JAMES Arthur begins his bid for X Factor glory this evening, when he steps out in the final of the TV talent show against Christopher Maloney and Jahmene Douglas.
The 24-year-old, from Saltburn, near Middlesbrough, became an instantly recognisable and striking figure on the show thanks to his heavily tattooed arms and the look of a careworn cherub.
Arthur, favourite to lift the title, was holed up in a bedsit having problems with depression before entering the competition.
But within months of auditioning he has found himself sharing a stage with rapper and producer Labrinth, who invited him to play at his Manchester gig in October after being impressed with his performance on the ITV1 show.
By his own admission, he went off the rails at school following his parents marriage split and at times was suspended.
He said he had also slept rough sometimes, before volunteering to go into foster care, and he turned to music as a coping mechanism.
Arthur, who has been championed by former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger, applied for X Factor after his friends encouraged him to audition.
He wowed the panel with a heartfelt version of Tulisa's 'Young' and viewers have seen him mixing dubstep, rapping and strumming his acoustic guitar during the live shows.
But there were doubts about whether he was cut out for the contest when early on in the live stages he had a panic attack after performing Mary J Bliges No More Drama.
After landing in the bottom two and surviving a sing-off against Ella Henderson, Arthur said: "I guess I'm not your conventional X Factor contestant, so maybe thats why people dont pick up the phone, I genuinely don't know - but all I can do is keep doing what Im doing and stick to what I know best."
The final, being held in Manchester, is held over two nights, finishing tomorrow when the winner of that all-important recording contract will be announced.