Nolwenn Leroy

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Nolwenn Leroy
Nolwenn Leroy 2013.jpg
Leroy attending the NRJ Music Awards in Cannes, France on 26 January 2013
Background information
Birth name Nolwenn Le Magueresse
Born (1982-09-28) 28 September 1982 (age 36)
Saint-Renan, France
Genres Pop, world, Celtic
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter
Years active 2002–present
Labels Universal International
Mercury France

Nolwenn Le Magueresse (born 28 September 1982 in Saint-Renan, Brittany, France), known by her stage name Nolwenn Leroy (French pronunciation: [nolwɛn ləʁwa]), is a French singer-songwriter, musician and voice actress.

Originally classically trained, she rose to fame after winning the second season of the French television music competition Star Academy, in 2002. She has since recorded five studio albums and scored two number one singles, "Cassé" and "Nolwenn Ohwo!", on the French charts.[1] In 2012, her album Bretonne was certified two times diamond for sales exceeding one million copies.[2]

Leroy has received numerous awards and nominations. In January 2015, she was ranked 17th on Le Journal du Dimanche's 50 Most Loved Celebrities in France, making her the top female singer on the list since December 2012.[3][4]

Leroy is fluent in English, having spent a year in the U.S. as an exchange student. She sings in many languages, including French, Breton, English and Irish. She has also performed in Italian and Spanish.

Early life and career beginnings

Leroy's parents left Saint-Renan (Finistère) when she was four years old. After living in Paris, Lille, and Guingamp, her mother, Muriel Leroy, and her younger sister, Kay, settled with Leroy's grandparents in Saint-Yorre. Her mother divorced from her father, professional footballer Jean-Luc Le Magueresse, in 1993.[5]

Nolwenn studied at the "Collège des Célestins" in Vichy. When Leroy was eleven, her music teacher noticed her musical talents and encouraged her to learn the violin. At the age of thirteen she won "Les écoles du désert", a contest sponsored by the Cora supermarket chain, which allowed her to travel with a humanitarian mission from Gao to Timbuktu, Mali; she later claimed this had a profound influence on her.[5]

In July 1998, Leroy was awarded a scholarship by the Vichy Rotary Club to travel to Hamilton, Ohio, as an exchange student. While attending Hamilton High School, she took music lessons at the Performing Arts School and became fluent in English during her stay there.[5] When she returned to France, she began classical singing classes at the Vichy music conservatory. In 2001, she enrolled in the University of Clermont-Ferrand to study law for a potential alternative career to music.[5]


2002: Star Academy

After watching the first series of Star Academy broadcast on TF1 in 2001, Leroy was impressed by Armande Altaï, a singing teacher and one of the show's judges, and decided to join Altaï's singing classes in Paris for over six months. In 2002, Nolwenn was selected for the second season of the show, but she was also given the part of Scarlett O'Hara in the French stage musical Autant en emporte le vent (Gone with the Wind) by Gérard Presgurvic.[5] Leroy finally chose the television singing competition over the musical and joined the Dammarie-lès-Lys castle in late August 2002, where she followed acting, dancing and singing classes for four months. She was declared the overall winner, ahead of her fellow finalist, Houcine Camara, on 21 December 2002.

2003–04: Eponymous debut album

Leroy's first album, Nolwenn, was released in March 2003 and was certified platinum by November[6] for sales exceeding 300,000 copies.[7] In 2006, the album was certified two times platinum by the Syndicat national de l'édition phonographique (SNEP) for more than 600,000 copies sold.[8] Both the album and the hit single "Cassé" topped the charts in France and Belgium. Three further songs from the album were released as singles: "Une Femme cachée", "Suivre une étoile" and "Inévitablement". Leroy went on tour in France, Belgium and Switzerland in late 2003 to promote songs from the album.

2005–08: Histoires Naturelles

Leroy's second album, Histoires Naturelles, was released on 5 December 2005. It was produced by Laurent Voulzy and Frank Eulry. The album's lead single "Nolwenn Ohwo!", co-written by Alain Souchon, Voulzy and Leroy herself, topped the French charts.[9] The second single was the title track, "Histoire Naturelle". Music videos were made for both songs; the video for "Histoire Naturelle" expressed the main theme of the album with Leroy being portrayed as natural history museum exhibits. Of the other single releases, "Mon Ange" was distributed digitally while "J'aimais tant l'aimer" and "Reste Encore" were promotional-only. The album reached platinum status[10] with 400,000 copies sold.[11] Songs from Histoires Naturelles and Nolwenn were performed on Leroy's second tour entitled "Histoires Naturelles Tour", which started in September 2006. It was followed by a Summer Tour in 2007. Leroy's first live album was subsequently released in late October 2007.

2009–10: Le Cheshire Cat et Moi

Leroy performing at the 2010 Francofolies in Spa (Belgium).

Le Cheshire Cat & Moi was a project that began in 2007, co-written by Leroy and Teitur Lassen, with contributions from Jonatha Brooke, Michelle Featherstone, Mike Errico and Rupert Hine. It was arranged and produced by Lassen, and recorded in Sweden and the Faroe Islands. The album's lead single, "Faut-il, faut-il pas ?", was released in November 2009 along with a music video directed by Yoann Lemoine.[12] Leroy was observed to feature "a lighter sound than on previous releases"[13] and the album gave the opportunity for her to write all the lyrics.[5] The album was released on 7 December 2009 and was later certified gold.[14] A tour entitled "Le Cheshire Cat & Vous" to promote the record was held in 2010.

2010–12: Bretonne

Leroy released a fourth studio album, Bretonne, on 6 December 2010. Cover versions of traditional Celtic songs such as "Mná na h-Éireann", "Tri Martolod", "La Jument de Michao", and contemporary songs such as Christophe Miossec's "Brest" were included on the album. Most of the songs related to Brittany, the singer's birthplace, four sung in Breton ("Tri Martolod", "Suite Sudarmoricaine", "Bro Gozh ma Zadoù", "Karantez Vro"), one in Irish ("Mná na h-Éireann"), and the others in French and English. Leroy collaborated with Jon Kelly for the musical arrangements.[15] The album topped the French album charts for 7 weeks and the Belgian album charts for 5 weeks. It was certified double diamond by the SNEP for sales exceeding one million copies.[2]

The album was re-released in November 2011 as a Deluxe Edition which added 7 English language tracks, including "Amazing Grace", "Scarborough Fair" and two Mike Oldfield tracks, "Moonlight Shadow" and "To France". The American version of the album, retitled Nolwenn, was released on 8 January 2013 with a different track listing. The album peaked at number 10 on the Billboard's World Album chart.[16] Leroy made her New York City debut at Drom.[17] As part of the Bretonne Tour, Leroy played over 100 dates[18] in France, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany.

2012–present: Ô Filles de l'Eau

Leroy performing "Brian Boru" with Alan Stivell at the Paris Olympia in France on 16 February 2012

Leroy's fifth album, Ô filles de l'eau, was released on 26 November 2012, preceded by the lead single "Juste pour me souvenir". The album was produced by Jon Kelly and recorded in London. The title reads 'O Daughters of the Water' but is phonetically similar to 'au fil de l'eau' ('with the current/flow'). Like Bretonne, it contains Celtic inspired music but with more ocean themed lyrics. It includes two tracks in English ("Homeland" and "Limitless"). "Homeland" contains the James Horner composed theme of the film Braveheart. "Ahès" is the only Breton-language song of the album. Leroy wrote and co-composed 9 songs, including the singles "Juste pour me souvenir", "Sixième continent", "J'ai volé le lit de la mer" and "Ophélia".[19] The album cover was created by Australian artist Vee Speers, inspired by her portrait series, Immortal.[20] Reviews of the album were strong, with some praising Leroy's vocal ability and Celtic music and lyrics, noting that her singing in English and Breton was brave and proved her to be an evolving artist, with strong sales to match. Two months after its release, the album was certified triple platinum by the SNEP.[21][22] Furthermore, it was named RTL's Album of the Year 2013.[23]

In 2013, Leroy toured France, Belgium and Switzerland in support of the album. Additionnally, she was a special guest on Vladimir Cosma's symphonic tour in France.[24] In early 2014, she was nominated at the World Music Awards for the first time, in four categories: World's Best Album (Bretonne), World's Best Entertainer, World's Best Female Artist, and World's Best Live Act.[25]

On 3 May 2014, Leroy performed the Breton anthem "Bro Gozh ma Zadoù" at the Stade de France before 80,000 spectators, for the 2014 Coupe de France Final (aired on France 2) opposing two Breton clubs, the Stade Rennais to EA Guingamp.[26]

Leroy's second live CD/DVD, Ô Tour de L'Eau, was released on 1 December 2014.[27] In March 2015, she embarked on an acoustic tour in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, New Caledonia and French Polynesia.

On 11 June 2015, she was invited to talk about her career at Oxford University.[28] In November 2015, Leroy announced that she would perform at Celtic Connections in Glasgow's City Halls on 30 January 2016, along with Karen Matheson.[29]

Medical research

Leroy's music was studied for its neurological impact in geriatric populations.[30][31][32] Researchers found that Leroy's recordings might have a more beneficial effect than other music, noting that: "the music of Nolwenn Leroy was found to be significantly superior to other music tested". To describe the phenomenon they coined the term the Nolwenn Effect, saying: "the music of Nolwenn Leroy appears to have a different effect on brain-based modulation of gait and stance than other music tested to date".

Mozart and Dutch and French singers were tested; only Mozart and Leroy's music were specified. The U.S. study was completed in February 2008, but no substantial results appear to be published.[33]


In 2011, Leroy appeared in two television commercials for the Nintendo 3DS and she became the face of Pantene for France[34] and Belgium.[35]


In 2006, she joined the Les Enfoirés charity ensemble and she became one of the Abbé Pierre Foundation's patrons[36] for housing people in need.

On the 27 November 2015, she participated together with Camélia Jordana and Yael Naim at the national memorial day for the victims of the November 2015 Paris attacks singing the song “Quand on n'a que l'amour” from Jacques Brel.[37]

Personal life

Since January 2008 she is in a relationship with Arnaud Clément, former French professional tennis player and the current captain of the France Davis Cup team.[38]


Studio albums

Year Title Chart positions








QC (Fr)


US (World)




KOR (Int)


2003 Nolwenn 1 1 2
2005 Histoires Naturelles 3 7 44
2009 Le Cheshire Cat et moi 26 32
2010 Bretonne 1 1 20 13 9 10 34 9
2012 Ô Filles de l'Eau 5 5 35 60
"—" denotes an album that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Live albums

Year Title Chart positions








2007 Histoires Naturelles Tour 25 21
2014 Ô Tour de l'Eau 26 36
"—" denotes an album that did not chart or was not released in that territory.


Year Title Chart positions[1][44] Album
2003 "Cassé" 1 1 4 Nolwenn
"Une Femme Cachée" 40 23 78
"Suivre Une Étoile" 12 24 44
2004 "Inévitablement" 31 26
2005 "Nolwenn Ohwo !" 1 3 29 Histoires Naturelles
2006 "Histoire Naturelle" 30 39
"Mon Ange" 6*
2007 "J'aimais Tant L'Aimer"
"Reste Encore"
2009 "Faut-il, Faut-il Pas ?" 6*
Le Cheshire Cat et moi
2010 "Textile Schizophrénie"
"Suite Sudarmoricaine" 19*
"Mná na h-Éireann" 25*
"La Jument de Michao" 36 13
2011 "Tri Martolod" 51 29
"Brest" 42
"Moonlight Shadow" 48 32 Bretonne (Deluxe Edition)
2012 "Juste pour me souvenir" 43 13 Ô Filles de l'Eau
2013 "Sixième continent" 11*
"J'ai volé le lit de la mer" 4*
2014 "Ophélia" (Live) 12*
Ô Tour de l'eau
"—" denotes a single that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

* Belgium Ultratip[45]
denotes releases that did not chart.

As featured artist

Other charted songs

Year Title Chart positions Album
2007 "Aimer à perdre la raison"
(with Les Enfoirés)
22 La Caravane des Enfoirés
(with Les Enfoirés)
7 Les secrets des Enfoirés
2012 "Without You"
(with Les Enfoirés)
91 49 Le bal des Enfoirés
"Attention au départ"
(with Les Enfoirés)
5 3 49 La boîte à musique des Enfoirés
2013 "Jeanne"
(with Les Enfoirés)
44 25
2014 "Laissez-nous chanter"
(with Les Enfoirés)
196 Bon anniversaire les Enfoirés
"Dès que le vent soufflera"
96 14
La Bande à Renaud
"La ballade nord-irlandaise" 142
2016 "Un enfant assis attend la pluie" 135 Balavoine(s)


Voice acting

Horse riding

Leroy owns a horse named El Aberkan. She showed her horse riding and jumping skills on unfamiliar horses a couple of times for French TV shows broadcast on France 2, including the 2011 Gala de l'Union des Artistes charity, alongside Alexis Grüss.[51]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Result
2004 NRJ Music Awards Francophone Breakthrough of the Year Won
2006 Étoiles Chérie FM Étoile de la Sensibilité Won
Étoile Chérie FM Won
Song of the Year
for Mon Ange
2007 Female Artist of the Year Won
France Bleu Talents Audience Choice Prize Won
2010 Le Télégramme Grand Prix du Disque
for Bretonne
2011 Breton of the Year Won
Planète Musique Mag (France 2) Planète Musique Mag d'or Won
RTLMetronews RTL Album of the Year
for Bretonne
RTLLe Parisien Person of the Year Won
2012 NRJ Music Awards Francophone Female Artist of the Year Nominated
Francophone Song of the Year
for Tri martolod
Best-selling Francophone Album of the Year
for Bretonne
Victoires de la Musique Female Artist of the Year Nominated
Globes de Cristal Award Best Female Performer Nominated
Bro Gozh ma Zadoù Prix Bro Gozh ma Zadoù Won
2013 NRJ Music Awards Francophone Female Artist of the Year Nominated
Globes de Cristal Award Best Female Performer Nominated
Grands Prix de l'UNAC
(National union of songwriters and composers)
Grand Prix de l'UNAC
for the song Juste pour me souvenir
RTLMetronews RTL Album of the Year
for Ô filles de l'eau
2014 World Music Awards World's Best Album
for Bretonne
World's Best Entertainer Nominated
World's Best Female Artist Nominated
World's Best Live Act Nominated


The main belt asteroid 353232 Nolwenn was named after Leroy.[52]

In 2012, her wax figure was unveiled at the Musée Grévin in Paris.[53]


  • Patrick Castells, Christophe Abramowitz (2005). Nolwenn Leroy. Télémaque, coll. Patrick Robin, 169 p. ISBN 2753300240.


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External links

Preceded by
Jenifer Bartoli
Winner of
Star Academy France

Succeeded by
Élodie Frégé