In profile: Fleur East
Since studying at City, Fleur East has become one of our most high-profile recent alumni, thanks to her starring role in the series of The X Factor. She finished runner-up and was responsible for one of the biggest talking points in the show’s 11-year history.
This article is taken from the 2015 Alumni magazine, City Magazine.
Born and raised in Walthamstow to a Ghanaian mother and an English father, Fleur East studied for a BA in Journalism and Contemporary History (a joint programme between City and Queen Mary University of London) from 2006 to 2008 and performed in ‘DiverCity’ showcases in the Great Hall during her time at City.
In early 2014, after years of striving to make a name for herself in the music business and working part-time as a waitress to finance her ambition, Fleur had reached something of a low ebb. A previous attempt at finding fame in The X Factor as part of a girl group ended with elimination in the first week of live shows. Wondering if she may never reach her goals, her motivation started to wane. Friends and family helped to lift her spirits and persuaded her to audition for The X Factor again.
It proved to be a wise decision as her performances impressed the judges and she was selected to be mentored by pop impresario and creator of the show Simon Cowell. She went on to be
selected for the show’s live finals. At the finals, she was catapulted into the limelight when she performed the as-yet-unreleased Mark Ronson track Uptown Funk. Her remarkable performance saw her become the first contestant to reach number one on the UK iTunes chart during the competition. Ronson, who was unaware she would be performing the song, had to rush forward the release of his own version of the song by five weeks. Having spent several months perfecting the song, he knew he risked missing his chance to capitalise on the buzz.
The Guardian critic Stuart Heritage described Fleur’s performance as “two minutes and fifty three seconds of allout attack", saying that it was “possibly the biggest moment that any Cowell show has produced since we first met Susan Boyle”. Fleur’s performances convinced Cowell to sign her to his Syco record label in January 2015.
She is currently recording a debut album that she describes as “up-tempo and uplifting”, with the help of musicians including Wayne Hector, writer of thirty Number One hits, including seven for Westlife; Grammy-nominated trio The Invisible Men; Jack Splash, who has written or produced singles for Alicia Keys, Christina Aguilera and Katy Perry; and TMS, who have worked with Emeli Sandé, Olly Murs and Little Mix.
Since her Uptown Funk performance Fleur has spoken to Ronson, whose own version of the song has subsequently become the biggest-selling single of 2015 to date. Ronson admitted that he probably owes her a drink.