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That's what friends are for...

Don't believe everything you read in gossip columns — stars can be friends (and friendly), say Natasha Bedingfield and Leona Lewis ahead of their performances at the Atelier Dance Arena Music Festival tomorrow

  • Natasha Bedingfield
    “I’m hopefully going to get my driver's license — that’s been a resolution
    Image Credit: Yogen Shah/ANM
  • Leona LewisImage Credit: AFP

The cut-throat world of the music business: it's enough to drive even the calmest of people over the edge. Or so the gossip column spin doctors would have us believe.

Over-exaggerated tales of spats, cat fights, boyfriend-stealing or just a simple war of words leave us cringing uncomfortably and grateful it's not a world we have to endure.

As with most things in life there are two sides to every "Madonna-hates-Elton" story.

Natasha Bedingfield and Leona Lewis — with a bit of Ne-Yo, Taio Cruz and Skylar Gray thrown in for good measure — are without a doubt the flip side of this coin.

Either these singers are the exception to the rule or there is a lot more love on the London music scene than first meets the eye.

"Natasha is a great girl," said former UK X Factor-winner Lewis with genuine warmth. Probably the only way she knows how.

Speaking to Lewis is like chatting to a friend you haven't seen in a while. Soft London tones ooze kindness, compassion and understanding. Lewis has a selfless way of answering questions — questions she's more than likely answered 100 times already — with excitement and enthusiasm.

"I can't wait to see everybody again in Dubai," she told tabloid! exclusively ahead of her performance at the Atelier Live Dance festival tomorrow. "We are all so busy and it's hard to keep in touch when you are doing shows, touring or in the studio. So it's sometimes so nice, so good, to bump into people you've worked with at events like this."

Lewis has repeatedly worked with Ne-Yo and Cruz — who will also take to the stage tomorrow — because both have written songs for the singer.

But working with Bedingfield involved a lot more patience, as Lewis and the blonde Brit found themselves in a room with some of the biggest known divas in the industry.

Both singers were drafted in to record Just Stand Up along with an all-star cast including Beyonce, Rihanna, Carrie Underwood, Miley Cyrus, Sheryl Crow, Nicole Scherzinger, Fergie, Keyshia Cole, LeAnn Rimes, Melissa Etheridge, Ciara, Ashanti, Mary J. Blige and Mariah Carey in a bid to raise funds and awareness for the charity of the same name in 2008.

‘It was quite amazing'

Surely sparks flew? Apparently not. Worse still, Bedingfield says the girls couldn't have gotten along better.

"It was quite amazing, really," joked the singer-songwriter. "That we could get in a room together and just get on. I think I did expect to see a little more tension because there were so many divas, but it was kind of amazing. It was such a good cause and I think because we all have so much in common we knew how to deal with it."

The attitude may have been toned down, but entourage envy was riding high.

"Everyone has their own entourage with make-up, hair, manager," Bedingfield revealed after cleverly side-stepping a question about the most difficult diva to work with. "Each artist had like 15-17 people in the room which was hilarious. It was a moment when I realised that we all have another world which revolves around each of us."

Spotting an opportunity to delve into the catty world of the pop star, I took my chance but Bedingfield wouldn't be drawn, taking the conversation back to her own struggles.

"The music biz is funny because when you're in it, you really are an entity," she said, sounding worryingly surprised. "You are a business as well as an artist and it's always a balance. You try and focus on the music and they focus on the brand — you have all these people around you and you feel like you are the centre of the universe."

To give Bedingfield credit, it's no surprise this would have come as a bit of a "hard pill to swallow", as she herself describes it.

Originally from New Zealand, Bedingfield grew up in southeast London, where she and her siblings were raised around music.

By their teens, Bedingfield, brother Daniel — who has also enjoyed success in the music industry — and sister Nikola had formed an R&B singing group. Music gave her life direction.

"I found it hard in the beginning," she replied on whether being seen as a brand is tough when the music is so important.

"Then in some ways it helped to be able to look at it that way because then it makes it easier when you get criticised. Sometimes you see people really believing the hype that was put out about them. The work you put out as a product helps when you see yourself as a brand because the bad stuff is easier to deal with."

In 2001 and 2002 her brother scored hits with singles Gotta Get Through This and If You're Not the One and the following year it was Bedingfield's turn.

Leaving university, a year into a psychology degree, to sign with BMG, Bedingfield has since enjoyed success with Unwritten, These Words, Single and I Wanna Have Your Babies.

‘We're all screwed up'

"A lot of my songs are about taking whatever life throws at you and making the most of it," she said.

Which opens the floor for questions about her last album, Strip Me.

"It's really about who we are as humans and if you strip away all the other stuff that makes us different then really we're all very similar. I did study psychology and I write about things we all go through but the psychology definitely comes into it when I'm songwriting. Nobody knows what's going on in your brain except you and I realised that we really are so complex that you can't even put it down to the science. We are all screwed up in own ways."

Bedingfield is the perfect combination of good looks, husky voice and charming personality.

She set a Guinness World Record with brother Daniel as the only brother and sister to have separate solo No 1 hits in the UK and only has good things to say about him, despite not always seeing eye to eye.

"We have a really close relationship and it's weird that we both do music — it's really random that somehow we both managed to be successful," she said.

"Sometimes we do fight. We don't see things in the same way. At the Brits is the only time we've sung together. It's my favourite ever performance, but it took us a lot to be able to do that. We love each other very much but probably because we don't work together."


Leona Lewis says she cannot wait to be inspired this weekend in Dubai by her "friends".

"I'm so excited," she gushed from her London recording studio. "I love being around live performers and live shows. So I know this is going to be amazing. I went to see Sweeney Todd at the theatre and it just reminded me how I'm constantly inspired by music and inspired by people."

Having worked with Ne-Yo, Taio Cruz, Skylar Gray and being best mates with "Tasha", as she refers to her fellow Londoner Natasha Bedingfield, Lewis isn't ruling out a reunion on stage.

"Who knows?" she said. "It's so nice that we'll all see each other. You get to know people and spend time with them in the studio. But then you go off and do your own thing. Tasha, she's such a great girl and we don't get to see each other very often, especially with all the live shows we do. She's SO nice. She's a lot of fun."

Working on her long-awaited album, Lewis is keeping her fans waiting with the promise that it will all be worth it.

She left LA and went home to London in order to focus, according to the 27-year-old.

"We are just vibing and seeing what inspires us and creating. Taking things to the next level. I want to make an album that's timeless. That takes a while to come to fruition but worthwhile in the end."

Lewis auditioned for the third series of the UK X Factor in 2006, singing Over the Rainbow and was then mentored by Simon Cowell. In December the UK public voted her winner and Lewis scooped a million-pound recording contract.

"There's always a back story," she said criticising the people who at the time claimed she would be a flash in the pan. "I think only now people have started to realise that I didn't just walk out of my bedroom and onto a big stage and that was it. I've always sung. I've always worked hard and I still work hard now."

Works hard, plays hard and as we expected it all comes back down to the people around her.

"All of my focus is on my album. The only thing I sometimes kinda miss is being around my friends and family so much. But when I come back and I can spend quality time with them it's great. It's a bit of give and take."

Don't miss it

The Atelier Dance Arena Music Festival takes place tomorrow at Dubai Sports City International Stadium. The line-up includes Ne-Yo, Leona Lewis, Taio Cruz, Jay Sean, Natasha Bedingfield and Skylar Gray. Tickets, priced Dh650, Dh450 and Dh250, are available at Virgin Megastores. Organisers will have transport details on the website

Meet Ne-Yo!

Check out the tabloid! twitter site for details of how three of you can meet Ne-Yo when he hits Dubai for the Atelier Live festival on Friday. Follow us @GulfNewsTabloid.