Newark native, singer, and finalist on The Four: Battle for Stardom on FOX, Leah Jenea James has been nicknamed Brick City’s Princess of Soul. After attending a Newark City Hall camp at the age of eight, James realized she wanted to sing. She originally attended the camp for dance but soon realized her love for singing after a solo performance of “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston.

Growing up, James’ favorite singers included Jill Scott, Amy Winehouse, and Chrisette Michele. She was also inspired by the skills of Newark’s very own songwriters, Whitney Houston and Lauryn Hill. In 2017, she released her EP, Life W.T.R., on which she wrote every song.

This year, James made Newark proud when she became a contestant and -finalist on The Four TV show. While in the process of preparing for prom, graduation, and college, a friend made her aware of an opportunity to audition for the show. She was also preparing to do a concert with singer Musiq, a.k.a. Musiq Soulchild. When asked how it felt to be on The Four, the 18-year-old said it hadn’t registered yet. “There’s still a part of me that’s just like, ‘Wow, that really happened!’” she said.

When it comes to her hometown, James loves Newark’s arts and entertainment scene. “I go to a lot of open mics around here, a lot of art exhibits. And, also, just walking around Newark and seeing the murals. That really -always makes my day because it feels like they’re always changing up.” James said.

In November, James was signed to Cinematic Music Group. She expects to release her next album, Leah Meets Nina, in 2019. It will include approximately six songs and be a mixture of her vocals and Nina Simone’s vocals. When asked if she had any advice for aspiring entertainers, the singer said to be true to you. “Just continue being the same you that you were when you first started. You’re going to see a lot of things and go through a lot of things, but if you stay true to yourself and stay honest with yourself, everything will come very easily.”

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