You’d better be sure before you go putting all your eggs in the TV singing contest’s basket – to date, there have been 114 finalists, giving pause for thought to anyone who thinks reaching the live shows equals making the big time.
So if you want your name to go down in reality TV history rather than garnering a lonely “Who?” after each rare mention, take a leaf out of these X Factor legends’ books.
Embrace Your Eccentricities
Many an X Factor contestant has realised that the best way to stand out is to act like an eccentric superstar from the off.
Especially when you’re trying to get noticed in those first few rounds, normal = forgettable.
Kitty Brucknell could never be accused of fading into the background. The Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Lady Gaga impersonator found a fan in Brian May after performing a Queen song, and Lady Gaga herself even rushed on stage to console her when she was voted off. However, Kitty was a little too unusual for some tastes – judge Gary Barlow voted her out because he said the audience weren’t connecting with her.
One of The X Factor’s biggest stars was Chico, with his infamous song and dance routine It’s Chico Time. Never afraid to be himself, Chico made it through to fifth place and even Simon Cowell, who had walked out of his first audition, had to admit he was a “born entertainer”.
Katie Waissel first grabbed our attention in her Madonna-from-the-80s inspired outfits and went on to give some inspired performances, with unusual song choices including The Jungle Book’s King of the Swingers. She may not have come close to winning, but this is one X Factor star who’s had enduring appeal in the spotlight.
Johnny Robinson may have suffered from nerves to begin with, but he soon cast off his less-than-glamorous past living in a bedsit to wow audiences as a disco diva.
So Bad You’re Good
Destined for stardom but lacking the vocals to get you there? Don’t let that stop you – as we’re forever being told, there’s so much more to being world class than a pleasant singing voice.
Wagner won over judge Louis Walsh almost immediately, but when Sharon Osbourne joined Louis at his judges’ houses auditions, she really fell in love with him. Some of his live show performances were downright bizarre, but there wasn’t a single week we didn’t look forward to seeing him.
“I’m John,” “I’m Edward,” “And together we are… John and Edward.” And so the Jedward phenomenon was born. It’s hard to claim there was any genuine musical skill involved, but there was a lot of gravity-defying hair and Jedward was the act everyone tuned in for. They’re still some of the show’s most famous alumni.
Another stand-out success who didn’t need music to make it big was Rylan Clark. He quickly made a name for his statement fringed shoulderpads and wasn’t afraid of a good blub whenever there was good news for him. Rylan became king of the snappy comebacks when the judges criticised him and went on to win Celebrity Big Brother. He’s now a co-presenter on Channel 5′s Big Brother coverage with Emma Willis.
Pull On The Heartstrings
The X Factor has become as well known for its emotional tales as it has for its pop stars. While there’s been a growing chorus of people pleading for the sob stories to be shelved, those who’ve genuinely overcome adversity through music are always popular with the voters.
Jahmene Douglas oozed class during his performances, especially when he revealed that he had supported his mum through domestic violence and turned to music to express himself. He’s since done a lot of charity work to help other young people with the same family problems.
Last year, Hannah Barrett shared her tale of having moved into a hostel after her dad died and she fell out with her mum. The likeable teen won over even the hardest hearted viewers with her version of A Change Is Gonna Come at judges’ houses and went on to be a popular contestant at the live shows.
Most of Christopher Maloney’s tears were actually shed during the show as the Scouse singer shook uncontrollably and struggled with his nerves. He came in for heavy criticism from the judges, but with his dear old nan jumping to his defence, Christopher was a hit with the voting public. And of course he cried every time he was saved to sing another week.
Get A Rock Star Attitude
If you’ve had a rider full of outlandish demands since you could talk and won’t even pop to the shop for a pint of milk without an entourage, you could go down the attitude route. Even Simon Cowell will be too scared to say no if you get your frown just right.
James Arthur has been the best example of this contestant type. Even after winning the show with his angsty performances, he still didn’t drop the attitude. James was regularly found on Twitter bemoaning the state of the music industry, the media and even his own PR people, and has had to make more than one grovelling apology post rant. He parted ways with label Sony earlier this year.
Another of the most notorious rock-star-style acts was Frankie Cocozza, who remains the only person to have been kicked out of the competition after breaking a “golden rule”, which he admitted involved taking drugs. After one night out the day before a live show, he claimed to have slept for just 30 minutes. A singing superstar he was not, but Frankie definitely had the attitude to make up for the lack of talent.
Tamera Foster fell foul of the common X Factor mistake of getting yourself on a huge TV show knowing you have a few skeletons in your closet. Before she knew it, newspapers were splashing stories about her bad girl ways including taking drugs and attacking another teen.
Louis Walsh was no fan of Cher Lloyd when she was on the show and the pair still struggle to find anything nice to say about each other. He claimed she was a nightmare to deal with and she even had some less than complimentary things to say about her ex mentor Cheryl.
True Talent Shines Through
Of course, you could always, you know, actually be talented. Obviously this road takes a lot more hard work and requires a certain degree of humbleness, but there are a high proportion of winners in this category.
Sometimes, nice really does win votes, as this lot found out.
Sam Bailey was transformed from prison officer to queen of The X Factor last year, hooking fans of all ages on her story of a talented singer who’d been “just a mum” for years until she finally decided to do something for herself. Cheers rang out across the country when Sam was crowned the oldest ever winner of the show.
Representing the nice guys was Joe McElderry, the winner of series six who was never without a smile on his face and couldn’t have displayed diva tendencies if his life depended on it.
Simon is still talking about how much he likes Rebecca Ferguson now. She was one of the sweetest tempered contestants The X Factor has ever seen, with a totally unique voice that bagged her runner up in series seven and she’s still enjoying success now.
The original Miss Nice was Leona Lewis, whose only drama came through her amazing voice and who went on to become the global superstar that the judges are always searching for, without once having a bad word to say about anyone.