William Robert "Will" Young (born January 20, 1979) is a British singer-songwriter and actor from Wokingham, England, who came to prominence after winning the 2002 inaugural series of the ITV talent contest Pop Idol, making him the first winner of the worldwide Idol franchise. His double A-sided debut single "Anything Is Possible" / "Evergreen" was released two weeks after the show's finale and became the fastest-selling debut single in the UK. Young also came in fifth place in World Idol performing his single "Light My Fire".
As a teenager, Young studied politics at the University of Exeter before moving to London, where he studied musical theatre at Arts Educational School. Young put his studies on hold in late 2001 to become a contestant on Pop Idol. After winning the competition the following year, he released his debut album From Now On (2002) which went straight to number one. Friday's Child (2003) followed and enjoyed greater success, eventually going platinum five times in the UK and spawning three top five singles. His following albums Keep On (2005) and Let It Go (2008) and Echoes (2011) also went multi-platinum and his most recent release 85% Proof (2015) became his fourth UK number-one album. His albums have spawned many songs that have accomplished top ten positions in the UK, four of which went to the number one spot. Young has also undertaken numerous concert tours. He has also accumulated multiple honors, including two BRIT Awards from 12 nominations, and the estimated worldwide sale of over eight million albums. Young's net worth was estimated at £13.5 million in April 2012.
Alongside his music career, Young has acted in film, on stage and in television. For his performance in the 2013 London revival of the musical Cabaret, he was nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical. He has also participated in philanthropy and released books Anything is Possible (2002), On Camera, Off Duty (2004) and his autobiography Funny Peculiar (2012).
Will Young was born on January 20, 1979 in Wokingham, and is the second-oldest child of Robin Young, a company director of an engineering firm, and Annabel Young (née Griffith), a plant nursery gardener. Born six weeks prematurely, he is ten minutes older than his twin brother, Rupert. He also has an older sister, Emma.
Young was born into an affluent, middle-class family, whose paternal ancestry has strong ties to the British government and military services. His great-great-great-great grandfather was Colonel Sir Aretas William Young, who, in 1795 at seventeen years old, joined the British Army and served in Ireland and Egypt before fighting in the Peninsular War. Aretas was later stationed in Trinidad and eventually took charge of the Trinidadian government, before moving to Demerara where he was appointed Protector of Slaves. Aretas became the sixth Governor of Prince Edward Island in 1831, and three years later was knighted by King William IV.
Young was brought up in Hungerford, West Berkshire, and was initially educated at Kingsbury Hill School in Marlborough, Wiltshire, before attending Horris Hill Preparatory School, Newbury, between the ages of eight and thirteen. His first appearance on stage was at the age of four when he played a fir tree in a school production and had one line to speak. At Horris Hill, Young was head chorister in the school choir, and at the age of nine he learned how to play the piano. Young recalls that at Horris Hill, pupils were taught that they were more privileged than pupils from state schools, and that one day he wrote a letter stating, "I must pass common entrance to take me to public school, otherwise I'll be going to state school and everyone will be very disappointed." At thirteen, Young and his brother were enrolled in Wellington College, Crowthorne, a public boarding school. Young appeared in several school productions and often gave speeches in assembly, despite later admitting that he never felt completely comfortable being the centre of attention.
It was during this period that he became interested in sports and for a time he dreamed of competing in the Olympic Games in the 400 metre sprint, which he could run in under fifty seconds – the Olympic average is forty-three seconds. He became captain of the school's basketball and athletics teams, and also represented the school in the triple jump, long jump, football and rugby. The only sport he says he felt uncomfortable playing was cricket.
Young left school with ten GCSEs, but achieved disappointing A-Level results and had to enroll in D'Overbroeck's College, Oxford, to re-sit his exams. He took a part-time job as a waiter at the Grand Café in Oxford, and became interested in environmental issues and local campaigning, joining a group called the Eco Society. He passed his A-Levels the second time, earning As in Politics and Ancient History, and a B in English. In 1998 Young began studying politics at the University of Exeter, choosing the subject because, "I thought I should know more about what was going on in my country." His interest in performing arts continued, and he joined a theatre group called Footlights where he eventually landed the lead role of Curly in their production of Oklahoma!. "I really enjoyed it and doing that gave me a lot of confidence," he later said of the show. He also took a work experience position at Sony Records to gain insight into the music industry. Other work included runway and photographic modelling, gardening, tearing labels off T-shirts in a clothing factory, and being a waiter. He graduated in 2001 with a 2:2 bachelor's degree. After leaving university, Young knew that he wanted to be a professional singer, but he did not want to be full of naivety and without training. In September 2001 he became a student at the Arts Educational Schools, in Chiswick, London.