X Factor winners 2021

From judging panels to the stage, where are all The X Factor winners now?

Alexandra Burke is thriving and that’s what’s important

Every time Christmas rolls around and LadBaby rear their formidable and unbearable heads once again, I find myself feeling pensive about what we’ve lost. I’m talking of course about The X Factor. For 15 seasons, the X Factor final was a mainstay and important date in the December calendar as we waited to see if the winner would once again snatch the hallowed Christmas number one spot on the UK Chart. But where are all 15 of them winners now? Here’s what all of The X Factor winners are up to in 2021, the year ITV finally axed the show after dwindling viewing figures saw a steep decline.

Steve Brookstein

Via @stevebrookstein on Twitter

The first ever winner of The X Factor, Steve Brookstein, is best remembered for me as the man who Sharon Osbourne absolutely annihilated during the live final with her iconic “No, not fabulous.” Steve won the show for the Overs category with his cover of Phil Collins’ Against All Odds and it went to number one on the UK chart. He got signed to Sony BMG and released his album, but eight months after the final he was dropped from the label. Since winning, Steve has spent his years criticising The X factor, releasing a book titled Getting Over The X.

Steve also spends his days being particularly unlikeable on Twitter, no more so than when he tweeted “The hypocrisy of gay men discussing HIV is astonishing. They don’t like HIV being compared to obesity or smoking. Yes it is unfortunate and treatable but so is obesity and smoking. #GarethThomas” in 2019 – widely deemed to be homophobic.

Shayne Ward

Shayne Ward won the second season of the show, and along with it the hearts of everyone too because let’s face it: FIT. He had the Christmas number one with his winner’s single That’s My Goal, which at the time was the fourth fastest selling single in the UK of all time. Shayne got a platinum selling number one album on his debut, and by 2021 he’s released four studio albums and a remix LP.

In 2015, Shayne Ward was cast on Coronation Street as Aidan Connor, and was well received, winning a National Television Award for best newcomer. He’s currently filming a psychological thriller titled Stairs, in which he is playing the lead.

Leona Lewis

Vanessa Williams, Trixie Mattel, Leona Lewis and Michelle Visage

Leona Lewis has been incredibly successful since winning the third season of The X Factor, and has remained one of the most prominent winners today in 2021. She’s had an incredibly successful solo career, including becoming big in the States, thanks to the whopping power of her biggest hit Bleeding Love. She’s released five studio albums, starred in films and Broadway shows and has sold 35 million records worldwide.

In 2021, she became a judge on Queen of the Universe, a drag queen singing competition hosted by Graham Norton that is like Eurovision meets RuPaul’s Drag Race. She’s joined on the panel of the Paramount Plus show by Vanessa Williams, Michelle Visage and Trixie Mattel.

Leon Jackson

Leon Jackson won season four of The X Factor in 2007, and has been one of the quietest winners in the show’s history. Whilst his debut cover of When You Believe was incredibly successful, his later work never managed to hit the same heights and he was dropped from Syco Label, where Leon said he found out the news from the press rather than directly from management. He has subsequently vowed to never perform When You Believe ever again and called his win “a curse.”

It’s not clear what Leon Jackson is up to in 2021, as he has not posted on any social media since 2019. He is now based in Los Angeles.

Alexandra Burke

Queen Alexandra Burke needs no introduction: She’s never stopped being iconic since she won The X Factor. After singing with Beyoncé and releasing Hallelujah, we got to the GOOD STUFF. Bad Boys? Broken Heels? She’s smashed it on Strictly, smashed it in The Bodyguard. And lest we forget that she did bring the phrase “elephant in the room” to the United Kingdom, which we are very grateful for.

In 2021, Alexandra has continued her work in theatre, and is currently starring in Manchester as the princess in their Aladdin pantomime. She’s also signed on to be starring in a movie in which her character is inspired by Tina Turner.

Joe McElderry

Since Joe McElderry won The X factor and got to number one with his winner’s single, he’s done a lot of theatre work, including rave reviews for his role as Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and The Who’s Tommy. He also starred in Club Tropicana with former Sugababe Amelle Berrabah.

In 2021, Joe has announced a George Michael tribute tour that he’ll be embarking on in the new year, and he’s currently starring in Newcastle’s panto production of Snow White.

Matt Cardle

Since winning The X Factor, Matt Cardle has released four studio albums, his latest coming out in 2018. He also starred in theatre productions, including Strictly Ballroom and an acclaimed turn as Pilate in Jesus Christ Superstar at the Barbican.

In 2021, he is one of The X Factor winners still releasing music. He’s recently released his EP Purple Crayon, saying of the title track “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.”

Little Mix

Little Mix need no introduction: They’re the biggest and most successful winners in the show’s history, and are one of the most successful girl groups in history. They’ve sold 60 million records worldwide, had five UK number one singles and are absolute icons.

In 2021, Little Mix took their first steps as a trio after Jesy Nelson left the group at the end of 2020. They won Best Group at the Brits in March, had successful hit singles with Galantis and Anne-Marie and released their first greatest hits album Between Us – featuring new songs. Leigh-Anne and Perrie both gave birth in 2021, and the girls announced that they would be taking indefinite hiatus in the new year for some rest. And considering how hard and how prolifically they’ve worked in their career, absolutely FAIR PLAY.

Jesy started her solo career, to a mixed response and a reasonable degree of backlash amidst allegations of blackfishing. Jade, Perrie and Leigh-Anne are not currently speaking with Jesy and have unfollowed her on social media.

James Arthur


Despite his career post-X Factor kicking off with a homophobic controversy, James Arthur managed to maintain a successful solo career with a string of top charting hits.

In 2021, he’s still releasing new music and has just released his fourth album It’ll All Make Sense In The End in November. The album artwork is… Interesting.

Sam Bailey

After Sam Bailey won The X Factor, becoming the first contestant from the Overs category to do so since Steve in season one, she went on to support Beyoncé in the UK leg of her 2014 world tour. She’s done a lot of theatre work since winning too, including Vampire’s Rock and Fat Friends – The Musical.

In 2021, Sam signed to an independent music label and released her first single with them, a cover of Black Velvet by Alannah Myles. Sam Bailey is currently touring the UK playing Mrs Potts in Beauty And The Beast: The Musical.

Ben Haenow

Ben Haenow won the 2014 season of The X Factor, unsatisfyingly beating the clearly more deserving Fleur East to the win. Something I Need, his winner’s single, debuted at number one on the UK charts. His self titled debut album was released, lead in by the single Second Hand Heart which is a duet with the one and only Kelly Clarkson.

In 2021, he’s continued to do live shows whilst raising his son. He released a string of acoustic covers to his Spotify this year, I including Purple Rain, Angel and Tell It To My Heart.

Louisa Johnson


Louisa became The X Factor’s youngest ever winner in 2015, and honestly? One of the most deserving X Factor winners still to this day in 2021. She released a string of excellent singles following her Forever Young winner’s tune, including her stellar feature on Clean Bandit’s banger Tears, So Good, Best Behaviour and the underrated YES – featuring 2 Chainz.

In 2021, she’s been working hard on her YouTube and is posting pictures working in the music studio captioned “everything is coming together”, suggesting more new music is on the way!

Matt Terry

Matt Terry is the proud creator of the lowest selling X Factor winner album ever, and was dropped from his label shortly after winning the show. Since then, he played Alex The Lion in Madagascar: The Musical.

According to his Insta, Matt is still singing and is posting covers including a recent one of him doing Easy On Me by Adele.


For winners of a later season, Rak-Su have done a good job still working prolifically and doing well on the UK charts since the show finished. Group member Myles went on I’m A Celebrity and finished seventh in 2019.

In 2021, the group are one of the X Factor winners to still be releasing music, and dropped their debut mixtape Finally Free in September.

Dalton Harris

The final winner of The X factor, Dalton Harris, hasn’t released much since winning the last ever season, but continues to post on Instagram pictures of gigs and West End and Broadway performances. He is pansexual.

Featured image courtesy of @alexandraburke, @joemcelderryofficial and @louisa

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