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Young, Will (b. 1979)  
 
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The first winner of Britain's Pop Idol talent show, Will Young has gone on to achieve great success as a recording artist. His turns in acting have also been well received by both the public and the critics. Young has used his celebrity to advocate for causes including help for people living with HIV/AIDS, victims of domestic violence, youth at risk, and people suffering from depression.

Young is a fraternal twin, born ten minutes before his brother, Rupert, on January 20, 1979, in Berkshire, England. The family was prosperous, and Young was able to go to boarding school from the age of nine. He subsequently enrolled at Wellington College and later continued his education at Exeter University, where he studied politics but also participated in theater productions, both as an actor and a script writer.

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After his graduation from Exeter, Young opted to take his studies in a different direction, entering the Arts Educational School at Chiswick, to which he won a scholarship in 2001. He embarked on a course of study of musical theater, but while in his first year there he also applied to be a contestant on the ITV television show Pop Idol, a competition for aspiring musicians.

It was not Young's first attempt at pursuing a musical career: two years before, he had taken part in a contest on the television show This Morning to choose members for a new boy band.

Although Young's studies were in political science, his heart was in music. "I clearly remember getting to [Exeter] University and thinking 'How will I get into the music business?'" he recalled to Craig McLean of the Sunday Telegraph. "I didn't think I would get my foot in the door, unless it was a competition. You know: gay, not very cool, politics student, middle class, dresses badly, doesn't play instruments, doesn't write [songs]. But I just wanted to sing."

Young reached the finals but was dismissed by a judging panel that included Simon Cowell.

Cowell—known for being unsparing of contestants' feelings—was also a judge on Pop Idol. When Cowell evaluated one of Young's performances on that show as "distinctly average," the singer responded with politeness rather than anger in his own defense, causing the judge, who appeared to have anticipated a different reaction, to acknowledge Young as a "true gent."

In the Pop Idol contest Cowell conspicuously supported another participant, Gareth Gates, the eventual runner-up. The recording contract for the winner, written before the final results were in, required the performance and promotion of two songs far better suited to Gates than to Young, whose more nuanced performances were not the typical material of recordings and videos consumed by the age-mates of the then seventeen-year-old Gates.

"I grant you that Gareth was always far more likely to win," Young told Nick Duerden of the London Independent. "He looks like a pop idol, whereas I'm this gay, middle class, bumbling fool. But people voted for me, so what can I say?"

The people spoke decisively, giving Young a margin of some 500,000 votes, a result to which both he and the judges reacted with great surprise. The tabloid press, which had anointed Gates before the fact, and the bookies, who backed him as a sure winner, were proven wrong.

After the final show, Young told Duerden, the press tried to portray him and Gates as having an ongoing rivalry: "The media seems intent on creating a division between Gareth and myself, but there simply isn't one."

Young also noted to McLean that "the winner of Pop Idol was meant to get a Pepsi sponsorship deal and a hair wax deal. Gareth got both of them, not me" after Young's manager, Simon Fuller—who would also have benefited from these ventures—advised him to forgo them in order to be taken more seriously in his career as a musical artist.

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Will Young in the video for his hit song "Jealousy" (YouTube video still).
  
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