Darius Campbell Danesh first found fame on our screens in Pop Idol in 2001, where he made it to the final of the live singing competition against Will Young and Gareth Gates in a contest that gripped the country.
But although the star finished the series in third place, it was the beginning of a successful performance career Darius, who went on to release successful albums, appear in the West End, write a book and travel the world with his music.
The Scottish singer-songwriter and actor, whose family confirmed his sad death at the age of 41 on Tuesday 16 August, made his first bid for fame in ITV show Popstars in 2001, and then the following year made it to the final of the first Pop Idol, which was won by Will Young.
After his stint on the show, he turned down a record deal from music mogul Simon Cowell, instead opting for a deal with producer Steve Lillywhite.
It proved to be a good choice for the star – his first single, Colourblind, entered the UK charts at no. 1 and his debut album Dive In, released that same year, was later certified platinum.
Looking back at how he got his start on reality TV, Darius said in 2017: “I look back at it all with fond memories, and with deep appreciation of the support of the British public at a time when I first went through Popstars – I made mistakes and I was too cocky and I didn’t have humility.
“Those were hard lessons to learn and I suppose Pop Idol offered me the opportunity to come back with humility and a greater understanding of the music industry, and a deep respect for the producers and directors.
“I came back with a willingness to learn from my mistakes and to simply share my voice and love of music. I have deep respect for anyone who puts themselves in the position of being judged or being possibly put in the position of public criticism.”
He released his second album, Live Twice, in 2004 and went on to have a successful stage 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.
That same year, he also wrote a book called Sink or Swim about the ups and downs of life in the music business, which reached number six on the Sunday Times Bestseller list.
His career then took a turn as he tried his hand at opera, appearing on the first series of ITV’s Popstar To Operastar contest and winning, beating Bernie Nolan of the Nolan Sisters in a close final.
A few months after his win on the ITV show, which featured Welsh singer Katherine Jenkins and Mexican-born tenor Rolando Villazon as judges, he landed his first major opera role as he was cast in the principal role of toreador Escamillo in a new production of Carmen at London’s O2 Arena.
In 2011, speaking about appearing in the musical Chicago as scheming lawyer Flynn, he said he had based his portrayal of the character on his old mentor and Pop Idol judge, Simon Cowell.
Darius starred opposite Ugly Betty star America Ferrera in the musical set in prohibition-era Chicago: “He’s the consummate businessman and a wonderful guy and there’s a lot of Simon Cowell in Billy Flynn in terms of the way he approaches things and I recognise that in terms of the character.”
He also credited Cowell with persuading him to take on the role in Chicago in the first place.
The star said: “I’m incredibly grateful for the experiences I’ve had and all the opportunities that it opened up and to be able to call Simon Cowell a friend and to be able to have dinner with him.”
Darius was living in the US when he found love with Canadian actress Natasha Henstridge, with the couple marrying in 2011 at the San Ysidro Ranch in Santa Barbara, California. However, sadly, the couple later split, finalising their divorce in 2018.
Speaking to the Loose Women panel at the time, he praised the couple’s relationship, saying: “I had the most amazing relationship with her, I got to be a stepfather and to raise two sons, and I got the gift of being able to be in a position where I was the head of the family that travelled and did wonderful things.”
He added: “We tried to make it work and we’ve separated and we’re divorcing, but in the best way and as friends.”
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