During the past few weeks, Leona Lewis has performed in Berlin, Hamburg, Dusseldorf and Glasgow.
But while she loves singing to her fans anywhere in the world, one of her favourite stages is Cardiff. For the X Factor winner calls the city “home”.
“My mum’s from Penarth and her family now lives in Rhoose,” says Leona, who was born in Islington, London. “I visit Cardiff a few times a year, usually at Christmas.
“I definitely feel Welsh as, while I was growing up, I spent half of my childhood in Wales. We would spend every weekend there.
“My family runs a huge antiques warehouse called Hawkins Antiques so I usually go there and hang out with them.”
It seems that Leona loves collecting vintage items for her home and can also be found rummaging through the goodies at another of Cardiff’s antiques stores – The Pumping Station.
“I love finding little bits and pieces. I once found a silver antique bulldog which I really love and have on show in my house,” she said.
She’s hoping to get a chance to browse through the city’s antique shops once more when she returns next weekend to perform a concert at Cardiff Motorpoint Arena as part of her Glassheart Tour.
“It’s really special for my family and for me when I perform in Cardiff,” says the 28-year-old who sang at the Michael Jackson tribute concert at the Millennium Stadium in 2011.
“All my family will be there again with their banners and screaming.”
The Glassheart Tour is promoting her third album of the same name. It’s the follow up to her first two chart-toppers, Spirit and Echo. Leona co-wrote a lot of the songs.
“It’s important that people get to know you and what you want to sing about and it’s nice to write with people you know and trust,” says the singer, who’s renowned for powerful ballads like Run.
“I decided to work with an executive producer who oversaw the whole album. On the previous two albums I worked with lots of producers but I feel it’s much more personal this time. There’s a good mix of sounds on there. I just wanted to do something a bit different and enjoyed every second.”
She’s now enjoying being on the road again.
“The last time I toured was three years ago so I’ve been really wanting to get back out there. This tour is a bit more intimate and a lot more personal. I’ve got a 10-piece band and a string quartet. I think people will see a different side to me,” she said.
As well as her music, Leona is passionate about animal welfare and once famously rejected a £1m offer from Harrods boss Mohammed Al Fayed to open the luxury London store’s summer sale because it sells fur..
And the usually mild-mannered young woman let off steam in the run-up to the Grand National, firing off a series of expletives on her Twitter account letting her million followers know, in no uncertain terms, what she thinks of horse racing.
“As much as I’m passionate about music, I’m passionate about animals too,” she explains. “I’ve always been into animal welfare and animal rights.”
She recently signed a deal with The Body Shop to become its “brand activist”.
“To get The Body Shop campaign was amazing for me. It’s all about creating awareness of cruelty-free beauty. Getting animal testing banned is really important to me. It’s already banned in the EU, but that’s not good enough,” she says.
Any spare time she has is devoted to Essex-based Hopefield Animal Sanctuary, a non-profit organisation that cares for sick, unwanted and mistreated animals.
“They have around 200 animals there, including horses, monkeys, goats, pigs and rabbits,” says Leona, who has her own horse, rabbit and dogs.
“I spend as much time at the sanctuary physically as I can and I raise awareness.
“The funds from The Body Shop campaign go to Hopefield.”
Leona, who is dating one of her dancers, Dennis Jauch, tries to keep her private life just that.
“I’ve managed it – at the end of the day, it’s all about my music and my personal life is mine,” says Leona, who has never been one to hog the limelight.
But she says the perception that she’s “shy” couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I’m not shy, people just get that impression.
“If you got to know me, you would see what I’m really like.”
While she may have her face plastered over billboards, she says that when she’s not working she’s an ordinary girl.
“I can go out without being recognised, although it’s more difficult in London. I love to chill out with my friends, go to the movies, ride my horse, go to a spa. I feel totally normal,” she laughs.
Leona Lewis will be at Cardiff Motorpoint Arena on May 12. For details, visit www.leonalewismusic.com