MULTI MIL LEONA IRE
X FACTOR.. THE FINAL VERDICT Pop beauty Leona's tears of pride as she beats Ray and hits £10m jackpot!
By Melaniae Swan
STUNNING Leona Lewis wept tears of joy as she became the first woman to be crowned X Factor champion last night - and is now set to become the show's RICHEST ever winner.
The pretty 21-year-old is tipped to earn a whopping £10million as she prepares to hit the big time in both Britain and America.
She just pipped rival Ray Quinn as eight million viewers voted on the ITV show. Beaming, she said: "This is a dream come true. I've done my best and given it my all and I've just loved it so much. I can't believe how far I've come. Just to have a single out is amazing."
Leona, of Hackney, London, beat 100,000 acts in all to walk away with a coveted £1million recording contract.
Judge Simon Cowell, her mentor, said: "I am quite possibly the proudest person in the world. I've had so many calls from America about this girl - she's that good."
And he blew a raspberry to "anyone who says these shows do not produce world class talents".
Leona had her parents Joe and Marie wiping away tears of pride as she performed last night. Joe added: "It's unbelievable."
Of her rendition of I Will Always Love You, rival judge Louis Walsh admitted: "You've got something we don't see on these shows very often. You've got star quality and you're going to sell records worldwide."
Judge Sharon Osbourne agreed, saying: "If ever there's a contestant who's going to be a big superstar, it's you!"
For Leona's second performance of the night, the budding star changed into a stunning white strapless prom frock.
And as she opened for pop sensation Take That, her dreams had come true.
After a touching rendition of the band's mega-hit Million Love Songs, Leona beamed: "I'm so lucky and so honoured. It's every girl's dream.
"When they told me I was going to sing with Take That my jaw just dropped.
When I first met them I had rollers in. I remember loving them when I was younger and they were such lovely
guys." Take That
star Gary Barlow told Simon Cowell: "You have a great responsibility for this girl.
"This girl is probably 50 times better than any other contestant you have ever had on this show!"
Celebrities in the audience included. ex-Boyzone star Ronan Keating
Big Brother babe Nikki Grahame and GMTV presenter Fiona Phillips.
When the performances were over, Louis said of Leona: "Her voice is incredible." Big-hearted Ray, who is also expected to make a fortune, admitted: "Leona has been amazing and I'm honoured to have been in the final with her.
"I've learnt so much. It's been the best time of my life. Every single memory stands out for me. I am so happy for Leona. She's amazing.
Simon had encouragement for loser Ray and hinted at a record contract. He said: "I will be having a conversation with Ray and we will make an announcement tomorrow."
Simon added: "I've got to hand it to this guy. He has something special. He just had millions of people voting for him so he's got a career."
After being announced as winner, Leona watched Europe's largest CD presses roll into action to make thousands of copies of A Moment Like This, which is out on Wednesday.
The sure-fire hit is expected to be Christmas Number 1 and will launch her career in style.
She got off to a great start, breaking download world records with a massive 50,000 in the first 30 minutes.
She has already been likened to Kelly Clarkson, the winner of TV show American Idol, who has reached international stardom with hits including Since You've Been Gone.
Simon and his record label BMG will aim to market Leona to US audiences as soon as possible to keep the tills ringing. She could even tour with stars such as Mariah Carey.
And Simon had more news for X Factor fans - revealling that he has just signed a THREE-YEAR deal with ITV to continue making the talent show.
THOUSANDS of furious X Factor fans were left without coverage of the final after cable firm ntl:Telewest's signal went down. The firm is a big provider in Ray's home city of Liverpool.LONDON - DECEMBER 13: (UK TABLOID NEWSPAPERS OUT) "The X Factor" finalist Leona Lewis poses for a portrait shoot in Wapping on December 13, 2006 in London, England
Leona: I was close to quitting
By EMMA COX
Deputy TV Editor
December 18, 2006
COMMENT ON THIS STORY
STUNNING X Factor winner Leona Lewis is today on the verge of international superstardom — just months after she considered QUITTING showbiz altogether.
The 21-year-old singer revealed she was depressed at her lack of success and close to giving up when she first auditioned for ITV1’s hit talent show.
In her first and only interview, Leona — who has now scooped a £1million record contract — told The Sun: “A few months before the X Factor, I decided to give it just one more year then give up.
“So if I hadn’t got through the audition, I might be doing something else now.
“I’ve been trying to break into the record industry since I was 14.
“But it’s so hard and there were lots of times I thought, ‘Oh, I don’t know if this is going to happen’.
“This has come along at just the right time. It’s like a fairy tale — and this is the happy ending.”
And she credits her childhood sweetheart Lou Al-Chama for persuading her to give the X Factor audition one last shot.
She says: “He’s always known I wanted to do music and he’s so happy my dreams are coming true. He’s been so supportive.”
Emotional Leona collapsed in tears at the end of Saturday’s final after spotting Lou and her parents in the audience.
She said: “I was keeping it together at the final but when I sang the last line I saw Lou and my family out of the corner of my eye and they were all crying, and I just went. I call him my family because we’re so close.
Leona's precious Moment ... with new single
Picture: DAN CHARITY
“I’m so grateful for their support, and it’s time to pay them back by taking them away for a nice, hot holiday!”
Leona admitted that the worst part of the X Factor was missing Lou when she was holed up in the finalists’ house — but she has no doubt they will stay together.
She said: “We’re totally committed to each other. I think I’ve found the perfect person and he’s so lovely.
“He always tells me the truth when I ask his opinion. I’m so happy to share this experience with him.”
The couple have been together since the age of 17 — but have known each other since they were just nine years old.
Talking about their relationship for the first time Leona says: “We grew up on the same road together. He was always very cute! We used to play together.
“But we went to different schools so we didn’t see each other as much when we were teenagers, then one day he posted me a letter — with a stamp even though I lived a few doors down — asking me out.
“He was too embarrassed to talk to me and it was the sweetest letter. It said he’d really missed me, and stuff like that.
“My friends couldn’t believe it when I told them we were together because I used to go on about him all the time.”
And talking of reports that Lou is intending to propose, she says: “Is he? That’s interesting! I don’t think that’s true but I would like to marry him one day, in a few years.”
But for now the gorgeous singer is going to concentrate on her new career.
After she won the final on Saturday night — watched by a record 12.6million viewers — her mentor Simon Cowell has vowed to make her into a worldwide star to rival Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston.
Her first single, a cover of Kelly Clarkson’s A Moment Like This, will be released on Wednesday and is almost certain to reach Christmas No1. It has already been downloaded by an estimated 200,000 people.
But instead of banging out a quick album of covers like previous winners Steve Brookstein and Shayne Ward, Leona insists on taking her time over a collection of top songs.
Plucky girl ... practising guitar at home and penning lyrics on her bed
She says: “I want to take time to record the best I can. I just want to provide something of quality rather than just rushing something out. We’re going to find the best songs and I want to try and co-write some of them.
“I’ve got an idea about the kind of artist I want to be and that time-scale is really important to me so I can make the kind of album I have in mind.
Key to success ... session in the studio and hard work on the ivories
“Simon’s talking about recording in America and that would be absolutely amazing. I’d love to have a hit over there.”
Leona is not as naive as some previous talent show winners.
And that is no surprise as she has attended stage schools Sylvia Young, Italia Conti and Brits, and has been recording since she was 14.
It’s a point she’s keen to hammer home to critics who may think that she has just been given everything on a plate.
Tears of joy ... Leona wins final
She says: “I’ve been working really hard all my life.
“I’ve learnt how to use a recording studio, how to play keyboard and guitar and I’ve learnt classical singing as well as pop.
“I’ve had a lot of knock backs and a lot of doors shut in my face.
“But that’s only made me stronger and this means so much more because of it.”
Leona grew up in Hackney, East London, with her parents — Joe, a youth offending officer, Marie, a social worker, and brothers Kyle, a mechanic and Bradley, an editor on music channel MTV.
After leaving school at 17 she took a number of jobs — like reception work and waitressing at a pizza joint — to fund sessions at a recording studio.
But amazingly, despite her powerful voice, Leona had so little confidence that she did not think she would get through the first stage of the X Factor auditions.
She says: “I just thought it would be nice to see Simon and Louis and see what they thought of me.
“I didn’t think I’d get through. I didn’t have much self-confidence and every time I got through to another round, I was speechless.
“But now that I’m here, to finally be recognised as a singer after so long, it’s just amazing.
“But I still can’t get my head round the fact that at least four million people voted for me! It’s crazy.
“From singing I Will Always Love You into my little hairbrush when I was six, to singing it in front of millions of people, that’s amazing.
“I’m starting to feel like a pop star already.”