Leona Lewis

Lester Cohen/WireImage.com

Leona Lewis has arrived. The 23-year-old English singing sensation is making a name for herself in the U.S. with her hot new single, “Bleeding Love,” off her debut album Spirit. (It’s out tomorrow, and I say get it ASAP!).

She first hit it big in Europe after winning Simon Cowell’s British talent show, The X Factor. And now, in a first, Cowell and music-label legend Clive Davis have teamed up to bring her Stateside by jointly releasing her on their labels.

I recently sat down with Lewis for some one-on-one time at a Santa Monica hotel. We talked Oprah Winfrey, Simon Cowell and stealing cars. No, she doesn’t have a rap sheet.

You were recently on Oprah. What did it feel like to walk into Harpo Studios in Chicago?
It’s huge. My aunt nearly combusted when I told her I was going on Oprah. It was an experience I will never forget. And if I never do anything again, I’ve been on Oprah. [Laughs.]

You’re obviously friends with Simon now, but were you scared to death of him when you first met?

I was so scared, but when you get to know him, he’s a good guy. His heart is in the right place. He’s just brutally honest. He’s not a meanie. He’s actually very lovely in real life. We share the same interests, and he shares my love for animals as well.

You performed at Clive’s annual pre-Grammys party this year. Some of the people in the audience were Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin and Janet Jackson. How was that?
It’s one thing to be performing in front of people who know your music and sing along. But it’s another thing going in completely dry—a little girl from London and no one knows you and no one’s heard of me. I was just like, "Uh, hello. Hi there. I’m supposed to sing a couple of songs.”

What was the first big thing you bought when you started making some money?
I got a Mini Cooper. That’s the only thing I’ve bought, really, because I used to steal—well, not steal but borrow—my mom’s car.

Be careful. That’s how you’ll get in the tabloids—klepto Leona!
Exactly! Carjacker. Me carjacking someone! But I’d take her car for the weekend, so she was like, “You know what? You need to get your own car at some point.”

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