract as a prize, but that contract has also heaped fame and fortune on Simon Cowell, the owner of Syco the production company that rewards the triumphant singers.

While winning this show is a huge achievement and a real mark of popular support, it has not always lead to a career of any longevity as this list indicates, although for some, such as boyband One Direction, their career has burgeoned internationally.

Series 1: Steve Brookstein, Simon Cowell (over 25s)

The glory of being the first X Factor winner was huge back in 2004 and Simon Cowell was beaming from ear to ear that it was one of his acts that won the inaugural UK show. However, having achieved a number one single after the show, Sony BMG withdrew his contract after eight months. He went on to write and release his own single under an independent label but it failed to achieve a top 75 position in the UK charts. Subsequently he has sung on cruise ships and done some writing for his wife Eileen Hunter but has otherwise disappeared from the music scene.

Series 2: Shayne Ward, Louis Walsh (boys)

Shayne Ward has provided the only win for Judge Louis Walsh. The X Factor single following his win shot to the number one slot where it stayed for four weeks and became the fourth fastest selling single ever at a time when Elton John's iconic Candle In The Wind was in pole position. Releasing three albums, Shayne Ward, Breathless, and Obsession, it soon became clear that Cowell was concentrating on the careers of Leona Lewis and Susan Boyle and in 2011 Syco and Ward parted company. He switched music for acting and in 2015 he appeared in Coronation Street as Aidan Connor.

Series 3: Leona Lewis, Simon Cowell (girls)

The third and probably the most successful X Factor winner to date is Leona Lewis. This was the second time Cowell was winning judge and he could not have been happier. The shy, modest and humble Lewis took the nation and Cowell by storm borne out by her multi platinum record sales and three Grammy nominations. Her three albums so far have been, Spirit (2007), Echo(2009) and Glassheart (2012), for which Lewis is credited with much of the writing.

Series 4: Leon Jackson, Danni Minogue (boys)

Leona Lewis was always going to be a hard act to follow in 2007 and his success was by comparison mediocre his debut single When You Believe was poorly received and when his third singles only achieved a meagre 94 in the charts, Sony released the performer from his contract after only one studio album, Right Now (2008). Jackson having taught himself to play piano and acoustic guitar, is now engaged writing his own material and has had some success in the smaller arenas.

Series 5: Alexandra Burke, Cheryl Cole (girls)

The fifth winner of The X Factor was a triumph for Girls Aloud singer Cheryl Cole in her debut as a judge. Having reached the judges' houses part of the audition process the year before, Alexandra Burke came back with renewed determination and was not only rewarded with a win, but was signed to four record labels. The winning X Factor single Hallelujah broke all records selling 105,000 copies in one day. She has won multiple awards including three Brits, two MOBOs and an MTV Europe Music Award. She has become a clothes horse that the paparazzi love and yet has only released two studio albums, Overcome (2009) and Heartbreak On Hold (2012).

Series 6: Joe McElderry, Cheryl Cole (boys)

Flush from her success with Alexandra Burke, Cheryl Cole was exuberant to continue her winning ways with fellow Geordie Joe McElderry. His success coincided with a campaign to reduce Cowell's influence on the music industry and saw his Number one Christmas position being snatched by Rage Against The Machine as a protest to the reality show dominating the charts each year. Although his pop career never really soared, his appearance on and win of reality TV show From Popstar To Operastar saw renewed interest him as a crossover act. Appearing in a series of West end shows it looks likely that his career is now in this direction.

Series 7: Matt Cardle, Danni Minogue (boys)

Matt Cardle won The X Factor in 2010 under the supervision of Danni Minogue, and given that the show's single had been beaten to the No1 Christmas spot the year before, it was a mark of his popularity that his single did go to the top of the charts. He was known for playing the guitar and writing his own material. He parted company with Syco in May 2012 but released an album in October on the So What Recordings label. This album, The Fire, reached No. 8 in the album charts and received healthy criticism from the music press.

Series 8: Little Mix, Tulisa Contostavlos (groups)

Tulisa Contostavlos joined the judging panel in 2011, meeting with some adverse criticism in the red top press. Few were convinced that the N-Dubz singer had what it took to be a mentor or a critic. She proved them all wrong by not only wooing the public, but taking Little Mix across the winning line, a feat never achieved before by a group on The X Factor. The girls, put together after missing out on their solo auditions, were originally called Rhythmix and made it to number three in the charts with their debut album DNA. Since then they have achieved massive commercial success and a number of awards, making them the show's most successful act ever.

Series 9: James Arthur, Nicole Scherzinger (boys)

James Arthur did not start the series as a favourite but gained support as it became clear that he had an original sound and look that was not representative of other winners. As the popularity of The X Factor seemed to be diminishing with claims that the acts were overly manufactured and predictable, his triumph on the show not only led to a number one Christmas single, but with 1.3 million sales, became the best-selling X Factor single of all time.

Series 10: Sam Bailey, Sharon Osbourne (over 25s)

Sam Bailey was one of the most popular winners ever on The X Factor, picking up more than a million votes on the night of the final. With an extraordinary, powerful voice, Sam's fanbase grew week on week as she became more and more confident on stage. She was not out of the top three on the bookmakers' leaderboard, and by week eight, the competition looked like a one-horse race. Her personality was also key to her success, a down-to-earth prison officer who was able to appeal to both working mums and the girls next door who had a dream.

Series 11: Ben Haenow, Simon Cowell (over 25s)

Ben Haenow won the 11th series of The X Factor and his single, Something I Need, became 2014's Christmas number one. Ben never ended up in the bottom two from the viewers votes and also came top in the votes week four onwards.

Series 12: Louisa Johnson, Rita Ora (girls)

Louisa Johnson won the 12th series of The X Factor and was deemed by Simon Cowell as the best contestant ever. However her first single, a version of Forever Young, entered the charts on December 18, 2015, at number nine – becoming the lowest ever position on entry for a debut single from a show winner.

Series 13: Matt Terry, Nicole Scherzinger (boys)

Matt made an impression with all judges on his first audition when he sang Ben E King's Stand By Me after revealing he'd just broken up with his long-term girlfriend (aaah). His debut single, When Christmas Comes Around, was released on December 11, 2016 and peaked at number three on the UK singles chart.

Series 14: Rak-Su, Simon Cowell (groups)

Rak-su quickly became the first group since Little Mix to lead the way in the betting for The X Factor crown following their impressive live performances. The band, featuring J, Myles, Ashley and Mustafa were firm favourites with both the judges and viewers following a number of killer performance of both self-penned songs such as Dimelo, and covers of artists including George Michael.

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