'Be careful' - former Miss Universe takes Suffolk business studies lessons to heart as she launches new record label
PUBLISHED: 17:41 20 August 2018 | UPDATED: 17:41 20 August 2018
A former Suffolk business management student who shot to fame after winning the Miss Universe beauty pageant said she had learnt valuable lessons from her studies as she prepared to launched a new record label.
Leila Lopes, who is from Angola, initially came to Colchester where she studied English for a few months, but she had a friend who was studying at the University of Suffolk and decided to apply. “I really liked the town and the area. I thought it was a very beautiful university, and very youthful people and thought: ‘I wouldn’t mind moving here’.”
While studying at Ipswich, a chance meeting with a fellow Angolan, who suggested she should enter the Miss Angola 2010 contest, changed her life. To her surprise, she won, and was put forward for the following year’s Miss Universe contest in Brazil. “I never really thought of competing. I have always liked it, because it’s big in Angola, but I never really thought I would compete one day. I felt blessed, because it’s such a huge competition and a lot of girls have been doing it since they were young, and training, and I just happened to compete and won,” she said.
After gaining the title, she had to give up her studies after two years so that she could take up the role, which was based in New York with a lot of travelling, particularly to Africa and Asia.
“My plan was to finish my studies, go back to Angola and set up my own business,” she said. She admitted there would “always be a bit of regret” about abandoning her studies, but Miss Universe opened many doors, and she got to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS back in Africa through her role. The work was full-on and exhausting, she said, but very fulfilling.
Later, she launched a baby products and a hygiene products firm back in Angola. While serving as Miss Universe, she met her future husband, sports pundit and former American football and New York Giants player Osi Umenyiora, who is British of Nigerian descent. The couple now live in London.
Miss Lopes’ latest project is the launch of diasporic record label The Uprise. “The whole idea was bring different cultures together, uniting them with music,” she explained. Her studies in Ipswich have stayed with her, she said. “It definitely taught me I need to be careful because there’s risk in every business,” she said. “I’ll go slow - I don’t rush things.”
Ms Lopes hopes her London-based record label will help to unite people through music. It includes elements of Brazilian (Baile) Funk and Kuduro, American Hip Hop and UK grime, and already has a roster of diverse artists signed up.
“The idea behind the music is make uplifting, unique, meaningful music in this era where so much sounds the same. It’s also to try and connect people from all different cultures and backgrounds because we understand music is universal,” she said.
The label’s first signings include all-round performer Grace Rhodes, and underground star Andi McErnest. Producers include MikesPro and Zeeko.