Showing an ability and interest in singing from an early age, Leona Lewis's parents sent her to the Sylvia Young Theatre School, the Italia Conti Academy and the Ravenscourt Theatre School in London's Hammersmith before she enrolled at the BRIT School for Performing Arts and Technology in Croydon. She left the school before completing her course and took several low paid jobs while writing and recording in her free time and even performed several tracks live on BBC Radio One in 2004. Finding it difficult to secure a recording contract she auditioned for the hugely popular TV talent show the X Factor in 2006 and successfully made it into the girls category that was mentored by Simon Cowell. Declared the clear winner of the competition Lewis made her recording debut with 'A Moment Like This' , which had originally been recorded by Kelly Clarkson, herself a winner of the US Talent series American Idol in 2002. The song was an instant hit, it was digitally downloaded more than 50,000 times in thirty minutes and topped the UK charts for four weeks over Christmas 2006, and subsequently sold almost 900,000 copies. Although remaining out of the public eye for most of the next year Lewis was busy recording her debut album with a team of highly successful songwriters, producers and musicians including Ryan Tedder (OneRepublic), Richard Page (Mr. Mister), Dr. Luke, Ne-Yo, Stargate, Walter Afanasieff, Salaam Remi, Dallas Austin, Kara DioGuardi, Akon, Steve Mac and Billy Steinberg. Under the guidance of mentor Simon Cowell (to whose Syco Music label she was signed) her 2007 second single 'Bleeding Love' also went to number one in the UK and in an amazing thirty-four other countries including the USA where she had signed to Clive Davis's J Records. Both 'Bleeding Love' and her debut album Spirit were record breaking entries on the American charts, the single was the first by a British female to top the charts since Kim Wilde's 'You Keep Me Hangin' On' back in 1987 while the album made Lewis the first British artist to top the charts with their debut album.
Spirit also peaked at No 1 in the UK and seven other countries and yielded further hits with the double A-side 'Better In Time' / 'Footprints In The Sand' which peaked at No 2 in the UK and No 11 in the USA while 'Forgive Me' reached No 5 in the UK. Her phenomenal success had lead to Lewis being highly in demand by the media and for a 2007 performance on a BBC Radio One Live Lounge session she covered Snow Patrol's 2004 Top 5 hit 'Run' . The song proved to be incredibly popular with listeners and the following year she recorded an emotionally epic studio version complete with choir that topped the UK charts and at the time became the fastest-selling UK download track so far. In a surprising move Lewis joined former Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page for a live performance of 'Whole Lotta Love' at the closing ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The following year saw the release of her second album, which once again she recorded with a number of songwriters and producers including Max Martin, Justin Timberlake, John Shanks and a returning Ryan Tedder. Preceded by the No 2 hit single 'Happy' , the album Echo was released in November 2009 and while it replicated its predecessor's multi-platinum success in the UK by topping the charts it was less successful in other territories including the USA where it peaked at No 13. The record only yielded one more single 'I Got You' that reached No 14. Capitalising on her popularity Lewis sang the theme tune for the 2009 James Cameron' sci-fi blockbuster movie Avatar ('I See You') while the following year she contributed vocals to the Haiti Earthquake disaster charity fundraising single 'Everybody Hurts' and duetted on 'Inaspettata' with Italian singer/songwriter Biagio Antonacci.
After touring in 2010 she began work on her third album and although it featured several returning songwriters and producers (including Ryan Tedder, NeYo and Dallas Austin) she broadened the personnel by also collaborating with Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith of Tears For Fears, Rodney Jerkins, Emeli Sandé, Fraser T. Smith and Chris Loco. The joint release with Avicii, 'Collide' peaked at No 4 in the UK and put her back in the charts after an eighteen-month absence and also paved the way for her three track 'Hurt' EP, that followed three months later. Giving Trent Reznor's classic song an arrangement far different to both the Nine Inch Nails original and the Johnny Cash cover and much closer to her treatment of Snow Patrol's 'Run', the EP reached No 8 in the UK. Lewis' third album
Glassheart was issued in October 2012 and despite debuting in the UK Top 3 it was her least successful record so far and failed to make it into the charts in the USA although critics praised her for trying to break out of her previous big ballad formula in favour of a more electronic dance direction. She returned at the end of 2013 with the seasonal album Christmas, With Love that featured interpretations of classic festive tunes plus three originals co-written by the singer herself, including 'One More Sleep' . Leona Lewis has established herself as one of the best new British singers to emerge in the twenty-first century and while she has received some criticism, it is almost certainly based on her X Factor beginnings and not on her undoubted vocal talents.
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