Music Industry

Famous Singers from Talent Shows 

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Talent shows are a great way to break into the music industry. Some of the biggest names started their singing career by entering competitions or appearing on reality shows. They may cringe watching their auditions back, but lots of singers say they owe everything to talent shows. 

Every pop star starts out somewhere. Lots of artists today turn to YouTube and social media to catch their break, but a lot can be said for talent shows and singing competitions. Some really big names in the charts rocketed to fame off the back of talent shows. 

Tons of famous singers sealed their first record deal after appearing on a talent show. Read on to discover some well-known popstars who started out on talent shows!  

Famous singers from reality shows

Britney Spears
Photo: hnkkk

These singing icons all found fame from the same TV show – Star Search. A few of the stars on this list might surprise you. What might surprise you even more is that none of them won the competition!  

Britney Spears  

Britney appeared on TV reality show Star Search in 1992, at just 1years old. She got a score of 3.75 from the judges and was beaten by her round two opponent.  

The Baby One More Time” singer may not have won the competition, but she’s now worth a massive £152.4 million and has six UK number ones under her belt.  


Believe it or not, global superstar Beyoncé found fame on a reality show. In 1993 – when she was 12 years old – Beyoncé appeared on Star Search as part of girl band Girls Tyme. The group didn’t win the show, they were beaten by an all-male rock group Skeleton Crew.  

Beyoncé doesn’t regret the experience, though. Speaking about her time on Star Searchshe said losing to Skeleton Crew helped her “realise that you could actually work super hard and give everything you have and lose.” 

The pop sensation has become the most nominated woman in Grammy history. She still pays homage to her talent show roots, though, and her single “***Flawless” features an audio clip from her performance on Star Search 

Justin Timberlake  

Justin Timberlake is another pop sensation who started out on Star Search. He appeared on the show in 1992 (the same year as Britney) but performed using his first and middle name, “Justin Randall.” 

Just ten years old at the time, Timberlake sang a country hit whilst wearing a huge cowboy hat, boots and belt. He was beaten by his opponent by a close 0.75 stars, but his cute western outfit made him a firm favourite with the crowd! 


A year later, in 1993, Star Search saw Usher take to the stage. The R&B artist didn’t win, but he won the title of holding the “longest note on the show by a child” when he sustained a note for 12 seconds.  

Usher’s performance piqued the interest of A&R representative for LaFace Records and his career kickstarted from there.  

Christina Aguilera 

Pop sensation Christina Aguilera is a five-time Grammy Award winner. Her successful singing career all began when she made her tv debut on Star Search in 1990. 

She was eliminated from the competition but that didn’t hold her back from forging a hit career for herself. Recently, she became a coach on The Voice for 6 seasons and used her own story to encourage rejected contestants to keep trying.  

Famous singers from singing competitions  

There are lots of singing competitions out there, whether they’re televised or not; in front of a large crowd or small audience; whether the prize is big or small. Singing competitions are the perfect way for an artist to put themselves out there and it’s exactly how these famous singers started out: 

Nicole Scherzinger 

She might be best known for being in the Pussycat Dolls, but Nicole Scherzinger shot to fame when she appeared on reality show Popstars as a solo artist.  

The American singer appeared on the show in 2001, belting out Whitney Houston’s “I will always love you” in her audition. Off the back of her audition, she formed girl group Eden’s Crush and released a few singles.  

But it wasn’t until recommended her to be auditioned for the Pussycat Dolls in 2003 that Nicole Scherzinger’s singing career really kicked off. 

Camila Cabello

Camila Cabello was first discovered when she appeared on X Factor in 2012. She auditioned as a solo artist but was put together with other contestants by the show’s judges to form a group. The resulting band became Fifth Harmony, who were a huge success after they finished 3rd on The X Factor.  

Fifth Harmony were signed to Simon Cowell’s record label, Syco Music, and headlined for 4 years together until Camila Cabello decided to leave the band and launch her solo career in 2016.  

The 22-year old singer has gone from strength to strength since splitting from the group, her first solo album debuting at No.1 in the charts.   

Jennifer Hudson  

Jennifer Hudson is another huge name who started out on a reality show. The vocal powerhouse was on the 2004 edition of American Idol and finished seventh.  

Despite not winning, Jennifer Hudson is said to be one of the biggest successes to have lost the show. Her self-titled debut album was released in 2008 and was certified gold in the US and received a Grammy for best R&B album.  


Bands from talent shows  

One Direction
Photo: Fiona McKinlay

One Direction  

1is perhaps one of the biggest bands to have ever come out of the XFactor. Harry, Louis, Niall, Liam and Zayn all originally auditioned as solo artists but were put together to form a group at Bootcamp. They didn’t win the show (they finished third in 2010) but became global sensations overnight.  

The band went on to have five albums and four world tours before Zayn Malik announced his departure from the band in 2016.  

Since then, all five band members have released singles and albums as solo artists and have had huge success. Harry even started his acting career in 2017, with his debut in the film “Dunkirk”.   


Little Mix 

It’s easy to forget that global sensations Little Mix didn’t start out as a band – the four girls all auditioned as solo artists on XFactor. They were put together as a group by the judges and originally called themselves “Rhythm Mix” in the first few episodes of the series.  

The girl group changed their name to Little Mix and, with Tulisa as their mentor, they were the first group to ever win the show. 

Girls Aloud 

Pop group Girls Aloud may not be together anymore, but they’re still a household name today. The girl band racked up a massive 20 consecutive top ten singles and made six top 10 albums. And they owe it all to their appearance on tv reality show Popstars: The Rivals 

The tv talent show aired in 2002 and singers performed as solo acts in the first few rounds. Viewers voted for their favourites and in the final weeks, five females and five males were shortlisted and put into rival groups.  

This is when Girls Aloud were born. They beat rival boyband One True Voice by getting their song, Sound of the Underground, to make Christmas Number One instead of the boys’ record 

Famous winners of singing competitions 

Music Competition winner Birdy

Plenty of singers from talent shows haven’t come first place but have still gone on to have impressive singing careers. But for the stars who do win, it’s the cherry on the cake and in most cases an instant recording contract.  

James Arthur 

James Arthur broke onto the music scene by appearing on X Factor in 2012. He won the series, beating the likes of Union J and Ella Henderson.  

The singersongwriter says going on the talent show is one of the best things he’s ever done, and he owes everything to the experience.  

He confesses, People had told me to try ‘The X Factor’ for years, but I thought I’d be moody and hate it all. But it’s what I needed.” 


Birdy’s debut single, a cover of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love”, smashed the charts all over Europe and received platinum certification six times in Australia in 2011. She was just 14 at the time. 

The New Forest-born singersongwriter was discovered by talent contest Open Mic UK in 2008. She won the under 18’s category as well as the competition’s grand prize – at the age of just 12.  

Birdy’s music has been snapped up by media outlets. She featured on the soundtracks of The Hunger GamesThe Fault in our Stars, and even Disney’s Brave. She has a star-studded fanbase with huge celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence, George Clooney, and Ellen DeGeneres saying they love her music. 

Kelly Clarkson   

She’s got a whole new image nowadays, but pop icon Kelly Clarkson’s career started out as a teenager performing on American Idol. When she auditioned for the 2002 series, she said she had no idea what she was doing.  

When watching it back in an interview, the singer laughs: “I definitely looked like a cocktail waitress.” 

But she still managed to pull it out of the bag and win the 2002 American Idol, stealing the crown with 58% of the audience votes. 

How famous singers become famous 

It may sound corny, but if you aspire to be a singer, it’s all about chasing that dream. You have to seize every opportunity you can to get noticed.  

Being a singer is about perseverance; a lot of big names in the industry right now didn’t come first place in a talent show, but they bounced back and their determination paid off. 

Countless famous singers became famous by appearing on talent shows, entering singing competitions and never giving up.  

Have you ever entered a talent or singing competition? Let us know what the experience was like in the comments below!