From a country that treats its reality contestants as a bit of fluff for a Saturday night but rarely supports them long after Simon Cowell's moved off to the next incarnation of his cash cow, Will's longevity has been like a diamond in the rough. There's no doubt that if he hadn't won the very first series of Pop Idol and then taken firm control over his own career, those major stars who have come from the Idols or X Factor franchises, such as Leona Lewis, Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood or more recently JLS and Alexandra Burke, would not have had the chance to enjoy the massive careers they have now.
Love the reality format or hate it, there's no doubt it's one of the major cultural markers of the early 21st century. With the news that Simon Cowell is leaving American Idol to launch X Factor USA (over which he'll have more control) and that his Syco company has signed a new deal with Sony to unify its TV, music and merchandising projects, there's every chance it will continue to dominate our screens and radios well into the 2010s.
Will's 2002 debut Evergreen/Anything Is Possible achieved sales of 1.8 million, making it the biggest selling single of the decade. With the shift towards downloads, which you can get whenever you want rather than just when the CD is in the shops, this is an achievement which is very unlikely to be beaten.
Will's best loved song, though, came out in November 2003 launching his second, most successful, album Friday's Child. Leave Right Now, written by Eg White and produced by Steve Lipson, became one of those seminal love songs that struck a chord with fans, thanks to its theme of really wanting to get back with an ex but forcing yourself not to because you know it would be bad for you.
It was promoted by one of the classic pop videos of recent years, directed by 10CC's Kevin Godley. All done in one shot (and needing 19 takes), it shows Will pestering someone at an art gallery and causing chaos in his wake.
Click the still to see the video (and note the waitress' obsession with the 2005 Rear of the Year!)
Not only is it's Will's birthday, but also his twin brother Rupert. As Will learned to cope with his new found fame, he was hiding the fact the person closest to him was struggling with depression and alcohol problems. Thankfully Rupert has come out of the other end much the better and is now running his own charity. The Mood Foundation helps people with mental health problems, especially those who can't afford private treatment or who fall outside the threshold to qualify for mainstream services.
Will helping Rupert in his fundraising mission to ride a pedalo up the Thames in 2008. Also pictured is songwriter Karen Poole.