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Leona Lewis: The girl with the lashes

Songstress Leona Lewis is mesmerising in an interview with tabloid! ahead of her closing night performance at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival. She dishes on the music industry, fashion and her boss, Simon Cowell

Leona Lewis
Image Credit: AFP
I always try and make music that's timeless. Music you can listen to in 10 years' time. That's kind of my aim, says Leona Lewis.
Tabloid

Face-to-face with Leona Lewis, I was struck with huge eyelashes — not literally, you understand (although it wasn't far off).

I should probably clarify that's not to say it was the only thing which stood out: a figure to die for, a wonderfully quirky dress sense, a sleek ponytail which should have taken hours to perfect but I can guarantee she swept up herself in a second. But the lashes somehow set a perfect backdrop to the story you're about to read.

Fixated from the very beginning, I thought to myself they must be fake, or improved with falsies, or genetically enhanced with growth hormones.

"According to the press, I've had everything done," she huffed during our interview on the sidelines of the Doha Tribeca Film Festival, where Lewis performed the closing night concert on Saturday.

Throwing her hands in the air, she smiled wildly and rolled her eyes. "I've had everything apparently. I've had a baby. There's so many things. I know a lot of people who've had cosmetic surgery and I don't have anything against it. Whatever people wanna do with themselves is up to them. But I think it's weird when people pinpoint you and say that about you. Firstly, it's none of their business and also what difference does it make? It doesn't really matter."

Describing X Factor as "insane", a show now with "bells, whistles and a kitchen sink", the Season 3 winner knows better than anyone what it feels like to take part in such a media-hungry programme.

An avid watcher of the UK and US versions, which are currently airing live simultaneously, Lewis still believes whole-heartedly in the show despite worldwide criticism saying it has gradually turned into a circus.

‘Genuine talent'

"It's changed a lot since I done it," she said in her native London tones. "I think there's so much more production, there's so much more going on. But I guess that's what people eat into. People are used to getting bombarded with so many different things that everyone's like ‘it has to get bigger, it has to get better'. But people love it so it mustn't be doing anything bad."

Lewis still believes the show has the right value at the root.

"If you look at the show, there are genuine talents, 100 per cent. What I always say is that, every single week people go out there and sing live if you look at probably about 60-80 per cent of artists now, when they go out so many of them don't sing live. There's no live tracks, nothing really. So actually in that respect I think it's amazing that we're still seeing live singers every week on television. But I do get that it is an entertainment show and they have started to put people through just for entertainment, so the crazies, the wackies... It has gotten huge now."

Signed to Syco, Simon Cowell's little label (for obvious reasons), what's Mr Nasty like as a boss?

"He's really cool," she said with a smile. "We get on really well and he's always supported me, he's been very involved in the making of my albums and stuff. He's very supportive. He has some ideas but mostly it's just myself and my producer."

Timeless music

Friendly, bubbly and more than happy to chat like old friends, conversation with Lewis was anything but awkward. I got the feeling nothing was off limits. Lewis lit up at two points in the interview: talking music and boys.

Currently working on her third album (with Cowell a very safe distance from the studio) Lewis is in a "happy" stage of her musical career.

"I always try and make music that's timeless. Music you can listen to in 10 years' time. That's kind of my aim; I want people to be able to hear it and be like, ‘Oh that's not just cool for a year but then it's out of fashion or whatever'," she said, hands flying all over the place.

Lewis is animated. Eyelashes aside, her hands are up, down, to the side. "I try and make timeless music. A lot of it is going to be live orientated. A lot of instruments. I'm really excited about it. A lot of it is inspired by life, really. Things that have happened to me in the past few years, different experiences that I've been through. Some amazing covers as well.

"When I came off of tour, I was going through a crazy, crazy time. I just never took a moment. So when things had settled down, I got to do a lot of different trips and see some places, experience different cultures but actually see it. That definitely reflects in the album."

It's always a dodgy topic when "chatting" — I use the term loosely, as it happens rarely — to the stars. At what point are you brave enough to ask about the other half?

"I am dating," she said as I weighed up who was blushing more, her or me. "It's a guy I met a year and half ago. I do have a boyfriend and it's going really well. Dennis, he's a civilian, not a celeb. Although he is a celeb in Germany," she added. "Dennis Jauch, he won a show."

As the minutes ticked by, Lewis really did become more normal than when I had started the interview.

She wanted to talk fashion, Justin Bieber and dueting with Chris Martin and Stevie Wonder. If she'd had all night she would have never stopped.

Duet wishlist

Lewis openly admitted to enjoying the Bieber of Never Say Never without any encouragement, although sadly it doesn't look like a collaboration or duet is on the cards just yet, but the fashion line stands more of a chance. "I don't really know how that would turn out," she said with obvious diplomacy when asked about a mash-up with the Biebster, having set her sights slightly higher.

"I'd love to duet with Chris Martin, David Bowie, Stevie Wonder. I did get to sing with him [Wonder], but I'd love to actually do a record with him."

So I'd managed to keep my eyes off the lashes for at least nine minutes and felt confident I was out of the don't-say-anything-inappropriate woods.

She wore a jacket: "Dunno where I got it from, just in my wardrobe", which made me love her a little more. "French Connection trousers and a TopShop top. It was just like a dinner suit jacket, like a tux," she added, saying red carpet dressing worries her less these days.

"I used to get really stressed in the beginning, but now I'm like, ‘Oh my god, there is no need to stress about it, just wear whatever.'"

The cream tux jacket reinvented from red carpet to show and Lewis was respectfully aware of the local culture and tradition regarding dress. "I'm trying to be more conservative here," she said before the show.

‘Just a change'

Once compared to Lady Gaga after a not-so-drastic image change, Lewis has always had the fashion industry in her sights. "I love that if you wear anything a bit differently you're instantly compared to Lady Gaga. Brilliant. For me, it was just a change. I had darker hair. I was just getting older and growing up. I thought it was weird."

With each response Lewis blinks slowly, drawing me back to the lashes I thought I'd forgotten.

She's a vegetarian, an ambassador for plastic shoes (so as not to use leather) and bags, never had work done and can sing like an angel. She's near damn perfect.

She's even forgiven the man who took a vicious swipe at her at a book signing. "My mum works a lot with mental health patients, so I get it. It's a bad thing to happen, but you just have to get on with it. At the time it wasn't nice. It's not a good thing for anyone. But it's over."

Lewis was the perfect choice to close the Doha Tribeca Film Festival for just like the event, she is just enough celebrity to bring a touch of glamour, yet still maintaining the true meaning of class, sophistication and talent. Lewis is so much more than lashes that I still don't know to this day whether they're false or not. Frankly, when you belt out a tune like she does, who cares.

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