Trigger warning: This article includes mentions of suicidal thoughts.
For years, Saturday nights in the UK were about one thing and one thing only:
. First airing in 2004, Simon Cowell’s famous talent show ran for 15 series and launched the careers of some of the world’s biggest pop acts, including One Direction and Little Mix. The X Factor
However, despite the show’s initial success (viewing figures reached their peak in 2010 with
19.4 million viewers for the series seven finale), the format had well and truly run its course by the time it was taken off air. Although Cowell and his team made a valiant attempt to resuscitate the brand through a glitzy celebrity edition, The X Factor was officially axed in 2017.
Still, that hasn’t stopped many of its former fans from reminiscing about all the drama, the pitchy notes, the chaos of judges houses and, of course, the on-stage celebrity cameos (Beyoncé and Alexandra Burke, anyone?). Nearly two decades on from its premiere and
The X Factor archives continue to provide us with some top quality meme material.
The most memorable part of
The X Factor was, of course, the contestants. Characters such bad boy Frankie Cocozza live on in our hearts, standing tall as pillars of British pop culture. But, with so many years having elapsed since their time on the show, you’ll be unsurprised to hear that many of these former X Factor stars have undergone drastic transformations. Stick around to take a trip down memory lane with us. Mary Byrne Ken McKay/ITV/Shutterstock
Former Tescos checkout lady Mary Byrne auditioned in 2010 with an absolute belter. Singing “I Who Have Nothing” by Tom Jones, she wowed the judges with her immense talent, going on to make it all the way to the live semi-finals.
Having sign a record deal with Sony Music Ireland shortly after appearing on the show, Byrne continues to work as a singer 12 years on from her
X Factor debut.
Byrne made headlines recently following a physical transformation, which took place at a steady pace over a number of years. Now 60 years old, Byrne will be near unrecognisable for fans who remember her
X Factor audition.
I was just under 21 stone on the show and I am now just over 15 stone,” she told the Irish Mirror. “I looked at the picture of me on the show and me now and I honestly was shocked,” she continued. “Because it happened gradually over the decade I guess I haven’t noticed it as much but yes, it is a shocking amount of weight loss.” Ray Quinn Ken McKay/ITV/Shutterstock
Bouncing into the auditions as a young lad in 2006, Ray Quinn
impressed the judges with his sultry jazz tones. Despite coming in second to Leona Lewis that year, Quinn has transformed himself from singer to singer and impressive actor/all-round performer. He was crowned winner of Dancing on Ice in 2009 and took top spot again in the All Stars edition of the show in 2014. Plus, he has appeared in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks as Jonny Baxter.
underwent quite the physical transformation in 2017, when he dedicated his time to muscle building. As he told the Loose Women panel at the time, per the Daily Mail, “Coming from a dance background, I’ve always tried to look my best.” He’s since furthered that makeover by growing out his hair and decking out his arms in tattoo sleeves.
For a short while, Quinn left the spotlight as a result of the global health crisis. Following the cancellation of a production he was set to star in,
the singer worked as a delivery driver before joining his family business as a carpet fitter. Quinn has since returned to singing, and is currently performing on the P&O Cruise ship Britannia. He’s also expecting his second child with fianceé Emily Ashleigh. And he shares a son with his ex-wife, Emma Stephens. Lucy Spraggen Shirlaine Forrest/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Lucy Spraggan made
quite the first impression during her 2012 audition, opting to sing an original song accompanied by her guitar. Delighting the audience with “Last Night”, Spraggan unfortunately had to pull out of the competition due to illness. However, she went on to sign a record deal with Columbia soon after before deciding to go independent.
Spraggan has since
continued to pursue a career in music, signing a two-record deal in 2021. She hasn’t revealed who she’s working with, but has teased that her music sounds “a lot more high-calibre than anything I’ve done before,” per Yorkshire Live.
Not only has her music changed, but so has her lifestyle. Spraggan has
been public about her decision to go sober and now sports bleach blonde hairdo along with a few other transformations. “ Different tits, different teeth, different hair colour,” she captioned a comparison photo on Instagram. “Same passion, same drive, same three chords I’ve used to write every song I’ve ever written.” Rachel Adedeji Ian West - PA Images/PA Images/Getty Images Sam Bailey
As far as
unforgettable auditions go, Sam Bailey’s is certainly up there. The former prison officer took on Beyoncé’s “Listen,” which floored the judges. Bailey would continue to wow them and viewers, which led to her winning the crown in 2013.
Following her win, Bailey went on
to star in musical productions of Chicago and Fat Friends . She released her debut album The Power of Love in 2014, which went to number 1. Bailey also supported Beyoncé during one of her shows the same year. Most recently, Bailey released covers of Alannah Myles’s “Black Velvet” and Meatloaf’s “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That).” She also toured with Disney’s in 2021 as Mrs. Potts. Beauty and the Beast
Bailey has transformed herself in a number of ways. Firstly, she’s ditched the brunette for a lighter ’do. And, much like Mary Byrne, she has also spoken about her physical transformation. Of her trimmer figure, Bailey told the
Daily Mail’s Femail: “ I feel much better in terms of my health and fitness now. Being overweight is not good for you as it can cause heart problems and clog the arteries. Being slimmer has helped with my asthma. I'm not getting as wheezy, I used to get out of breath just walking around.”
She added: “I won't be doing lots of energetic dance routines at gigs now, as a lot of the songs I perform are slow ballads, but it will be nice to move around the stage and not feel knackered.”
Frankie Cocozza Ken McKay/ITV/Shutterstock
Immediately typecast as a bad boy, you’ll probably remember Frankie Cocozza for his bum tattoo that he
showcased during his first audition back in 2011. Cocozza’s antics continued throughout his time on the show, but it was his alleged involvement in a drug scandal that eventually got him kicked off.
Following his brief time on
The X Factor, Cocozza appeared on the ninth series of Celebrity Big Brother, where he finished in second place behind Denise Welch.
Since his time on the show, Cocozza has grown up a lot and looks very different. Gone is his signature spikey long hair with a swept over fringe – he now wears his hair in a more coiffed wavy look or slightly shorter.
Now in his late twenties,
Cocozza lives in Australia and regularly makes music with his band Monday Moon. He became a dad for the first time in 2019, and is busy raising his son with his partner Bianca. “Nothing made much sense before,” he captioned a post of him and his baby boy on Instagram. Leon Jackson
At just eighteen-years-old,
Leon Jackson caught the attention of the judges who believed he had what it took to become a pop star. Jackson would go on to beat fellow contestant Rhydian Roberts in the fourth series of the talent show and come out victorious.
After becoming the
first Scottish singer to top the charts at Christmas in 2007, he released his debut album Right Now which went to to be certified gold. Despite that, he was later dropped from his label.
In the years since, Jackson overhauled his personal life, moving to Los Angeles, California. He still works in the music industry, and has
experienced quite the glow up in the process. Misha B Sean Dempsey - PA Images/PA Images/Getty Images
Then 19-year-old Misha B had high hopes at
becoming one of , but would go onto face an uphill battle in the competition after judges Tulisa Contostavolos and Louis Walsh The X Factor’s biggest stars accused her of bullying, following one of her performances during the live show. Despite the accusations, the aspiring singer made it to the semi-final alongside Little Mix, Amelia Lily, and Marcus Collins.
Misha B reintroduced herself to the world and addressed the bullying storyline, alleging that it had been orchestrated by producers and that the drama backstage left her feeling suicidal. Speaking on her Instagram, she said “‘Fiesty’ and ‘mean.’ These are like the common words they use to describe Black women. You created this whole narrative of me being over-confident because Black girls shouldn’t be confident.”
Thankfully, the singer is in a much better place now, and is looking forward to releasing future music.
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