With a bit of imagination, almost anything can be turned into a wellbeing ritual – just ask Lady Leshurr.
“Recently, all I’ve been doing is looking for houses,” says the Birmingham-born rap artist, 32, when asked how she likes to switch off.
“And that really unwinds me because I listen to jazz music in the background, put my little lights and candles on, that kind of gives me my little zen space.”
Leshurr, whose real name is Melesha O’Garro, is all about keeping things real.
This spans everything from her career decisions – she’s previously talked about turning down mega-bucks deals in the US because she didn’t want to “compromise” her creative control and integrity – through to the outfits she wears in her videos.
“All throughout my Queen’s Speeches [videos on YouTube], I got a lot of outfits from Primark,” says Leshurr.
“Automatically, people can connect, if they can just look like me. I think being more grounded with the people watching and listening to you, you get a different kind of connection. I feel like they know you more, and the more you speak to them.”
Her Queen’s Speeches, if you’re not already familiar, are the brilliantly witty freestyle raps she released on YouTube back in 2015 and 2016.
Music was already a big part of her life – Leshurr grew up loving artists like Eminem and Sister Nancy and honed her skills at the local youth club while growing up in Solihull, going on to make waves on the UK grime scene – and the YouTube videos saw her reach rocket (the fourth one has racked up more than 60 million views).
Leshurr has performed at the likes of Glastonbury and the Proms, and spread her wings into the worlds of TV – she reached the Dancing On Ice semi-final earlier this year and won Channel 4’s The Celebrity Circle – and radio, hosting BBC Radio 1Xtra.
Last year she became Olay’s first black ambassador, appearing in an advert for the skincare brand.
Right now, she’s starring in Sky Mobile’s ‘Time to 65075’ campaign, reminding people they can ‘ditch’ bad relationships – or in this case, mobile network providers – via text.
Leshurr created a track and video, which sees her parody scenes from iconic tunes like Beyonce’s Single Ladies, Outkast’s Hey Ya! and Eminem’s Just Lose It.
It’s been such a hit, fans have even been asking if the track can be put on Spotify. “That just shows, people like a catchy song,” says Leshurr.
“I like being quite light-hearted and funny, and I like the fact I could do that with this track. They gave me creative control to be funny – it’s just being me.”
Humour is big for Leshurr – especially now. “We’ve just gone through lockdown and the whole pandemic.
There’s no point putting more negative stuff into the world. With my music, I just express my personality. Quirky, light-hearted lyrics the common man can relate to.”
She says using Snapchat, back in 2014, was when she realised the value of letting her personality come to the fore.
“I started getting people’s feedback, saying, ‘Oh you’re funny’ because they’d seen a funny Snap or whatever. And then I thought, ‘I’m getting so much engagement with people seeing me for me, and not just a rapper’.”
Building on that energy helped inspire the Queen’s Speeches – which ultimately led Leshurr to fulfil her dream of being able to buy her mum a house.
“It just kind of took off,” she recalls. “I realised, not only do I need to be myself a bit more, but the world needs more laughter and happiness.
And at that moment, it just seemed like a culture shift – grime wasn’t seen as an aggressive genre anymore, it can be used in a friendly, light-hearted way. So, I took that approach and haven’t looked back.”
But while she owes a lot to social media, things have shifted recently. Leshurr has long been an advocate for talking openly about mental health and wellbeing.
Plus, as well as now being in her 30s, she’s faced tough challenges in the last few years, including the loss of her big sister to breast cancer in early 2019.
“I think for me, I’ve just got to do what’s right for me, and what’s good for me, and not for the perception of others and how my social media might look, because I really don’t care for that anymore,” Leshurr shares. “I think that’s where a lot of the mental health starts from, the comments, the likes, the poses, it’s too much.”
There’s a big focus on work-life balance and burnout right now. In an industry that’s notoriously high pressure, has that been a learning curve for her?
“One million per cent, because I’ve never really switched off. When people use the example of being on a running machine at the gym – there’s no button to get off, I can’t get off. I’ve literally been like that for the majority of my career.
“I feel like a lot of people did need lockdown, just to be able to slow down,” she adds. “Some people are working so hard and burning themselves out and then still continuing.
That happened to me a couple of times – for me, it’s because I don’t want to miss out on opportunities – but I learned that I need to make sure I’m good mentally.
“Because I’m getting older as well now, I used to be so active, but now I’m kind of comfortable with how my career is, and I want to think about other things – like get a mortgage, get a house, more stuff like that, I need to set up for my future, whereas before I was just on the running machine.
It comes with growth and maturity, just learning a bit more about yourself and having the space to find a new you, who you are inside, and taking care of yourself.”
Lady Leshurr has teamed up with Sky Mobile to drop ‘Time to 65075’, a break-up banger to inspire the nation to get out of bad relationships.
If you’re ready to ditch your mobile network, text PAC to ‘65075’ to make the switch to something better. Watch the full video on Sky’s YouTube channel.