Sam Nixon, Will Young, Gareth Gates: Where are the Pop Idol finalists now?

Before the X Factor was Pop Idol, a comparatively genteel talent show that introduced us to Will Young and Sam Nixon. But whatever happened to the other wannabe idols?

It may be 12 years since Pop Idol was last on our screens, but we still have fond memories of the ITV show.

Before the behemoth that is the X Factor came along, Pop Idol felt like a more genteel – and more innocent – TV show that searched for a singer.

As Pop Idol alumnus Sam Nixon prepares to do battle in the final of Celebrity MasterChef tonight, we look back at where some of the more memorable finalists on the show are now.

Will Young

Pop Idol Will Young Embed

Over 4.5 million people voted for Will Young in the first Pop Idol final in 2002, with a BT spokesperson at the time stating that the volume of calls had threatened the stability of the national network. Will has gone on to have an incredibly successful career, with his latest album (released this year) becoming his fourth UK number one album. He has also won two Brit Awards, sold over eight million albums worldwide and has been nominated for two Olivier Awards for his theatre work.

Michelle McManus

Pop Idol Michelle Embed

Michelle won the second series of Pop Idol with over 58% of the vote in the final, and almost immediately released a successful debut album. However, before long she was dropped from her record label. These days, Michelle is forging a very diverse career as a columnist for Scotland’s Evening Times newspaper and more recently as a comedian. She proved to be a “comedy hit” in March this year when she performed her one-woman show at a festival in Glasgow.

Sam Nixon & Mark Rhodes

Pop Idol Sam Mark Embed

Mark and Sam came second and third respectively in the second series of Pop Idol, beaten by Michelle McManus. Despite entering the show separately, the pair struck up a firm friendship and became a pop duo. They released two singles under the name Sam & Mark, and their cover of With a Little Help from My Friends reached number one in 2004. They have now become the next generation’s Ant & Dec, going on to present kids’ TV together on the CBBC Channel.

Gareth Gates

Gareth Gates Embed

Even though Gareth Gates came second in the first series of Pop Idol, he certainly made an impression. To date, he has sold over 3.5 million records in the UK, and has appeared on countless TV shows over the past 10 years. Today, he is still singing and performing small gigs across the country while he is also dating actress Faye Brookes, who will shortly be joining Coronation Street as Aidan Connor’s (Shayne Ward) sister Kate.

Andy Scott-Lee

Pop Idol Andy Embed

Before Pop Idol, Andy Scott-Lee was a member of boy band 3SL who found fame after having a couple of hits. After the band broke up, he entered the show and ended up coming sixth in the second series. He went on to marry – and subsequently divorce – Michelle Heaton in 2006, and he is also the brother of Steps singer Lisa Scott-Lee.

Darius Danesh

Pop Idol Darius Embed

Darius’s rendition of Hit Me Baby One More Time still goes down in reality TV history as one of the worst – and ultimately best – auditions we’ve ever seen. It was any wonder he got through at all, but unbelievably Darius went on to some success after the show.  His debut single Colourblind went to number one in 2002 and his album went platinum. Darius Campbell, as he is now known, has also had a best-selling book and has starred in West End productions of Chicago and Gone With the Wind.

Rik Waller

Pop Idol Rik Waller

Long before Paul Potts we had Rik Waller. The larger-than-life singer was forced to leave the competition after contracting laryngitis, and was replaced on the show by Darius Danesh. After Pop Idol, Rik signed a contract with EMI and his debut single – a cover of I Will Always Love You – reached number six in the UK chart. He also appeared on Celebrity Fit Club, and now works as an exam invigilator in Kent.

Jessica Garlick

Pop Idol Jessica Garlick

After Pop Idol, Jessica was selected as the UK’s Eurovision Song Contest entry in 2002. She came a very respectable joint third with Come Back. She made a return to music in 2009 with an album called Hard Not to Fall. However, the singer and mum has fallen quiet over the past six years.

Zoe Birkett

Pop Idol Zoe Birkett Embed

Zoe was one of the youngest contestants on the first series of Pop Idol, being only 16 at the time. Post-Pop Idol, Zoe – who came fourth in the competition – released one single, Treat Me Like a Lady. She carved a successful theatre career for herself, starring in Thriller – Live and Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Last year, she entered Big Brother and was evicted after 58 days.

Photo credit: PA/REX

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