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Leona Lewis Interview

11 December 2015 | Ryan Ormonde

London Calling catches up with Leona Lewis as she looks forward to her 2016 UK tour, including two nights at the London Palladium.

London Calling: Taylor Swift brought you on stage for her tour. Is she going to return the favour?

Leona Lewis: Ha! When I was with her she was in the thick of the tour. I’m sure by the time she’s off it she’s not going to want to go out and perform for quite a while. So I don’t think so, but it was great that she involved me in the show - it was fun.

LC: Do you keep a journal or notebook?

LL: Yes I do actually. Well it’s more like a diary of feeling and emotions rather than ‘This is what I did today’.

LC: Have you ever wanted to be a boy?

LL: Yeah, I have. Definitely. I think everybody has wanted to be the opposite gender at some point. I definitely love being a girl, a woman. But even now I always think ‘I wonder what it would be like?’

LC: Did London make you who you are?

LL: Definitely. I grew up in the heart of London - I was born in Islington and grew up in Stamford Hill. For me, having travelled the whole world really, London is the most multicultural place I’ve ever been to. I’m so glad I got the opportunity to grow up there because I was exposed to so many different kinds of people from so many different walks of life and I think it’s made me so much more rounded.

LC: Do you think the idea of a pop star has changed since you first became one?

LL: Yes, I think even before I [laughs] became one - it’s so weird calling myself that! I was at the UN a little while ago and I got awarded ‘Music Pioneer’ because of the campaign that I started called ‘I’m Empowered’. I spoke about the conversations around being a pop star and what it used to be compared to what it is now. When I was a little girl growing up, I would see pop stars just as musicians who are influencing popular culture. Whereas now it’s not even about the music sometimes - which I think is kind of crazy. A lot of it is sensationalised and about controversy. A lot of negative behaviours and connotations are attached to it - the competition between females... it’s gotten a bit negative, which is why I started this campaign. I won’t go on about it.

LC: What is ‘I’m Empowered’?

LL: I started getting lots of letters from people who were reaching out to me about the lyrics of my album, where I talk about overcoming different situations in life where obstacles are holding you back. Lyrics that were - I don’t know, giving people something to aim towards. A lot of people started writing to me and messaging me, telling me about the stories they had been through. There was a guy who had an eating disorder and he didn’t want to talk about it with his family or friends because I guess it’s quite a taboo situation for men. He wanted to reach out to me to say how one of my songs empowered him to do something about it. So I started to share those stories. That’s how the campaign came about.

LC: Does the prospect of performing live feel different now after what happened in Paris?

LL: Do you know what, I didn’t even think about that, but yesterday I saw Bono bring the band [Eagles of Death Metal] on stage on the news and I thought, that’s such a good idea. Bono is so amazing, he’s one of my idols now. I hadn’t actually thought about that, but it is worrying. I used to when I was younger. That film Selena [1997 biopic starring Jennifer Lopez about a pop star who was killed by the president of her fan club] used to scare me. It is a bit scary but it’s such a rare thing. Safety is so key in these venues.

LC: So what Bono did chimed with your own response?

LL: Definitely. I loved that they embraced on stage and he was like ‘this is not going to beat us.’ I though it was lovely. It’s a great message.

Leona Lewis performs at the London Palladium 4 & 5 March 2016. To book tickets, see website.

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