This spring, 22-year-old Leona Lewis became the first solo British female artist to top the American Billboard Hot 100 chart since 1987, when Kim Wilde’s cover of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” spent a week at number one. After winning U.K. TV talent program The X Factor two years ago, the show’s creator, Simon Cowell, brought the English dame to the attention of Clive Davis, and international hit “Bleeding Love” and smash album Spirit soon followed.
INSTINCT: Congratulations on hitting number one with “Bleeding Love” here in the States. LEONA LEWIS: Thank you!
You got to perform on Oprah. I think I would’ve been frightened out of my mind to go on there. I know! It was pretty surreal. I’m still pinching myself. My family, when they saw it, they were like, “That is not you! You are not on Oprah right now!” It was quite emotional as well—when I came offstage, I was like, “I was just standing beside Oprah.” It was such a big deal.
I hear you’re a vegetarian. With all the traveling an international pop sensation such as yourself does, is it hard to get a good meal? Yeah! Not a lot of hotels carry a good vegetarian or wholesome meal, so you do have to do your research before you go to places to see which vegetarian restaurants are where, and where you can eat and stuff. You just have to do your research before you go.
Do you cook? I do! I’m not great. [Laughs] But I try when I’m at home.
What’s your favorite vegetarian meal—one you would recommend to Instinct’s fair readers? My favorite is a tofu stir-fry with broccoli and brown rice. It’s yummy and healthy.
Moving on to your album, Spirit, was it intimidating to go straight in after winning The X Factor and work with big-name writers and producers? Yeah. I did a showcase with Clive Davis, and he invited lots of his songwriters down. I performed a few songs, and they got a vibe for me and my voice. After that, I went to different studios to see what they came up with and what we could come up with together. When I was going in there—because a lot of them are quite legendary—it was very daunting. You never know how they’re going to be, and you just feel really grateful that they’re even giving you the time of day. I can pretty much say that every one of them wanted to do their best and treated me with so much respect and were all really lovely.
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Was there one you clicked with especially? Ryan Tedder, definitely, from OneRepublic. He’s just so great. And also Walter A [Afanasieff]. I was honored to get the chance to work with him.
I read an interview with Ryan Tedder where he said the hardest thing to do in the world is to write a hit song, but he doesn’t seem to be doing too badly between you and OneRepublic. [Laughs] I know. He’s doing so well and it’s so well deserved because he’s a great guy.
We hear a lot about you being called the next Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston, but I think it’s interesting you’re a big David Bowie fan. Yes, I am! He was in one of my favorite films when I was younger. You’re so impressionable as a child, and I always remembered him and followed him and what he did. I think that he’s so great.
Do you mean Labyrinth? Yeah, yeah! That one! Oh, gosh, my favorite film of all time.
Have you gotten a chance to meet him yet? No, I haven’t, but I keep nagging the press people to make it happen at some point. Hopefully!
That might be better than meeting Oprah. I may pass out! [Laughs]
All right, Leona, let’s cut to the chase: Tell us something scandalous about Simon Cowell—what’s the dirt we have yet to discover on him? He loves animals.
Naughty! Now I have to ask a selfish question: Are you pals with Shayne Ward, who won X Factor the year before you? Yes, I have met him on a few occasions, and he’s such a sweetheart, like so lovely. Really, really lovely.
He’s quite a strapping young buck. Yeah, he is. [Laughs]
That’s the only reason I asked. [Laughs] That’s so funny!
Stick with me, lady, and it’ll be a laugh a minute.
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