Courtesy: Leona Lewis
Leona Lewis won X Factor, sang the theme song from Avatar, starred on Broadway in Cats, raised millions for AIDS relief, and works as a Wild Advocate paired with Youth Climate Save, a global youth-led vegan platform created by Genesis Butler. She’s also sold over 35,000,000 albums and is a trustee of a 53-acre animal sanctuary in the UK.
Now, Leona Lewis wants to make you a latte. Really.
The 37-year-old artist recently opened Coffee and Plants, a vegan and pet-friendly café in Pasadena, California that serves matcha, horchata, espresso, and the vegan holy grail: a plant-based croissant. She’s also prepping for her first baby, while still performing and running her business.
Here’s what Leona had to say about her new restaurant, her childhood in Wales, and her take on vegan KFC.
Can you tell us about the first time you felt really connected to nature?I think it's from when I was a little kid, really. I grew up between London and Wales. So London, obviously, is a really big city. And then because my mom is from Wales, I got to spend a lot of time in the country, too. I just loved being around horses, and all the farm animals and in the fields. I felt such a connection, especially to the animals and their welfare. And I think that's when I first realized that there was something profound and different about being outside.
How has nature informed your creative process?I just spent time at my friend's ranch, and she lives near Yosemite. She basically rescues horses and rewilds land out there. And it was just like a dream. I spent a lot of time by a lake there, and to be without all the distractions, and that external kind of sticky noise, and all the things that we’re kind of bombarded with… We don't realize how much that kind of ambient chaos affects us mentally; how much we're taking on… To get out there and switch off, and not be on my phone a lot? It cleared my soul and made me be able to tune into myself more.
What’s your favorite song about nature?Oh, I love the song Fields of Gold by Sting. Does that count?
Absolutely. Did you see the Moon Knight episode where Oscar Isaac was in the golden field? I thought of that song.I definitely saw it! That show is so fun, and I loved that scene, it was stunning. And I see what you mean—the grass and the sunlight. It’s so simple but so beautiful.
What’s your favorite vegan food swap?So, I’m not totally into fake meat! I like more vegetable swaps instead, where you can tell they’re veggies. I just started cooking these oyster fried mushrooms. They’re called the KFC of mushrooms, and they mimic that texture, and my husband is obsessed with them. He makes it all the time. I mean, it's not the healthiest thing, so it’s more of a time-to-time food, but it’s definitely my favorite!
Do you have any favorite animal facts?Don’t seahorses mate for life? I think that’s so cute. I’m rooting for them!
Same! Do you want to share anything about how your plant-based lifestyle has been a part of your pregnancy?Oh, it definitely has. I live somewhere with a lot of air pollution… and I'm really aware that I need to be in clean air. So I have air purifiers in my house, and I’m also trying to get away as much as possible—like to Yosemite—because it’s very calming, and I know that’s healthier for pregnancy. And I think keeping calm and grounded through this whole process, as my body is changing, is really important. I want to really connect to what my body is going through. Because especially at the beginning of my pregnancy, I was really, severely sick. I still get a bit of sickness even now, and I'm like seven months! So to stop and be still, and know what my body is going through, and give myself time to rest and feel better, and to acknowledge that [pregnancy] is a very natural process! And then food-wise, you know, I have a crazy sweet tooth.
Me too.Do you know they tell you to limit your sugar intake in pregnancy? It’s difficult if you’ve got a sweet tooth, but fruit makes it easier. So going back to natural things, that helps!
You’re already a world-famous musician. Why open a coffee shop?Oh, I’ve been obsessed with the idea for a long, long time… I love coffee. I love lattes. I love chai. And even though there are a lot of vegans in LA, there aren’t a ton of vegan coffee shops here! Also, I also really did not like being up-charged more for oat milk in places like Starbucks and different coffee shops. It shouldn’t cost extra to be plant-forward, right? And I've always wanted to open businesses where I can have my activism through that work. We support Hopefield Animal Sanctuary and the National Forest Foundation. I don’t think businesses can just be like, “We want to make money” anymore. I think we all have to be more conscious and aware of the businesses that we're building, and how they impact our planet and the people around us and our communities. You can build a business on supporting communities and things close to your heart. I think it's important to do that.
At Wild Elements, our motto is “Let good grow wild.” What does that mean to you?I think it means living more consciously, living with a bit more awareness about how we are impacting everything around us. And kind of following your instincts on, “Okay, does this feel good? Does this feel right? Does it sit well with my soul?” And when it does, letting that impulse kind of run free. I guess that's what I do with my career. My singing, my songs, my projects, they all kind of come back to this theme of, “How do I feel, and how can I express this feeling in a way that inspires other people, and helps them feel stronger to express themselves, too?” I think it's about expressing yourself, and connecting with your soul and what sits right with you.