X Factor winner voted “most influential woman of century”

Leona Lewis beats Pankhurst, Thatcher, Lady Di.

That bastion of quality-free newspapers for Londoners, Metro, has shone an unfortunate light on the average demographic of its readership, with a survey asking them to vote for their most influential female Londoner of the past century. The winner? Leona Lewis, the 25-year-old X Factor winner of 2006.

In a poll to coincide with International Women's Day, Lewis beat some reasonably stiff competition, though it was never going to be a fair fight. How could the likes of Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the British suffragette movement, or even Margaret Thatcher compete with a pop star who's been in the limelight for a solid four years?

To be fair, Leona Lewis is no marketing gimmick. She attended the Sylvia Young Theatre School, the Italia Conti Academy and the BRIT School, where she learned to play the guitar and piano, writing her first song at the age of 12 and releasing her first album at 17. But it was The X Factor and her mentor Simon Cowell who really made her.

With its £1m recording contract prize, The X Factor helped Lewis's debut single, "A Moment Like This", break a world record after it was downloaded 50,000 times in 30 minutes, going on to become the 2006 UK Christmas number-one single, outselling the rest of the Top 40's sales combined. She's since had three successful albums, sold the obligatory perfume and autobiography, and last year unleashed her own fashion label, whose main theme seemed to be a massive pair of lips standing in for some sort of postmodern boob tube.

But let's not forget that voice, of which the Daily Telegraph music critic Neil McCormick said: "Her mezzo-soprano range allows her to take melodies from luxurious low notes to high-flying falsetto, gliding with elegant power and impressive control through all kinds of fluctuations and modulations." A bit like Whitney Houston, then.

Nonetheless, one still wonders just how she came to be voted the most influential female Londoner of the past century. Not the past decade, or past four years – the past century. Besides Pankhurst and Thatcher, Lewis beat, in no particular order, the likes of Diana, Tracey Emin, Martha Lane Fox, Judi Dench, Vivienne Westwood and even – heavens above – the-Krays-are-all-right Barbara Windsor.

But what's this – a fix? It seems that while the headline for the story reads "Leona Lewis wins London's most influential woman vote", the actual poll appears to have asked its readers, "Who is your favourite influential London woman?"

While few outside of what Metro calls its "valuable 18-to-44-year-old, full-time working urbanite audience" would reasonably consider Lewis more influential than the likes of Pankhurst, it's not hard to see why she might be considered more of a "favourite" than Thatcher.

The fact that Leona Lewis left her Hackney home for a million-pound LA pad almost as soon as the ink dried on her lucrative contract failed to deter Metro readers from voting her most influential female Londoner. After all, she has said that while she loves her Stateside mansion, Hackney will always be her true home. Metro reader surveys: what's to criticise?

Jason Stamper is editor of Computer Business Review

New Statesman
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Quiz: Can you identify fake news?

The furore around "fake" news shows no sign of abating. Can you spot what's real and what's not?

Hillary Clinton has spoken out today to warn about the fake news epidemic sweeping the world. Clinton went as far as to say that "lives are at risk" from fake news, the day after Pope Francis compared reading fake news to eating poop. (Side note: with real news like that, who needs the fake stuff?)

The sweeping distrust in fake news has caused some confusion, however, as many are unsure about how to actually tell the reals and the fakes apart. Short from seeing whether the logo will scratch off and asking the man from the market where he got it from, how can you really identify fake news? Take our test to see whether you have all the answers.

 

 

In all seriousness, many claim that identifying fake news is a simple matter of checking the source and disbelieving anything "too good to be true". Unfortunately, however, fake news outlets post real stories too, and real news outlets often slip up and publish the fakes. Use fact-checking websites like Snopes to really get to the bottom of a story, and always do a quick Google before you share anything. 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.