Prominence came beckoning at Singer Leona Lewis in 2006 after winning the final of the third series of the British version of the popular television show, The X Factor. On her way up the ladder to success she commuted for four hours a day to The Brit School, a performing arts institution in south London, where she was classmates with Adele and Jessie J. Since winning The X Factor she has become a global singing star, selling in excess of 20 million records.
The animal-loving superstar was born in Islington, north London on April 3, 1985 to parents of mixed ethnicity and nationality. Her mother, Maria, is of Welsh, Irish and Italian ancestry, while her father, Josiah Lewis, is of Afro-Guyanese heritage. Guyana is a state located on the northern coast of South America, and its diverse historical ethnic mix consists of Indians, Africans, Chinese and Europeans, as well as the indigenous South American indians. Afro-Guyanese citizens like Leona Lewis’s father are the descendents of African slaves, and consitute approximately a third of the total population.
Green-eyed Leona is part of the Britain’s fastest growing ethnic group, referred to on the national census as “mixed race”, and which is expanding at a rate of approximately five per cent per year.
Questions about the singer’s ethnicity and nationality intrigue thousands of her fans around the world. According to statistics supplied by search giant Google, 200 global Internet-users per month ask, “Is Leona Lewis black?”, while a further 500 users Google the phrase,“Leona Lewis ethnicity”, each month. All the searches about Leona’s ethnicity, heritage and parents ancestry add up to over 12,000 queries per year.
As the world’s populations continue to interact via mass migrations into the major cities, the multi-ethnicity and aesthetic ambiguity of Leona’s Lewis’s generation looks set to redefine traditional notions of race in the 21st century. In America, seven million citizens identified themselves in more than one ethnic and racial category in the last census. Simultaneously, more and more multi-racial celebrities are breaking through, including music stars such as Nicki Minaj, Rihanna and Beyoncé, and actresses Rosario Dawson, Paula Patton and Zoe Saldana.
MmmmLeona Lewis has revealed how her striking mixed-race looks made her a target for bullying classmates at school.‘I was the only one at stage school who wasn’t white’, she explains. ‘Some kids would come up to me and say “Oh, you’re mixed-race”, making it a big deal when it wasn’t.
‘I later went to a school where the majority of the kids were black and because I used to wear my hair out, I’d get teased for not wearing it in braids and for being different there too.’Leona, 22, who shot to fame after winning last year’s X Factor, explains that it was ultimately the support of her family that got her through the experience.‘I’d go crying home to Mum and she would say to me, “You’re a beautiful girl and you’re a part of me and a part of your dad”,’ Leona reveals, as her mother encouraged her to be proud of who she is.