Pop Idol champ Will Young is so reserved he used to practice his singing in multi-storey carparks where audiences weren't always thrilled by his performance. "I went to the car park late at night and used to meet tramps there," he explains. "One night, one shouted: 'Shut up! Shut up!'. Needless to say, I left quickly."
The middle son of mum Annabel, a gardener, and dad Robin, who owns an engineering business, Will was born on January 20, 1979. Along with his twin brother Rupert (the singer is ten minutes older), and elder sister Emma, he grew up in an upper-class country cottage in Hungerford, Berkshire. Educated first at Horris Hill prep school, then at prestigious Wellington College, he went on to Exeter University, finishing his undergraduate studies in 2001 with a 2.2 in politics. Afterward, he enrolled in a three-year musical theatre course at the Arts Educational School in Chiswick.
During his stay at uni, the handsome would-be star was attracted to the limelight, appearing in stage productions and doing runway and photographic modelling. His work life also involved part-time restaurant jobs and odd stints as a gardener, record company PA and worker in a clothing factory, where he tore labels off T-shirts.
Despite his less than glamorous side jobs, Will seemed destined for a career in show biz, winning a This Morning
boy band competition in 1999. Oddly enough, he was judged by two industry pros with whom he'd one day be very familiar Simon Cowell and Pop Idol Extra
presenter Kate Thornton.
Though it was always his ambition to sing, realising his dream meant going against his father's wishes. In fact, Will kept his application to Pop Idol
a secret from his family. Nonetheless, following his own path was truly the road to success, as after taking home the Pop Idol
crown aged 23, he scored a number one hit with his debut single, the double A-side Evergreen/Anything Is Possible.
He went on to the top of the charts with his debut album From Now On
, selling more than 180,000 copies in the first week. Don't Let Me Down/You And I
, the first track from the album to be released as a single, peaked at an impressive number two in November 2002. In 2003, one year on from his Pop Idol
triumph, he was nominated for three Brit awards best pop act, best British breakthrough act and best single, for Evergreen.
Though his career was clearly on the fast track just a month after the finals he'd netted £620,000 in royalties Will made a public declaration that some said would derail his success. "It's time to tell my fans I'm gay," he announced in March 2002. "It's totally no big deal, just part of who I am. For me it's normal and nothing to be ashamed about... I always try to be honest and true to myself."