Proving the old adage “If at first you don’t succeed…,” soul singer Alexandra Burke emerged victorious as the winner of the fifth season of The X-Factor, three years after being rejected by the same show. Born in Islington, London, in 1988, the daughter of ex-Soul II Soul vocalist Melissa Bell began singing from an early age. At 12 years old, she entered the BBC talent show Star for a Night but lost out in the final to a then-unknown Joss Stone. After leaving school, Burke concentrated on pursuing a career in the music industry, performing at various clubs and touring with Young Voices, a choir that raised money for children with leukemia. In 2005, she auditioned for the second series of The X-Factor, where she made it to the final seven of her category, only narrowly missing out on a place in mentor Louis Walsh’s top three. In 2008 she entered the series again, but this time impressed new judge Cheryl Cole enough to be chosen for the live shows.
A major contender from the outset, Burke never appeared in the bottom two and, after several shock eliminations, became the red-hot favorite to win the series. Thanks to a stunning duet with Beyoncé and a soulful rendition of the Leonard Cohen classic “Hallelujah,” Burke beat fellow finalists JLS and Eoghan Quigg to become the show’s second female winner, with 58 percent of the vote. “Hallelujah,” her debut single, became the Christmas number one single just one week later, selling 576,000 copies in its first seven days and setting a record as the fastest-selling single by a solo female artist. Overcome, her debut album, was released in the U.K. the following October. Its lead single, “Bad Boys,” featuring Flo Rida, topped her country’s singles chart.