X Factor's Leon Jackson now: Simon Cowell snub and unrecognisable transformation

Leon Jackson won The X Factor back in 2007 aged just 18, and then somewhat vanished from the scene, often dubbed as the competition's 'forgotten' champion.

The Scottish singer found controversy after his surprising victory over favourite Rhydian Roberts in a tense final.

According to Ladbrokes, this was "the biggest shock in the history of reality TV betting".

His win came after performing a duet with none other than Kylie Minogue.

Some viewers cried foul play, alleging that phone lines were down when they tried to cast their votes for Rhydian.

Broadcasting watchdog Ofcom received more than a thousand complaints from these disgruntled would-be voters.

Yet, even in the face of such discontent, Ofcom ruled that Jackson still would have emerged victorious even if all those unable to vote had gotten through.

Rhydian Roberts -Credit:Ken McKay / Rex Features
Rhydian Roberts -Credit:Ken McKay / Rex Features

As a result, he won a £1 million recording contract with Simon Cowell's company Syco, reports the Mirror.

Upon being conferred the title, a stunned Leon echoed that it "didn't feel real"

His mentor, Dannii Minogue expressed her anticipation for what lay in store for him in his forthcoming recording career.

His winning single hit the mark as an excellent arrangement of Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston's celebrated duet When You Believe, and it went on to secure the Christmas number-one spot that year.

Reportedly, copies of the track flew off Woolworths shelves, at a rate of 40 per minute at its height.

He released his second single, Don't Call This Love, which reached number three in the UK charts, and his first album, Right Now, made it to number four.

However, he was dropped from Syco after his debut album reportedly sold just 130,000 copies, with a spokesperson for the Sony division saying that they "wished him well."

"I had a great year and learned so much recording and releasing my album," said Leon. "Every artist knows these things can go either way. I'm really looking forward to my tour and doing more writing."

After being dropped, he was voted the second biggest reality TV flop in a national survey - only losing out to first-ever winner Steve Brookstein.

The following year, Leon spoke about his exit from Syco and revealed he was "crushed" after finding out he was getting the boot in a newspaper.

Leon Jackson aged 18 on the X Factor in 2007 -Credit:Ken McKay / Rex Features
Leon Jackson aged 18 on the X Factor in 2007 -Credit:Ken McKay / Rex Features

Slamming the Cowell pop machine, which he said placed him under "a lot of stress and strain", Leon claimed he was given the boot because his album Right Now didn't reach the No. 1 spot.

"It was higher than Oasis and only behind Kings Of Leon, Kaiser Chiefs and AC/DC," said Leon as he defended his music in September 2010.

"It sold 150,000 copies and went gold but to Sony it wasn't good enough. You receive an advance and it's up to you how far you make it go," he told Reveal magazine.

Admitting that Cowell's rejection left him heartbroken, he said: "It was a crushing moment especially when, to my eyes, I hadn't done anything wrong."

Leon also made a promise never to perform his No1 hit When You Believe again and revealed he no longer keeps in touch with Simon or Dannii.

"There was a false perception that I was this guy in a shiny suit singing jazz like Michael Buble," he shared with The Daily Record in 2010.

"Yet when I first started singing, I appreciated people like Gavin De-Graw and Paolo Nutini or Buble's more contemporary songs such as Home or Lost."

"My number one song, When You Believe, was never me and I didn't feel comfortable with it in the first place. I was singing songs that weren't really me and doing things I had to do. I was not comfortable and it was not appealing to people my age."

After heading to LA to create new tracks, Leon embarked on a summer tour in 2010 and even taught himself to play the guitar and piano.

Shortly after his acoustic tour, Leon expressed that he needed to rekindle his love for music.

On his website, he stated: "I've needed time to consolidate and make sense of everything I've experienced. I needed to fall in love with music again, this process has been slow and wrenching at times but I'm now feeling liberated and fulfilled for the first time with my work."

"Music is a conversation between the singer and the listener, and to that end the fans are the foundation of everything I do."

Since relocating to LA in 2016, Leon has dedicated much of his time to philanthropic efforts, including fundraising for Glasgow Children's Hospital and the Children's Hospice Association Scotland.

His website states: "As far as team Leon is concerned music is about life not the other way round. It's a privilege to be able use your gifting to bring joy to people, travelling and paying the bills is a bonus."

Now at 35, Leon caused quite a stir among his followers when he revealed a striking new image a few years back, flaunting a chiselled six-pack on Instagram.

The X Factor victor displayed an astonishingly buff physique, marking a sizzling transformation since his victory on the talent show.

Leon has maintained a rather discreet presence over the last few years - however, made a long-awaited return to Instagram in January 2024, teasing possible music with the caption: "More in ‘24".

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