TV talent shows: is second the new first?

Post Britain's Got Talent, we look back at some runners-up who eclipsed the winners


A shock win for Britain’s Got Talent contestant Jai McDowall meant “a total dream come true”, £100,000 in prize money, a spot on The Royal Variety Performance and a holiday with his mum and dad in Benidorm. Will it also mean a lasting career as a major recording artist? Probably not.


Meanwhile, look at runner-up Ronan Parke, the 12-year-old boy with the voice of an angel and the hair of Justin Bieber. The “fixing” scandal arguably shattered his chances of winning the series (Ronan’s share of the vote dropped by 35 per cent between the semi-final and the final, against a drop of just 14 per cent for Jai) yet he is reportedly poised to sign a £1 million recording contract with Sony Music, and looks likely to bounce right back from his last-minute defeat.

One thing’s for sure, these days winning is no guarantee of success and those who finish second can still make it big. Here are four more losers who won…

Liberty X v Hear’Say
Living proof that adding an X to your name immediately makes you sexier and more dangerous are the pop group formerly known as plain old Liberty. Michelle Heaton, Tony Lundon, Kevin Simm, Jessica Taylor and Kelli Young lost out to Hear’Say’s Myleene Klass and co in the first series of Popstars in 2001 but went on to record ten consecutive top 20 UK hits during their six years together, while Hear’Say managed a measly four, before disbanding in 2002.

Olly Murs v Joe McElderry
Oliver Stanley Murs, you have pleaded guilty to the charge of outshining the winner of the 2009 series of The X Factor, with a UK number two-charting debut album, a number one debut single and a continuing music career. Joseph “Joe” McElderry, you were dropped by your record label after low sales and are now appearing on the misleadingly titled show Popstar to Operastar.

JLS v Alexandra Burke
After three number one hits, including a collaboration with US rapper Flo Rida, it would be wide of the mark to suggest that 2008 X Factor winner Alexandra Burke has not tasted success. But while the boy band lost out to the soul diva in the talent show stakes, they’ve edged it since then, scoring four number one UK hits alongside their chart-topping debut album – and launching their own brand of condoms.


Susan Boyle v Diversity
As dance troupes go, 2009 Britain’s Got Talent winners Diversity have done well for themselves – their appearance in StreetDance 3D was a highlight, while leader Ashley Banjo landed a judging slot on Sky1’s Got to Dance. But Susan Boyle is a worldwide phenomenon. Her first audition video garnered hundreds of millions of online views, and her debut album was number one around the world, selling nine million copies in just six weeks. Not only that, but SuBo holds the honour of having been portrayed in drag by US talk show host Jay Leno. That, ladies and gentlemen, is fame.