Lady Leshurr: Fame meant I never went out of the house

By Kirsty Grant
Newsbeat reporter

Image source, Getty Images

"A bundle of energy", "Bubbly", "Fierce", "Mischievous".

The way Lady Leshurr's MCing has been described by critics might give you the impression she's overflowing with confidence.

If you watch her music videos, live performances or appearances on reality TV, you might not guess the 34-year-old struggles with social anxiety.

She's been telling Radio 1 Newsbeat about how she's "restarting her life again" after struggling with anxious thoughts.

'Massive, massive pressure'

The assumptions people make about her personality and confidence don't sit right with her.

"There's certain people that just expect me to just be a rapper on the spot," Leshurr - whose real name is Melesha Katrina O'Garro - tells Newsbeat.

"I'll be eating food at a restaurant and suddenly they've got their Snapchat in my face, like: 'Spit bars!'.

"And it's like, I'm actually a human. If you got to know me, you'd actually want to chill with me as a normal person.

"But some people just think that's it, that's all there is to me."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Lady Leshurr has struggled with being out in public

Because of the expectations and "massive, massive pressure" to keep up an extroverted persona as a performer, Lady Leshurr withdrew from public life, to an extent.

Professionally, she was still performing - as well as presenting her BBC Radio 1Xtra show and taking part on reality TV programmes like The Celebrity Circle and Dancing on Ice, but outside of that - she preferred a solitary life.

"I've been living a lockdown before lockdown.

"I just never used to go out the house. And if I did, I'll get a taxi from there and back."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Leshurr has been MCing for years, and was even on the Queen's Birthday Honours list in 2020

The other price Leshurr paid for fame was her safety. Although sometimes it was a phone camera in her face, other times she had scarier interactions.

"Some people have tried to do stuff to me before or follow me home, it can get really scary as a female.

I'm five foot nothing, a little bit of change - all these guys and girls are taller than me. It's overwhelming."

She says the concern for her safety "came with being known".

"I remember one of my old managers said I was too accessible, and anything can happen, and she gave examples, but they were very traumatic examples.

"That just literally made me not go out at all."

'Restarting my life again'

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
She says she only relaxes around people she feels "safe with"

Now, Lady Leshurr wants a fresh start.

She says: "Sometimes you don't know what people are coming to you for, and I think that's why I got a lot of anxiety."

But she's begun drowning out those anxious thoughts, by putting herself "out of her comfort zone".

"Recently I'll go out to places and just try and take back control of my mind again, I've been going out for the past couple of days on my own, trying to get over my social anxiety and just anxiety in general."

It's the little things that she is most proud of.

"Now I'm getting on the train and stuff, so it's like I'm restarting my life again. I can't explain it."

Follow Newsbeat on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 weekdays - or listen back here.