Who won Pop Idol? Winners of each series of reality show and where are contestants now - including Will Young

The late singer Darius came third in the final of the singing show in 2002

Watch more of our videos on Shots!
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

The showbiz world has gone in to mourning following the shock death of singer and TV personality Darius Campbell Danesh.

Danesh, who was known just as Darius, was found dead in his flat in the United States on Thursday 11 August, his family has said.

Darius, who was just 41 at the time of his death, captured the hearts of the nation when he appeared on the talent TV show Pop Idol back in the early noughties.

He came third in the competition, but went on to have a flourishing career as a singer, songwriter, musician, actor and film producer.

As people continue to mourn Darius, people have questioned what happened to his fellow Pop Idol contestants.

Here’s everything you need to know.

This is what happened to some of the most well-known contestants from ITV talent show Pop Idol.This is what happened to some of the most well-known contestants from ITV talent show Pop Idol.
This is what happened to some of the most well-known contestants from ITV talent show Pop Idol.

What was Pop Idol?

Pop Idol was a talent contest which aired on ITV between 2001 and 2003.

The aim of the show was to decide the best new young pop singer, or pop idol, in the UK based on professional judging and viewer voting.

The show was a huge success, and allowed ordinary people from all walks of life to try to launch their career as a popstar.

The show has become an international TV franchise since, spawning multiple Idol series worldwide.

Series judge Simon Cowell became a major public figure in entertainment due to the show, but Pop Idol was put on an indefinite hiatus after Cowell announced the launch of another singing competition, The X Factor, in the UK in April 2004.

Who won Pop Idol?

There were two series of Pop Idol.

The first series was won by Will Young, whose full name is William Robert Young, making him the first winner of the worldwide Idol franchise.

The second series was won by Michelle McManus.

Where are the Pop Idol contestants now?

Will Young

Will Young won the first series of Pop Idol at the age of 23 and has enjoyed a successful career.

His first single, Evergreen, was released two weeks after the show’s finale in February 2002 and it became the fastest-selling debut single in the UK.

The following year, he released his debut album From Now On, which went straight to number one.

Since the early noughties Young, now aged 43, has released five albums - four of which went to the number one spot.

The two-time Brit award winner  has also tried his hand at acting, making his debut in the 2005 BBC film Mrs Henderson Presents as Bertie.

Young has also starred in The Royal Exchange Theatre’s production of The Vortex by Noël Coward, the musical Cabaret in London, and Sky Living drama series Bedlam among others.

In 2016, he joined the cast of Strictly Come Dancing, however, after just three weeks, he announced that he was leaving the show due to “personal reasons”.

Young, who revealed he was a gay man shortly after taking part in Pop Idol, has also written a book called To Be a Gay Man (2020)

In 2020, Young lost his twin brother Rupert, at age 41 and in May this year he spoke about his brother’s suicide in a Channel 4 documentary called Will Young: Losing My Twin Rupert.

Gareth Gates

Gareth Gates was the runner up in the first series of Pop Idol.

At the age of just 17 when the show aired between late 2001 and February 2002, Gates was very popular with viewers - and many expected him to win.

After Pop Idol, he was soon signed up by Simon Cowell to the BMG label. His career was successful and he had numeorus big hits, including his million-selling cover of Unchained Melody, the number one single Stupid Mistake, as well as he cover of Spirit in the Sky with TV personalities The Kumars.

In 2008, Gates appeared on ITV’s Dancing on Ice, finishing fourth. He later appeared on the show again in 2014, with edition called Dancing on Ice: All Stars which consisted of former series champions and public favourites

In 2009, Gates began a career in musical theatre, playing the title role in the West End production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.

In 2013, he took part in reality-documentary series The Big Reunion as part of supergroup 5th Story.

Gates shares a 13-year-old daughter called Missy Gates with his ex-wife Suzanne Mole.

He is known for his stammer and speech impediment, which he has spoken out about publicly.

He used the McGuire Programme to manage his stutter and is now a speech coach with the programme.

Michelle McManus

Michelle McManus was crowned the winner of the second series of Pop Idol in December 2003, at the age of 23.

Michelle, who is now aged 42 and from Glasgow, released her debut single All This Time shortly after her win which went to the number one spot in January 2004.

Her victory was controversial as judge Pete Waterman stormed off the set of the TV show when she won.

Her debut album, which was her only album, called The Meaning of Love hit number three in the UK charts.

She set up her own label, McMannii Records, after being dropped by her record company but never released another album. A second album, called Dancing to a Different Beat, was scheduled for release in 2008 but this never happened.

McManus has stepped away from the spotlight somewhat, but she has worked as a presenter on several TV shows, including Scottish lifestyle TV programme The Hour, and ITV chat show Loose Women.

She also makes some public appearances and recently performed her biggest hits to a sell out crowd at East Kilbride Village Theatre.

She shares two young sons with her husband Jeff Nimmo, whom she married in 2017.

Mark Rhodes and Sam Nixon

Mark Rhodes and Sam Nixon came in second and third place respectively in the second series of Pop Idol.

They teamed up following the end of the show and became known collectively as Sam and Mark.

They had some success singing together, but went on to launch more successful careers as television personalities.

Their first single, a cover of With a Little Help from My Friends, hit number one in February 2004.

Mark and Sam scooped two Children’s BAFTA’s as Best Presenters and Best Entertainment Show in 2015 for their work on Sam & Mark’s Big Friday Wind Up (CBBC).

Later that year they also published their first children’s book The Adventures of Long Arm.

The pair are still working together, making public appearances, and performing in panto as well as on television.

Rik Waller

Rik Waller, now age 41, appeared on the first series of Pop Idol when he was 20.

He got laryngitis, which meant he had to exit the show early, and he was replaced by Darius.

Waller had brief success as a singer following Pop Idol, but in 2013 he became an exam invigilator. It is believed he still works in the same role today.

Zoe Birkett

Zoe Birkett was just 16 years old when she appeared on the first series of Pop Idol, finishing in fourth place behind winner Will Young, Gareth and Darius Campbell Danesh.

Now aged 37, she released a single called Treat Me Like a Lady before launching into a long West End career.

She has also been Alexandra Burke’s understudy for The Bodyguard and, since 2021, she has performed as Arabia in Moulin Rouge! The Musical and also understudies the main female lead role of Satine.

In 2014, Birkett appeared in the non-celebrity version of Big Brother. Birkett, who is a mother-of-one, is also a published children’s author and has a five-year-old daughter, Aaria. She married Aaria’s father Adam Tahir last year.

Hayley Evetts

Hayley Evetts finished fifth in the first series of Pop Idol.

The 46 year old, who was then 25, was given several TV presenting jobs after the show finished, however.

She hosted Popstars: The Rivals Extra on ITV and Sky’s Cruel Holiday.

Evetts also had an acting job and portrayed Eve in Coronation Street.

Singing was always her true passion, and in 2011 she released her single Waste My Time.

In 2012, Evetts decided to try and make it in the music industry once again and auditioned for The X Factor. She left the competition at boot camp stage, however, and has largely remained out of the public eye since then.