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What happened to the stars of Pop Idol, including Will Young, Gareth Gates, and Michelle McManus

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Tributes have been flooding in this evening following the sad news of the death of former Pop Idol star Darius Campbell Danesh at the age of 41.

The Scottish singer, songwriter, musician, actor, and film producer was found dead in his apartment in Rochester, Minnesota, on August 11. The cause of death remains unknown.

Darius made his first bid for fame in ITV show Popstars in 2001 with his quirky rendition of Britney Spears’ Baby One More Time. He didn’t make it into the band, but the following year, did go on to appear on the first series of Pop Idol where he came third behind Will Young and Gareth Gates.  

Under the name Darius, he recorded two studio albums, Dive In and Live Twice, with both reaching top 40 in the UK Albums Chart. 

His debut single, Colourblind, was released in July 2002 and went straight to number one, marking the start of a run of top 10 releases. 

Tributes have been pouring in following the sad news of Darius Campbell Danesh’s death at the age of 41 (pictured here in London in 2014)

The Scottish performer went on to forge a successful theatre career, appearing in Chicago as Billy Flynn in two runs of the production, as well as Guys And Dolls, Gone With The Wind and more in the West End.

He lived in the US, where he worked on a series of productions, cementing his creative credentials after working as the co-executive director on the Daniel Radcliffe thriller Imperium in 2016, then Tomorrow in 2018.

The singer made friends along the way, being pictured with actors including fellow Scot Gerard Butler in June this year. In 2019, he was pictured enjoying a low-key stroll with unlikely pal actress Rebel Wilson in Portofino, Italy.

Darius had also been an ambassador for the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice and became a supporter of cancer charities including Cancer Research UK after both his parents were diagnosed with cancer and recovered. 

So what happened to fellow Pop Idol alumni – including Will Young, Gareth Gates, and Michelle McManus? Here FEMAIL reveals their varied career paths. 

MICHELLE MCMANUS

Michelle McManus performs at the Pop Idol series 2 final in December 2003, eventually going on to become the show's winner

Michelle McManus performs at the Pop Idol series 2 final in December 2003, eventually going on to become the show’s winner

The former Pop Idol winner, now a mother-of-two, continues to make public appearances and perform

The former Pop Idol winner, now a mother-of-two, continues to make public appearances and perform

Michelle, 42, from Glasgow, is one of the more recognisable stars from Pop Idol, after scooping the top spot in series 2.

Her victory was fraught with controversy, with judge Pete Waterman storming off the set when she won.

After winning the show, Michelle released her debut single All This Time, reaching the coveted number 1 spot in January 2004.

Meanwhile her debut album and only, The Meaning of Love charted at a very respectable number 3.

After being dropped by her record company, she set up her own label, McMannii Records, however, never released another album.

She hasn’t totally retreated from the spotlight though, and over the last decade, has worked as a presenter on several TV shows, including Scottish lifestyle TV programme The Hour, and Loose Women.

Michelle continues to make appearances, recently performing her biggest hits to a sell out crowd at East Kilbride Village Theatre, and taking on the role of Chieftain at the Mallaig & Morar Highland Games.

She shares two young sons with her husband Jeff.  

RIK WALLER

Rik Waller (pictured during the first season of Pop Idol) had to exit the show early due to an unfortunate bout of laryngitis

Rik Waller (pictured during the first season of Pop Idol) had to exit the show early due to an unfortunate bout of laryngitis

After giving his singing career a good try, Rik Waller (pictured here in 2004) eventually became an exam invigilator, which he is still believed to be doing today

After giving his singing career a good try, Rik Waller (pictured here in 2004) eventually became an exam invigilator, which he is still believed to be doing today

Rik Waller, 41, appeared on the first series of Pop Idol at the age of 20 but a bout of laryngitis saw him exit the show early and he was replaced by Darius.

After dropping out of Pop Idol, he signed a record deal with EMI believed to be worth around £400,000, and got off to a good start with his first single, a cover of I Will Always Love You.

Later that year, his career flopped again, when he was booted off Celebrity Fit Club for secret eating.

He gave his singing career another go, after forming his own band and signing with Red Admiral Records.

But two months into his tour in 2004, three shows were cancelled due to low ticket sales.

Rik later gave up on singing after falling in love with a pagan in 2007 who banned him from performing. The relationship didn’t last.

He found himself jobless shortly after, and speaking to the Daily Mail in 2013, Rik said: ‘The most demoralising thing I’ve ever had to do was queue up at the job centre and have people look at me saying, “What a failure”.’

However things turned around that year and in 2013, Rik became an exam invigilator and he is now believed to work full time overseeing secondary school exams for Piper Assessment, in Sittingbourne, Kent.   

GARETH GATES  

Gareth Gates, who finished second in the first series of Pop Idol, was a favourite among fans thanks to his distinctive spiky hair do, and courage in speaking out about his stammer (pictured performing on Pop Idol in 2001)

Gareth Gates, who finished second in the first series of Pop Idol, was a favourite among fans thanks to his distinctive spiky hair do, and courage in speaking out about his stammer (pictured performing on Pop Idol in 2001)

Gareth Gates (pictured here in 2018 with former partner Faye Brookes, with whom he split in 2019) has enjoyed a career in musicals, performing on stage in shows including Legally Blonde

Gareth Gates (pictured here in 2018 with former partner Faye Brookes, with whom he split in 2019) has enjoyed a career in musicals, performing on stage in shows including Legally Blonde

Gareth Paul Gates, 38, was the runner-up of Pop Idol series one, in 2002. 

He stood out with his spikey hair and appeared to be the favourite to win the show, as he topped the public vote in the three weeks before the final. 

He is known for his stammer and speech impediment, alongside his singing career, 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.

After Pop Idol, he had a handful of big hits, including the million-selling cover of ‘Unchained Melody’ and the number one single ‘Stupid Mistake’, and his iconic cover of ‘Spirit in the Sky’ with The Kumars.   

In 2014, he competed on Dancing on Ice: All Stars and took part in The Big Reunion as part of supergroup 5th Story. 

Gates famously had a brief fling with Katie Price and dated Coronation Street star Faye Brookes, when they stared in Legally Blonde The Musical. They had a relationship between 2012 and 2019. 

The Bradford-born Gates, moved into musical theatre in 2009 playing the title role in the West End production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at the Adelphi Theatre. 

Elsewhere, Gates was married to Suzanne Mole until their split in 2012. The couple share a daughter, Missy Gates, 13. 

He co-founded of The Gates and Wilkes Academy for Performing Arts, for children aged five – 18, which is now known as the the Wilkes Academy.

WILL YOUNG 

Will Young (pictured here performing on Pop Idol in 2002) was the winner of series one, and has since enjoyed considerable success as a recording artist

Will Young (pictured here performing on Pop Idol in 2002) was the winner of series one, and has since enjoyed considerable success as a recording artist

As well as releasing a significant body of music, the star has also made a foray into television, taking part in a Channel 4 documentary called Will Young: Losing My Twin Rupert in 2020, about his twin brother Rupert who died by suicide

As well as releasing a significant body of music, the star has also made a foray into television, taking part in a Channel 4 documentary called Will Young: Losing My Twin Rupert in 2020, about his twin brother Rupert who died by suicide

William Robert Young, 43, won the first ever series of ITV’s Pop Idol in 2002.  

His first single, Evergreen, was released two weeks after the show’s finale and 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 has released five albums, four of which went to the number one spot. 

He has also undertaken numerous concert tours, and has accumulated multiple honours, including two Brit Awards from 12 nominations, and the estimated worldwide sale of over eight million albums. 

Alongside his music career, Young has also tried his hand at acting, making his debut in the 2005 BBC film Mrs Henderson Presents, starring Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins, in which he played Bertie. 

The scene in which Young appears naked postdated his ‘absolutely thrilled’ acceptance of the British male Rear of the Year Award 2005, an accolade to add to the Most Stylish Male Music Star, Best Bod, Sexiest Star, Best Dressed and Best Hair awards he had already won. 

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.

He has also appeared on Top Gear and Never Mind the Buzzcocks, and in 2009 he was made a ‘Companion’ of the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts.

In 2016, he joined the cast of Strictly Come Dancing, partnering with Karen Clifton, however, after just three weeks, he announced that he was quitting the show for ‘personal reasons.’

Young has also been an ambassador for charities including The Prince’s Trust, WWF, and Catch22. 

After his appearance on Pop Idol, he came out as a gay man, saying that he never hid his sexuality. He has been in a relationship since 2017. 

More recently He has written a book ‘To Be a Gay Man’ in 2020, and in November 2021 he handcuffed himself to a gate, joining a protest at Camp Beagle for animal rights. 

In 2021, Young lost his twin brother Rupert, at age 41. A family spokesperson said that the twins’ relationship had been tough over the years and they had both spoken about mental health problems. 

Later that year, he spoke out about his experience at prep school, saying that he had suffered from PTSD. 

In May 2022 Will bravely opened up about his twin brother’s suicide. The singer took part in a Channel 4 documentary called Will Young: Losing My Twin Rupert, where he talks about Rupert’s death in 2020.

This year, he released his greatest hits album, and is planning to tour. 

ZOE BIRKETT

Zoe Birkett (pictured in 2001) was just 16 when she appeared on Pop Idol, finishing behind winner Will Young, Gareth and Darius Campbell Danesh

Zoe Birkett (pictured in 2001) was just 16 when she appeared on Pop Idol, finishing behind winner Will Young, Gareth and Darius Campbell Danesh

The performer (pictured last year at a film premiere), has amassed some impressive musical roles, and is currently performing in a stage version of Moulin Rouge

The performer (pictured last year at a film premiere), has amassed some impressive musical roles, and is currently performing in a stage version of Moulin Rouge

Zoe Birkett was 16 when she appeared on Pop Idol, finishing behind winner Will Young, Gareth and Darius Campbell Danesh.

Despite coming fourth she released a single called Treat Me Like a Lady before launching into a long West End career.

In 2009, Birkett, 37, was cast in West End theatre and performed in Priscilla Queen of the Desert until 2011. 

She starred as the lead singer in Garrick Theatre’s 2011 production of Respect La Diva, and became the leading lady of Thriller Live in 2012.   

Zoe was also Alexandra Burke’s understudy for The Bodyguard and since 2021 she has performed as Arabia in Moulin Rouge! The Musical and currently understudies the main female lead role of Satine, which debuted on May 10, 2022.   

In 2014, Zoe appeared in the non-celebrity version of Big Brother once the show had switched from Channel 4 to Channel 5. 

Zoe is also a published children’s author and has a five-year-old daughter, Aaria. She married Aaria’s father Adam Tahir last year.  

MARK RHODES & SAM NIXON

Sam Nixon and Mark Rhodes (pictured in a 2020 photograph for their show Crackerjack) have enjoyed considerable success since Pop Idol - even earning two BAFTAs for their work in children's television

Sam Nixon and Mark Rhodes (pictured in a 2020 photograph for their show Crackerjack) have enjoyed considerable success since Pop Idol – even earning two BAFTAs for their work in children’s television

Mark Rhodes was another popular competitor from the second series, and finished as runner-up, behind Michelle McManus, while Sam Nixon finished in third.

After the show, Mark enjoyed some success as a pop star, after partnering with fellow Pop Idol contestant Sam Nixon, with the pair performing under the moniker Sam & Mark.

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

The Sun Has Come Your Way, failed to climb any higher than 19, and the duo was subsequently dropped by their label.

Like Michelle, Mark found more success as a television presenter, and racked up an impressive resume with credits including Top of the Pops Reloaded, TMi, and Do Something Different.

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

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 their other programming.

ANDY SCOTT-LEE

Andy Scott-Lee (pictured in 2005) enjoyed some chart success before appearing on the second series of Pop Idol in 2003

Andy Scott-Lee (pictured in 2005) enjoyed some chart success before appearing on the second series of Pop Idol in 2003 

Before appearing on Pop Idol series 2, Andy Scott-Lee had already enjoyed pop success as a member of the group 3SL (so named as it was made up of three Scott-Lee siblings, Andy, Steve, and Ant – though not their sister Lisa, who was in the group Steps).

3SL, who were signed to Sony, had two top 20 singles. However, after breaking up in 2002, Andy decided to try his chances on the reality show, earning a place in the final seven.

When it came to his personal life, between 2006 and 2008, Andy was married to Liberty X star Michelle Heaton.

In 2005, he decided to try to represent the UK at Eurovision, and competed for the coveted spot against Javine, Katie Price, Tricolore and Gina G, coming in third place.

After the programme, he released a solo single in 2008, Unforgettable. That year, he had appearances on ITV’s The Mint; on the BBC programme Never Mind the Buzzcocks as well as other shows.

Andy Scott-Lee is still believed to be involved in the music industry as a songwriter.  

MARC DILLON

Series 2 contestant Marc Dillon has continued to perform, and is currently making a name for himself as Robbie Williams in a Take That Experience tribute act

Series 2 contestant Marc Dillon has continued to perform, and is currently making a name for himself as Robbie Williams in a Take That Experience tribute act

Marc Dillon, 41, was a contestant in the second series of Pop Idol in 2003, who finished 10th.

Marc sang Celebration by Kool & the Gang the week he was eliminated.

The Scottish singer admitted in 2003 on ITV’s This Morning that he had done time as a teenager after he was involved in the mugging in which the victim was stabbed in Livingston, West Lothian.

Dillon said he had been rehabilitated after serving six months of a one year sentence.

Dillon was given a second chance and is now married with three young children.

Marc is currently making a name for himself as Robbie Williams in a Take That Experience tribute act.

He has also starred as Michael Buble in a tribute act, which him perform on cruises and at weddings.

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