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KOKOnista Of The Day: Leona Lewis Is The British Afro-Guyanese Singer With The X Factor

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Leona Lewis is a British singer, songwriter, actress, model, and activist with the X factor.


Leona Louise Lewis was born on 3 April 1985, in Islington, London, England, to a father of Afro-Guyanese descent and a mother with Welsh, Irish and Italian ancestry. She has an older half-brother, Bradley, and a younger brother, Kyle.
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Noticing Lewis’s passion for singing, her parents enrolled her at the Sylvia Young Theatre School and later at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, the Ravenscourt Theatre School and the BRIT School for Performing Arts and Technology until they could no longer afford to do so, making cutbacks when necessary to help their daughter achieve her aspiration of being a singer.


At the age of 17, Lewis decided to leave BRIT School to “get out there” and pursue a career in music. By then, she had already begun to write and record her own material, and she worked as a receptionist at a solicitor’s office and as a Pizza Hut waitress in order to fund the studio sessions. At 18, Lewis secured a lead role in The Lion King theatre show in Paris; however, she withdrew after injuring her back while she was ice-skating.

Lewis recorded a demo album, called Twilight, in collaboration with Spiral Music, a production company based in Fulham, but it failed to secure her an album deal with any record companies. Although the album was never released commercially, Lewis performed a couple of the tracks live on BBC Radio 1 music station in 2004. Another demo album was recorded under license from UEG Entertainment, Best Kept Secret, which have reportedly claimed to have spent £70,000 trying to launch Lewis’s career with no success. A track from the album, “Private Party”, became a hit on the underground urban music scene in London in 2005.
Speaking about her struggle to secure a record contract, Lewis said, “I tried to secure a record deal by doing things my own way. I worked very hard but I never managed to land a contract. That’s why I decided to audition for The X Factor. It’s programmes like these which provide the best place to showcase fresh new talent.”

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Lewis achieved global recognition when she won the third series of The X Factor in 2006, winning a £1 million recording contract with Syco Music. Her winner’s single, a cover of Kelly Clarkson’s “A Moment Like This”, peaked at number one for four weeks on the UK Singles Chart and broke a world record for reaching 50,000 digital downloads within 30 minutes. In February 2007, Lewis signed a five-album contract in the United States with Clive Davis’s record label, J Records.

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She has won two MOBO Awards, an MTV Europe Music Award, and two World Music Awards. She is also a six-time BRIT Award and three-time Grammy Award nominee. Aside from her music and acting career, Lewis has publicly supported various charitable causes, particularly animal rights; she is also vegan.

Photo Credit: Getty

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