Leona Lewis' Spirited chart bid
Leona Lewis is the shy, non-assuming singer who is currently taking the worldwide music industry by storm. Since winning ITV talent show 'The X Factor' last year, 22-year-old Leona has kept her fans on tenterhooks waiting for her debut album. She even escaped prying eyes by recording the LP in Los Angeles, but Leona is now ready to release her highly-anticipated album, 'Spirit'.
Described as "one of the best female singers to ever come out of the country" by her mentor and manager Simon Cowell, Leona's current celebrity status is a far-cry from her Highbury upbringing.
At the age of five, despite being financially limited with three children to support, Leona's parents sent her to the world-famous Sylvia Young Theatre School, where teachers honed her obvious talent.
It was her long-term electrician boyfriend Lou Al-Chamaa who originally convinced Leona to go for an 'X Factor' audition after he sent off an application form without her knowing.
"My boyfriend sent off for the forms, and we went together. He's not a singer - he just did it to be with me, and he didn't get past the first audition," she revealed.
Leona - whose favourite phrases, "Oh my gosh!" and "Amazing!" show she still can't believe how her life has changed since winning 'X Factor' - attracted fans all over her native UK with her spectacular performances on the TV talent show, and made the Guinness Book of World Records when her debut single, 'A Moment Like This', was downloaded 50,000 times in half an hour.
And it's not only English fans that have been won over by Leona's dazzling soprano voice. Americans, including influential record producer Clive Davis, have hailed the ex-Pizza Hut waitress as "the new Whitney Houston" - a comparison Leona says is "an amazing compliment". Even leading US gossip bloggers are fighting for a piece of the green-eyed songstress.
Perez Hilton recently gushed: "It's just all about her voice! It's magical! It has an amazing chemical reaction over me."
Leona's understated beauty is another factor behind her success. Harper's Bazaar magazine editors were quick to realise her modelling potential - choosing exquisite Dolce and Gabbana and Roberto Cavalli outfits to show off the singer's toned curves to perfection for her recent photo shoot.
But even though her new 80s-inspired single, 'Bleeding Love', is causing waves across the pond, Leona says she has no desire to move to her favourite American coastal city, Santa Monica, preferring to stay in London, saying: "I am, and always will be, proud to be a Hackney girl."
It seems she is set to recreate the success of 'A Moment Like This', as the first time 'Bleeding Love' was aired on radio, 1.5million fans immediately logged onto the internet to listen to it again.
When BANG met up with the stunning singer, Leona shyly explained exactly how success has affected her personal life, how she feels about competing against her beloved Take That in the music charts, and whether or not she would ever pose nude.
Q: How are you feeling about the single and album release?
A: I'm really excited because I've been working in the studio now for about nine months, so I just can't wait for the album to be out and for everyone to finally hear it.
Q: How do you feel about going up against Take That in the charts?
A: The thing is I used to have Take That pencil cases and Take That pencils, so to actually be able to release something at the same time as them is so surreal!
Q: Who do you think will win the chart battle?
A: I don't know. I think Take That are an amazing band, they have had an incredible comeback, and I think they are fantastic, so I don't know.
Q: What's your favourite song on the album?
A: I don't have a favourite song. They all mean something really special for me, I feel really close to all of them, but I do really enjoy singing 'Homeless', which is one of the first ones we did for the album.
Q: Your video for 'Bleeding Love' has been compared to some of Madonna's earlier videos, was that a conscious decision?
A: No, I was like, 'Oh my gosh! Who came up with that comparison?' But it's a big compliment because Madonna's videos are always so creative, so it's amazing.
Q: And you got to wear some stunning dresses in the video...
A: I did, I got to wear some really, really amazing Dolce and Gabbana dresses, and I felt really glamorous. One of them was quite uncomfortable though!
Q: Was that the Dolce and Gabanna dress with the corset belt?
A: Yes, it was really heavy, and I was chained in, but the effect on camera came across brilliantly.
Q: How do you feel about people calling you the new Whitney Houston?
A: Well, I love Whitney Houston and Mariah Care. I grew up listening to them, and they are the people that inspired me, so that's just an amazing compliment.
Q: Could you ever see yourself collaborating with Whitney?
A: Oh I'd love to. I said that, and it kind of got all blown out of proportion into how she's my mentor, and she rings me all the time - it's quite funny, but I think she's great.
Q: How are things with you and your boyfriend? Have you got any plans to get married?
A: I'm still young, and things are really good, really great, but no plans yet.
Q: Does he ever get jealous of the attention you receive?
A: I don't think I really get that much attention, but no, not at all. I mean, this is what I do now.
Q: If you were single could you ever see yourself dating a fan?
A: Well, I'm not single, so I can't answer that really!
Q: Have you ever had any weird fan mail since you won 'The X Factor'?
A: Nothing weird, I've had some really beautiful letters. I had one from a primary school student, who must have been about seven, they had to write to the people that inspired them, and he wrote to me, and said, 'Leona, you inspire me so much, I look up to you so much', it was lovely, so, so sweet!
I got this certificate once which said, 'This is for taking part in 'The X Factor,' so yeah, that was quite strange!
Q: You said recently you wanted to do a clothing line similar to Stella McCartney's - would you ever consider posing nude for PETA like Alicia Silverstone?
A: I'm really not that confident! I think it is a really strong statement and I thoroughly respect it because it's for a great cause. I would love to do something for a great cause like that, but I just don't think I could pose nude, because I'm not that brave.
Q: Is there anything in the pipeline for a non-leather clothing range?
A: You know, I really hope so, but I'm not sure, maybe in the future.
Q: Have you got any plans to start acting?
A: Well, I did drama and dance when I was younger, so that's my background really, and I'd definitely like to incorporate that somehow in the future, but my real passion is music.
Q: Was it good to explore your acting and dancing skills for the new video?
A: Yeah, it was great. I didn't really get to dance, but there was some kind of choreography, with the beautiful lyrics, and the director understood how the movements affected the video.
Q: Would you ever want to do anything like Jennifer Lopez' 'Flashdance' themed video?
A: That video was amazing. I'd love to do something like that if it came up - she's amazing, I love her.
Q: How did you feel when you were in Los Angeles, dealing with the size zero trend? Did you feel strange looking at all these lollipop women?
A: Yeah, 'In the land of the lollipop women!' I didn't even realise any of that, I thought they looked quite normal really when I was out there. But, I think it's just about being happy and healthy, and I think the two go hand it hand.
Q: Who would you say are your style icons?
A: I love Stella McCartney, and I love her views on ethical clothing and I love Roberto Cavalli. As for stars, I really love Mischa Barton's style, and Kate Moss obviously. I'm definitely planning on buying some stuff from her new Topshop range.
Q: Are you still planning to buy a place in America?
A: No, that was completely made up! No, I'm here, in Hackney, and I've got no plans at the moment, but you never know in the future.
Q: Out of everybody, dead or alive in the music industry, who would you most like to duet with?
A: Umm... Eva Cassidy or Stevie Wonder, people like that.
Q: What do you think of this year's 'X Factor'? Have you had chance to watch it?
A: I've been taping it! It's been really entertaining, and the competitors are great.
Q: What do you think of new judge Dannii Minogue?
A: She has been really good, and she has definitely brought something different to the panel. I think she's been really good on it.
Q: Do you still see your 'X Factor' friends?
A: Yeah, I saw Ray Quinn the other day - he came round to my house for dinner, and I saw Nikita in Scotland, and I've been texting all of them.
Q: You said earlier that you had Take That pencil cases when you were younger, but who were your other musical pin-ups when you were younger?
A: Apart from Take That, I liked the Backstreet Boys, and they are making a comeback now which is great, but my posters were of the divas of the day.
Q: Would you ever consider releasing your own perfume? Because there's a lot of celebrity perfumes around at the moment!
A: No, not at the moment, because I want to concentrate on my singing, but maybe in the future.
Q: What do you think of the 'X Factor' perfume?
A: It's so funny! Someone was like, 'Have you heard about the 'X Factor' perfume?' It's so crazy! What did they do, go and get a bit of each of the winners' scents?!
Q: So you won't be buying that one then?
A: I don't know. I haven't smelt it! But if it's nice then I might. I don't really wear perfume though, I like those Victoria's Secret body mists.
Q: Do you consider Simon as a friend, or will he always be just a business colleague to you?
A: I see him as a mentor. Like on the show, he has become a mentor in my life, and we have definitely developed a strong bond.
Q: And did you see much of his girlfriend Terri Seymour when you were in America?
A: Yeah, I saw quite a bit of Terri actually, and she's so, so lovely. She's beautiful and she's got a great sense of style. She has interviewed me a few times too, so it was good to see her.
Q: Did you make any other celebrity friends when you were out there?
A: No, I was in the studio all the time, so I never got the chance to meet new people.
Q: What's been your most embarrassing experience on stage?
A: So far it's been OK! I thought there would be a few moments when I went on stage in a dress that was slightly see-through, but it turned out to be fine. It was a beautiful dress!
Q: What do you think of Britney's current situation? Do you have any advice for her?
A: You know, I don't because I don't know her. I don't think I have the right to give someone advice when I don't know them.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
A: Hopefully doing more albums, and doing a tour - I went on the 'X Factor' tour and had such a good time, so I'd like to do my own tour, and just making more music!
By Sarah Bull