What do you know about Leona? Chances are, not very much. But don’t assume discreet means boring; Stylist discovers there’s a whole lot more to Leona Lewis…
When Stylist told people that we were going to be interviewing you, the common reaction was that they thought you were a phenomenal talent but that you were a bit of an ‘enigma’. How does that make you feel?
Yes, I think that people definitely do think that about me. I’ve been told that I should be a politician! But I feel like my private life is exactly that and that’s why I want to keep it private. I think that people always want more and I won’t play that kind of media game. Obviously I want people to know about me but I also want to keep a certain guard up, almost to protect myself and the people around me.
How do you feel you’ve changed on a personal level since winning The X Factor in 2006?
I’ve matured, I’ve become worldlier. I’ve travelled to so many amazing places, like the Far East. I’ve had some awesome experiences, and met different musicians. I’ve grown so much as a performer.
What has been your biggest personal challenge since winning the show?
I’d say the Beijing Olympics’ closing ceremony. We only had nine minutes to do this massive production and it was just mad! I went up on this hydraulic lift and we were doing rehearsals in an aircraft hanger! It was insane and a bit scary. It was so hot outside and all of the hydraulics that were controlling this transformer like thing were crammed in with us and we were literally baking inside this control room. There were fire extinguishers going off everywhere!
Would you say that you’ve still got a wild side despite not drinking?
I think that it’s so funny that people think that you have to drink in order to have fun. It’s such a stupid mindset! A lot of my friends are like: “I need a drink to get on the dance floor” but I’m not like that. I’m there anyway! I don’t need that ‘help me to relax’ thing! If I’m around my friends then I can really relax and have a good time, then that’s all I need. I don’t need alcohol.
You rent a home in the Hollywood Hills. Does that mean that you live a Hollywood life with celebrity friends?
I think there’s this big misconception that I live in LA. I do actually still live in London. I have friends in LA and there are some that are celebrities but they’re just people. If I’m out there, it’s basically just to work and to record.
Do you find it difficult being away from your friends and family for long periods?
I am quite an emotional person and I’m very sensitive to certain issues. But I’ve definitely become a stronger person and I think that’s a good thing. I’ve gained a lot of independence going out on my own because usually I’ve got my very protective family and people around me. But I go home whenever I can. Sometimes my parents will come with me but it’s all about balancing that. I do enjoy it more when I have my family around me.
What was it like growing up in Hackney?
I don’t want anyone to feel like I grew up in a bad situation because I didn’t. I lived in a really nice part of Hackney. My mum and dad worked very, very hard for us to be able to do the things that we really wanted to do and pay for things like theatre school. I didn’t grow up on an estate. I have friends who grew up with a real, real struggle and I would never ever want to take away from the experiences that they have gone through but I didn’t go through that. My parents weren’t rich or anything, but they weren’t struggling. Not like I have seen other people struggle.
2010 has been an incredible year for you already. You worked with director James Cameron on his Oscar winning film Avatar. What’s he like to work with?
At first I didn’t quite know how to be! But he’s just so lovely and he really is very passionate. He’s very down to earth and the film really deserves all the recognition it’s had.
Are there any public figures that you really admire?
I met Alicia Keys and I really admire her and her music. I think she’s very talented and I’d love to work with her one day.
You’ve already achieved so much so young. Do you see this is a positive, a negative or a bit of both?
I think it’s a positive. I feel that I’ve already achieved a lot but there’s still a lot more that I want to attain.