Mariah, Whitney, Celine—it’s hard not to compare U.K. songstress Leona Lewis to pop divas past. Her vocal prowess alone earns her a place among them, with a range and timbre that somehow convey all of our heartbreak in a single note (see the countless amount of times we ugly-cried to her breakout single, “Bleeding Love”). Her beauty-chameleon tendencies have her poised for icon status, too—a quick scroll through her Instagram will reveal an ever-changing hairstyle (and color) rotation and even the occasional face glitter appearance (she is a pop star, after all).
Enviable brow game aside, Lewis has emerged as a musical force in her own right, especially on the heels of her album, I Am—a record that’s different from her previous releases in one key way. We caught up with the singer to talk about the journey that took her there, the main theme of the album, and of course all her best beauty tips. Keep scrolling to read our interview!
How is the album I Am different from your previous albums?
Lewis: It’s been about seven years since I released my first album, and I’m now on my fourth studio album, which is amazing for me. Over that time period, I have had so much happen to me, and I have delved into an array of subject matters. The main theme of the album is personal empowerment, and my first single, “Thunder,” depicts the inner will it takes to come back from hard times.
So, if you could describe the album in one word, it would be…
We’re digging the beauty look you chose for the album art. Were you involved in that process?
Lewis: On the album cover, I wanted my skin to be very sheer and natural. We used more of a tinted foundation to give it that feel, and I’m all about enhancing the eyes with soft brown tones.
How would you describe your own beauty style?
Lewis: For everyday, I keep it simple and usually just dust on some bronzer, a lick of mascara, and a flick of eyeliner. If I’m going out, I like to experiment with different looks, like a poppy lip or dramatic smoky eye. I like using highlighter on the insides and also on the tear duct to open the eye more.
Your skin always looks like it’s glowing. What’s your secret?
Lewis: I like Caudalie, and products that are good for sensitive skin. My main products actually come from my mother’s kitchen. She is an herbalist, and we make our own moisturizers and oils. The key is the oil, though, which comes from my Guyanese grandmother. She had the most amazing skin, and I follow her regimen.
The craziest thing you’ve done in the name of beauty—go.
Lewis: It’s not crazy, but it’s crazy painful: I tried laser hair removal and I almost jumped off of the chair. I think they have new razors now that don’t hurt as much, but I did it years ago and accidentally kicked the technician!
You’re a hair chameleon—what prompts or inspires each change?
Lewis: I get bored very easily, so I like to chop and change. At the end of the day, it’s only hair and it will grow back, so why not try lots of styles?
You had your hair curly for a while—is that your natural hair texture? Any styling tips you think all curly girls should know?
Lewis: My natural texture is corkscrew curls, and I have to keep it moisturized so that it stays healthy. I think oil is the key, and I like to mist argan oil on the ends and also do an oil treatment once a week.
What made you decide to go shorter and lighter?
Lewis: I was getting my hair done one day and I just felt like chopping it off. I asked my stylist to cut it and kept telling her to go shorter and shorter. I had it dark and short for a while, which I was really into, and I literally felt like a new woman. It’s so easy to shower and not have this long hair to deal with. After awhile, I decided to blond it up as I hadn’t been light for years. I thought it would be cool to be super bright, because it’s short and if it breaks, it doesn’t really matter—I can just cut it.
Luckily, I have a great colorist who didn’t damage my hair, and it’s actually really healthy at the moment!
Last question—something non–beauty related. What’s the last thing that made you laugh? Like, really, really laugh.
Lewis: Probably my husband. We’re apart a lot because he works overseas, and so we Skype and just giggle the whole time.
You can download Lewis’s album, I Am, on iTunes.