Just a couple years ago Leona Lewis was working as a receptionist in London. Today, this X Factor champion is riding the fast lane to superstardom. Soft spoken and sweet in nature, she told Anna Land about her quiet confidence that’s leading to the top of the charts all over the world…
Leona Lewis doesn’t have to worry about pushing paper or answering calls anymore. The East London Hackney native is finally doing what she’s always wanted to do since she was a little girl – be a singer.
Shocking even the most incredulous and cynical (namely American Idol judge Simon Cowell) with her explosive voice, Lewis also caught the eye of famed record producer Clive Davis, the reputed mastermind behind Whitney Houston and Alicia Keys. After her magnificent journey into the limelight winning Britain’s X Factor television show, Lewis is gracefully filling the shoes (or vegan friendly stilettos) of an up and coming pop star.
The X Factor and Beyond
Leona Lewis grew up with strong musical influences. Her father was a DJ while her mother was a dance instructor. Coincidentally, Lewis received the same musical training as another British dame – Amy Winehouse. Despite her quick rise to success, Lewis’ experience wasn’t without any hiccups.
She had to drop out of school for a while due to the high fees, in addition to the long commute. It was her long time boyfriend Lou Al-Chomaa, an electrician, who urged her to try out for X Factor.
“My first audition for X Factor was nerve-wracking, ” Lewis recalls. “I was thinking, I don’t even know if I’m going to get through the first round, let alone see the judges. ” At first, X Factor judge Simon Cowell said she lacked confidence.
“I am a quite a shy person,” says Lewis. “People can sometimes think I’m a pushover because I’m quite quiet, but it’s not about being loud. It’s about being self-confident and I do have that.” Lewis’ gentle poise, however, matched her larger than life vocals, which could be why she’s skyrocketed to sudden fame.
By the end of X Factor, Cowell had become Lewis’ mentor and she was ushered straight to the recording studio. The 22 year old released her first album Spirit (check out the Deluxe CD/DVD) last November and it become the fastest selling debut in British chart history.
The heartfelt, tear-jerking first single “Bleeding Love” quickly hit quadruple platinum and 1.5 million people around the world heard the song online (possibly due to Perez Hilton’s help on his website), cementing a place for her in the American market.
As of last month, Lewis’ music video for “Bleeding Love” had 27 million hits on YouTube – an achievement that even some of the greatest female artists like Mariah Carey (whom she’s often compared to) haven’t achieved.
“To have comparisons with such amazing female artists when I’m just starting out is incredible, ” Lewis says with a glowing smile. “Whitney Houston, and Moriah Carey have had such long-standing careers, so I’ve got a lot of groundwork to do.”
One aspect of Lewis’ musical charm is that she’s not just some doll who cleans up well. She’s had serious vocal training, recording and song writing lessons. “I got to write on the album, which is something I’ve been doing since I was 12, ” she says. “I’m lucky in the way that I’ve been in the recording studio for years and I’ve been performing for years so I have a lot of ammunition,” she explains.
“It’s a very important part of my music to write what I’m feeling and express it. I’ve done covers before, but it has to really connect with you emotionally whether or not you wrote it. Writing does really make you connect more with the song. ” And for a woman who has proved she can hit notes better than the original, exuding emotion through her own words only enhances her music.
When You’re Hot… You’re Hot
Lewis has also become a fashion muse for designers. In her “Bleeding Love” music video, she can be seen wearing an extravagant crystal-encrusted Dolce and Gabbana dress weighing in at 40 pounds and priced at ?100,000. Future icon? Maybe.
“To have dresses given to me by Roberto Cavalli, Dolce and Gabbona and Amanda Wakeley is just amazing, ” she says, “It makes you feel very glam, but obviously when I’m at home I don’t sit in front of the TV in a big ol’ Cavalli gown. I’m a very jeans and t-shirt kind of girl.” Lewis is also an avid PETA supporter and vegetarian, who refuses to wear leather of any sort.
Frolicking around in designer outfits may just be apart of her new luxe celebrity status, but it’s her ability to perform stunning vocal acrobatics that has made her one of the new potential superstars to watch.
After conquering Europe, breaking into America with the help of long time record executive Clive Davis is her latest dream. “I’m seizing the opportunity with both hands and going for it because it’s such a good thing and so incredible that I get to do it, so I can’t wait, ” she gushes.
Backed by music gurus like Cowell and Davis, Lewis’ future looks set to sparkle – just like the fab Dolce and Gabbona dress.
LEONA LEWIS Spirit / Sony BMG
Since Leona Lewis won the X Factor show, it’s been non-stop work for the 23 year old. Behind the scenes with bigwigs like Simon Cowell and Clive Davis, her debut album is a sugary sweet dose of tear jerking love ballads.
Her outstanding vocal abilities combine Christina Aguilera’s dramatic appeal and Mariah Carey’s extensive vocal range.
The first single, “Bleeding Love” showcases the songbird’s luminous talent in both singing and songwriting. The spine-chilling lyrics include, “My heart’s crippled by the vein that I keep on closing / You cut me open and I keep bleeding, keep bleeding love”.
Another song on the album that’s getting quite a buzz is the slow and sultry love ballad, “The First Time I Saw Your Face, ” in which she performed at the PreGrammy Awards Party. Each track on Spirit does reveal an overly manufactured pop music sound – which is exactly the aim. But, as she rises to become a future pop icon, hopefully her natural ‘spirit’ will come across as big as her voice.
Look out for Lewis’ rumored appearance on American Idol 7 and a second album planned for 2009. In the meantime, Lewis fans can watch her on YouTube and check out www.leonalewismusic.co.uk.