I am kicking off my 200th feature on “New 2 Tats” with exotic British chanteuse, Leona Lewis. Late in 2007, American audiences were treated to Leona’s first big hit on stateside radio: “Bleeding Love”, a very emotionally powerful ballad about a love that is going bad and the pleading of one lover to the other over how distraught she is that this is where they are. It clearly struck a chord with listeners in this country as it had three separate stints at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2008 (It was even ranked #2 on the year end Billboard chart for 2008).
Leona Lewis’ exotic beauty comes from a mix of Afro-Guyanese ancestry on her father’s side and Welsh, Italian and Irish on her mother’s side. Born in Islington, London, she has had the arts in her blood from her earliest days. As a child, she attended the Sylvia Young Theatre School before she moved on to the Italia Conti Academy (coincidentally, that is where ‘New 2 Tats’ beauty, Martine McCutcheon also studied)
Leona’s vocal education included opera, jazz and blues. When you listen to her sing, you can feel the range, power and flexibility in her voice that allows her to ‘own’ each of those styles. Early on, she tried the independent artist route and cut some demos with a couple different labels. Unfortunately, these demos did not generate any kind of sustainable interest. When she was considering putting her musical ambitions on hold for awhile, her longtime boyfriend suggested that she try out for “The X Factor”, the British talent show that “American Idol” judge Simon Cowell ran simultaneously with “Idol”.
Well, “The X Factor” was absolutely the right call. Leona completely dominated the competition in Series 3. She never finished worse than third place in any week, and she finished in first place in 8 of the 10 weeks of the show, including the finale where she won the series. Drawing inspiration from the first “American Idol” champion, Kelly Clarkson, Leona’s first post-victory single was “A Moment Like This”. British audiences loved it and the song ended up winning the coveted UK ‘Christmas #1 Single’ title for 2006.
This initial success led to her signing with music mogul, Clive Davis, in the United States. The connections in the States got her hooked up with power producers like Dallas Austin, Ne-Yo and Walter Afanasieff. Not long after this, she began work on her major-label debut album, “Spirit”. She lucked into her epic hit song “Bleeding Love”. The song, written by Ryan Tedder (of One Republic), was original supposed to be sung by teen heartthrob, Jesse McCartney. Jesse’s label said ‘no’. So, he became a co-writer and the song went to Leona. The rest, they say, is history.
Leona’s follow-up single, “Better in Time”, a softer love ballad, didn’t achieve near the success of “Bleeding Love”, reaching only #53 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, despite having yet to ascend to the top of the charts again, Leona has regularly released new albums and achieved the kind of following that has allowed her to continue living her dream. She also supports the non-profit group Little Kids Rock, which is dedicated to preserving music education for children across the United States, especially in financially disadvantaged districts where music programs would be the first to be canceled.
Of course, being beautiful and having a gifted voice is not all there is to Leona. She also has some wonderful body art. Leona’s most noticeable tattoo also shows committed she is to the art form. Running down the length of her spine is a poem she wrote about horses, which are her favorite animals. It reads:
“Their beauty captures every eye, a gift from God for all mankind, they lend us wings so we may fly, to ride a horse is to ride the sky”
Leona’s most recent tattoo is an elegant feather she has running down the front of her right shoulder.
Her one other tattoo is an Arabic script design on her left wrist. It was a message she shared with her long-time boyfriend, the one who encouraged her to try out for “The X Factor”. They have since gone their separate ways, and Leona has chosen to keep the tattoo’s meaning to herself.
You can track Leona’s career on her official website: http://www.leonalewismusic.com/us/home/
And, you can follow her on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/leonalewismusic/media