The Masked Singer was a surprise prime-time hit when it launched in January 2020, and three years on, its fourth series proved to be its biggest yet.

The concept – that celebrities would sing in bizarre costumes while viewers and judges alike tried to guess who they were – didn’t necessarily sound like a winning formula to begin with, but before long it was the family show everyone was talking about.

You could even argue it was ahead of its time: by the summer of 2020 we were all wearing masks against the continued Covid-19 pandemic, and series 2, which began in January 2021, provided a welcome break from the doom and gloom of the previous year.

A summer spin-off for those more skilled at boogieing than bursting into song - The Masked Dancer - followed, and after an I'm a Celebrity star Vernon Kay's Koala see off Sinitta's Kangaroo in November 2022, we've lapped up the fourth season.

The new series of The Masked Singer began on Sunday, 1 January and ended on 18 February with the unmasking of the final three celebrities.

This season, 13 celebrities squeezeed into incredible costumes. Here's who was behind the masks...

Who are the Masked Singer 2023 finalists?

This year, 13 contestants bamboozled the puzzled panel while singing well enough to stay in the game and avoid being unmasked. 

Here are the identities of the three finalists as well as the other celebrity contestants in The Masked Singer 2023.

Winner: Rhino - Charlie Simpson

Charlie Simpson as Rhino ITV

The winner of The Masked Singer 2023 - and the first man to triumph at the guessing game - is Rhino, aka Busted singer Charlie Simpson.

Rhino's final triple bill - Lewis Capaldi's Before You Go, Labrinth's Beneath Your Beautiful in duet with Gabrielle's Harlequin, and Pink's Try - saw him chosen as the series winner and the last of the 13 celebrities to be unveiled.

"I never expected to win to be honest but I just wanted to give it my best," Charlie said after his victory.

"I had no idea who I was actually up against and didn’t really hear the other people sing as we were kept away from each other during filming.

"I was very happy when Joel called my name. I have never been in a singing competition before so I found the whole thing quite surreal.

"It was sad to say goodbye to Rhino. You grow quite attached to your character during the show as you spend so much time with the costume. Sometimes I’d just be on my own in the dressing room waiting for my performance slot and have his face just staring back at me."

While only panellist Davina McCall guessed Charlie's identity, his bandmates were in no doubt as to who was under Rhino's rhinestone horn.

"My band mates in both Busted and Fightstar guessed it was me within the first two seconds of hearing Rhino sing.

"When you spend that much time on stage with people and spend so much time in the studio, it would be very hard for them not to get it pretty much instantly."

Runner-up: Phoenix - Ricky Wilson

Ricky Wilson as Phoenix ITV

Kaiser Chiefs singer Ricky Wilson - inside the flaming wings of Phoenix - was runner-up in The Masked Singer 2023, finishing second after singing three songs in the big finale. 

His renditions of Dean Martin's Sway, Elton John's Don't Go Breaking My Heart - in duet with Denise van Outen's Fox - and Daft Punk's Get Lucky saw Phoenix finish second best to Rhino.

Wilson, formerly a Saturday night TV regular as a judge on The Voice, revealed that a case of mistaken identity drove him to enter The Masked Singer.

"I liked the Viking. He was a much better singer than me, but everyone thought he was me, so for that I’m eternally grateful…

"And if people thought I could be there, then why not!"

A few of the panellists and public thought Phoenix was Doctor Who star David Tennant, but Wilson can understand the confusion.

"I doubt I could have even guessed myself from some of those clues. I’ve done a lot over the last two decades, not all of which I remember as clearly as everyone else.

"I liked the David Tennant stuff and couldn’t wait to message him once it was revealed. I was so certain that they would see through the mask.  Every wrong guess was a bonus."

Third place: Fawn - Natalie Appleton

Natalie Appleton as Fawn ITV

Fawn was the first of the three finalists to be unmasked on The Masked Singer 2023. After Fawn delivered an emotional rendition of Olivia Newton-John's Hopelessly Devoted to You and sharing the stage for a duet with Aled Jones's Traffic Cone, the studio audience decided that it was time for the deer to depart. 

Behind the doe eyes were All Saints star Natalie Appleton.

"I like a challenge.  I love to dress up and I do love to sing, so this show was the perfect match for me," said the Canadian singer.

" I thought Fawn was so sweet, I absolutely loved her. She reminded me of my dog Bubby!

"I couldn’t see through my mask very well so it actually helped calm my nerves as I couldn’t actually see the panel!"

Masked Singer 2023 celebrity line-up

Jellyfish - Amber Riley

Amber Riley as Jellyfish ITV

Jellyfish almost made it to the final of The Masked Singer 2023, but was the unlucky one of the final four to miss out following a second elimination in the semi-final.

When Jellyfish's hood was removed, the celebrity inside was revealed to be actress and singer Amber Riley.

"I thought it would be fun and I love singing and performing," Glee and Dreamgirls actress Riley said when asked why she took part in the show.

"I thought the character was fun, but also very beautiful and over the top all at the same time."

There was one problem with the costume - Amber couldn't see out of it.

"I was nervous because I couldn’t see very well and my balance was pretty off and on top of the jet lag there was so much to juggle all at once. But I did it!"

Jacket Potato - Richie Sambora

Richie Sambora as Jacket Potato ITV

The Masked Singer 2023's semi-final saw two eliminations, and the first of the five remaining acts to remove their mask was Jacket Potato. When the singing spud's headpiece came off, the panelists were stunned to discover it was none other than Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora.

"I love being a guitar player and a songwriter, but what I really love to do is sing," said Sambora. 

"Many of the biggest songs I’ve been a part of from Livin’ On A Prayer to It’s My Life, I sang on, alongside Jon [Bon Jovi], and I just wanted to be able to have fun singing again and show my fans in the UK some love. 

"It was incredible - like James Bond! - to have to be so secretive," he joked.

Otter - Daisy May Cooper

Daisy May Cooper as Otter ITV

As the second half of a double-elimination with Knitting, Otter was the seventh celebrity to be unmasked on The Masked Singer 2023. Panelist Mo Gilligan had guessed that the clues pointed to This Country star Daisy May Cooper, and when the furry mask was removed, he was proved right. 

"I did this for my daughter Pip who is a massive fan of the show," Daisy May revealed on her elimination.

"But when she found out I was going to be the Otter she cried and said that it was embarrassing.

"It was nerve wracking but I had to have the costume. I would never ever have been able to sing on stage as myself. I would have passed out and face-planted the audience otherwise!"

Knitting - Claire Richards

Claire Richards as Knitting ITV

Knitting became the first of two celebrities to be unmasked in the show's quarter-final night when the ball of wool was removed to reveal Steps singer Claire Richards

Panelist Davina McCall had already guessed Claire's identity, as did guest panelist Stephen Mulhern. "I am a massive, massive fan of this show. I feel like a fan who has won a competition!" Claire told host Joel Domett after the unveiling.

"Being able to sing without anyone being able to see me is my dream come true.

"When we were looking at ideas [Knitting] really stood out as it felt like it was perfect for me. I love crafting and I love pink and I felt like she would be just like me, character-wise."

Pigeon - Katherine Ryan

Ne-Yo as Badger in The Masked Singer ITV

Comedian and actress Katherine Ryan was the fifth celebrity to be unmasked on The Masked Singer 2023.

The Canadian panel show regular and All That Glitters host sang Cheryl's Fight for This Love on show 5, but after being left at risk alongside Jacket Potato, was unceremoniously shooed out of the studio by the spud-selecting panel.

"The Masked Singer is one of very few shows that we can all thoroughly enjoy as a family," Katherine - who was heavily pregnant at the time of filming - said in her exit interview.

"I love theatre and thought that even though I’m not a professional singer, I could have some fun and sell it on personality while surprising my children with the reveal.

"It was certainly harder to sing and breathe being pregnant and inside the costume, but it wasn’t claustrophobic for me.  I quite enjoyed the solitude in there."

Rubbish - Stephen Hendry

Stephen Hendry as Rubbish in The Masked Singer ITV

The identity of the warbling wheelybin had the panel snookered, but it was still a surprise when green baize champion Stephen Hendry appeared under the lid of Rubbish.

After his rendition of Kaiser Chiefs' Ruby left Rubbish in the sing-off with Jacket Potato, who had sung Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, the trilling trashcan's version of skiffle hit My Old Man's a Dustman failed to impress the judges and he was soon left out on the doorstep. 

"To try something completely out of my comfort zone," said seven-times World Snooker champion Hendry when asked why he did the Masked Singer.

"I have had the opportunity to do other shows that would have put me in that same ‘uncomfortable’ position but being completely hidden made it so much easier for me to let loose and get my head around the challenge.

"The feeling backstage before a performance was a really similar feeling to the one I used to get before going out for a World Championship final. I always felt physically sick, but once on stage the adrenalin kicked in. It was strangely enjoyable."

Cat & Mouse - Martin and Shirlie Kemp

Cat & Mouse ITV

The first duo to take part in The Masked Singer UK were the third act to be unmasked, and despite the panel's insistence that Cat & Mouse were not romantically linked, they very much were - 80s pop royalty Martin and Shirlie Kemp have only been married 35 years!

Spandau Ballet bassist and actor Martin and Wham! singer Shirlie took us back to the 1950s in Time Travel week for a performance of Get Happy from the musical Summer Stock, but ended up in the bottom two with Knitting. In the sing-off, the duo sang There's Nothing Holdin' Me Back by Shawn Mendes, but were seen off by the woolly warbler's belting rendition of Memory from Cats. 

"I've never done anything so nerve-wracking in my life," Shirlie admitted. "It is just so off the wall. It’s so much harder to sing in the mask than you imagine it will be."

Despite four decades of performing experience, Martin also felt the pressure of singing inside the mask. 

"I could literally hear my heart in my ears," he said. 

Asked if their son, Capital Breakfast DJ Roman Kemp, knows that they have taken part, Shirlie said, "No this is going to embarrass him. Most people say they are doing it for their kids."

Martin added, "We're doing it to embarrass them." 

A stunned Roman later posted a video of his reaction to the reveal [warning: contains strong language] on his Twitter feed, while his mother also took to social media to explain how they got away with it...

Piece of Cake - Lulu

Piece of Cake is Lulu ITV

We were sure the 'Relight My Fire' singer was Phoenix and had to 'Shout' when singer Lulu was revealed to be the berry on top of the Piece of Cake when The Masked Singer's second unmasking took place.

The Scottish songstress sang Ed Sheeran's Shivers on episode 2 of the new season but lost out to a commanding performance of Chasing Cars by the rhinestone Rhino. And in the final three the judges chose to save Jacket Potato and Rubbish, leaving Piece of Cake to remove her mask.

"I’m slightly in shock. I’m in and now I’m off," the 1969 Eurovision winner told host Joel Dommett.

"It’s adorable, I love watching the show, my grandchildren love the show, they love it – I love it and that’s why I’m here.”

Ghost - Chris Kamara

Chris Kamara as Ghost ITV

Footballer turned pundit and presenter Chris Kamara was the first contestant to have their mask removed in 2023. The serenading spectre sang The Drifters' Save the Last Dance for Me but lost out to Otter in the head-to-head before the judges chose to keep Knitting and Cat & Mouse in the contest for another week.

We were treated to a double unmasking - first Ghost's shroud came off to unveil a skeleton costume, before the skull was removed to reveal Kamara. 

"I did it for the grandkids," the Cash in the Attic host said of his reasons for taking on the Masked Singer challenge.

"I want to see the surprise on their faces when they see me unmasked on the show. Not even my wife knows so it’s going to be a surprise for the whole family.

"I’m not the best at keeping secrets so I’m not sure what will shock them most, taking part in the show or keeping it a secret."

Who are The Masked Singer's panellists?

The Masked Singer panellists ITV

The Masked Singer panel will remain the same for the third series in a row, and consists of Davina McCall, Mo Gilligan, Rita Ora and Jonathan Ross.

"It's nice being back with the gang, they’re such a lovely bunch to work with," Jonathan Ross said.

"They are good fun and it gives us all an excuse to dress up and go out for the day if nothing else!"

Singer Rita Ora agrees.

"The whole idea of the show is just so amazing. I was already such a fan of The Masked Singer shows I saw in other countries. And so, when they first approached me for The Masked Singer UK four seasons ago, I was like, 'A hundred percent'," she said.

"I really love working with the other panellists, they're just so much fun, and we’re like a family now."

Mo Gilligan thinks it's the variety of panellists that makes the chemistry between them so strong.

"We all come from different forms of entertainment. I do stand up. Davina is a TV presenter. Jonathan Ross is a TV presenter and a comedian as well. He's been around for a long time. And then Rita, she comes from the world of music. So we all bring something different, which complements one another," he explained.

Comedian Joel Dommett again hosts the guessing game, and loves it when the whole Masked Singer family comes back together.

"There's something about it that everyone loves being a part of, like costume designers, they get to let their imaginations go absolutely wild," he said.

"When I write a link to things, it's so fun to write for. It's so silly, and the panellists are having a great time. The cameramen, they're playing the game. So, they're all guessing, at the same time. So, I think, it’s more fun than your usual job. 

When is the final of The Masked Singer 2023?

ITV has not yet announced the date for the final of The Masked Singer 2023, however all three previous UK series have had eight episodes, which suggests we will find out the indentity of the series' winner on Saturday 19 February.  

Who won the previous Masked Singer series?

Joss Stone as Sausage in The Masked Singer ITV

This is the fourth series of The Masked Singer, and the show is still waiting to crown its first male champion - and its first non-professional singer. The first series, in 2020, was won by Girls Aloud singer Nicola Roberts as Queen Bee. Joss Stone (above) followed as Sausage before 2022's third season removed Australian singer Natalie Imbruglia's Panda head to crown her Masked Singer champion.

Sister series The Masked Dancer has seen male success - Olympic gymnast Louis Smith, dressed as Carwash, won the first season ahead of Bonnie Langford's Squirrel and American actress Heather Morris successfully cut a rug as Scissors to win season 2.

The Masked Singer continues at 7pm every Saturday on ITV and ITVX.

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