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27 June 2017Last updated
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Rita Ora’s journey to success

From humble beginnings, to a fashion darling – how Rita Ora charmed Tinseltown

<i>Aquarius</i>
17 Jul 2016 | 10:17 am
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Why do you know of Rita Ora? Because of her multiple chart-topping hits, including I Will Never Let You Down, and collaborations with the likes of Chris Brown and Prince. Perhaps her high-profile romances with the likes of Rob Kardashian and Calvin Harris caught your attention. Maybe it’s her stints as a judge on TV talent shows The Voice and The X Factor. Or lately it could have been her legal battle with Jay Z that peaked your interest. Either way, there is no denying that Rita Ora is everywhere. Simply put, she’s hot right now.

At just 25 years old, she has already enjoyed a staggeringly successful career, been signed and emancipated by Jay Z’s record label, Roc Nation, and recently signing a deal with Atlantic Records, with the plan to release new music by the end of this year.

Resilience in love

High-profile romances with the likes of Rob Kardashian and Calvin Harris guarantee that Rita gets tabloid attention, and the young star has been very much in the public eye throughout her seven-year career, and has just overcome the most recent bout of cyber-bashing with her characteristic stoicism and silence.

“I used to be obsessed with it,” she told American website, Refinery 29, regarding gossip about her. “I would google my name and blah, blah, blah. But see, even talking about it now makes it a topic of conversation. The gossip side doesn’t affect what I do. The personal stuff of actually, like, being in a relationship is what affects me. I don’t expect anybody to understand my relationships, because they’re not in my position in that moment, in that relationship.”

But she is certainly resilient in love. “I have had young fascinations but never love,” she says frankly of her romantic history. And she also comes equipped with some pretty clear dating advice for guys – a reflection, perhaps, on her own romantic past – simply stating, “Women love an honest man.”

Her most high-profile romance has been with Calvin Harris, whom she dated until May 2014, before he moved on to Taylor Swift. Rita has admitted that she never stopped loving the Scottish DJ, and sources have recently revealed that she predicted their break-up.

“She thinks he only dated Taylor Swift because he was on the rebound from her and wants to remind him of everything they had together. Rita knew things were going downhill for [Calvin and Taylor]. She wasn’t surprised when they broke up,” the insider spilled. “She knows the fame game winds him up and that he must have found that life difficult.”

Taking control

At 18 years old it seemed like Rita Ora had hit the professional jackpot – signing a five-album-contract with Jay Z’s Roc Nation label, and was dubbed the ‘British Rihanna’ by those close to the hiphop mogul. However, it didn’t turn out quite as expected, and in December she sued to be released from her contract, claiming in the complaint: “Rita is caught in a political quagmire of dysfunction.”

Last month she finally parted ways with Roc Nation, and has since signed to Atlantic Records. “It’s been seven years,” she says of her yet-to-be-successful bid to break the US in her Refinery 29 interview. “And it has been a bit of a battle. With the first record, we didn’t expand to the United States. Label-wise, they said, it wasn’t the right time. I was only 19 or 20, and I was so excited to be making music and performing live. I didn’t know better. But now I do. I told them, ‘Look, I just want to release my album everywhere.’ Everybody thinks that they know best. But I won the battle.”

Commenting on her new record deal, she said, “Music is my first love and I am looking forward to getting my new songs released. I’m thankful to my new Atlantic Records family for all their support and encouragement. The next chapter is going to be incredible.”

In interviews with Rita, one thing comes across almost instantly, she’s as loyal as they come. She has said, “Know yourself; keep your circle tight. Keep your friends and your work circle tight,” and this seems to be her personal mantra. And, in a similar vein, “To me, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from – if you’re a good person and you got my back, I got yours.”

A triple threat

While we may know Rita as the RIP and How We Do singer, she’s also an experienced actress, having enrolled as a child at the prestigious Sylvia Young Theatre School. She plays Mia, Christian Grey’s sister, in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. “I’m so happy to be a part of this franchise,” she says of her role starring opposite close friend Dakota Johnson.

Musically, she’s been a successful talent show judge, featuring on both The Voice UK and The X Factor. Plus, she has even been dubbed a ‘Prince muse’, having worked with the late singer – known to be very selective in his choice of collaborators – on his 2015 song, Ain’t About to Stop.

After Prince’s shock death in April, Rita’s admiration and affection for him were obvious from her heartfelt Twitter tribute: “This is coming from a place I never new existed in my heart. You were so special to me your presence the Music we created the dance-off’s we used to have the laughing we shared. The funk oozing out of you was uncontrollable. I’m not quite sure what to do with myself but I will miss you forever and always. I love you my dear kind friend [sic].”

She’s also enjoyed a successful venture into the fashion industry, collaborating with Adidas to create three Rita Ora x Adidas collections, with her Autumn/Winter 2016 launching in stores this September. “I wanted to create something that was beautiful but also had a street edge. I wanted to create sportswear for women to feel sexy and comfortable in at the same time. Sportswear doesn’t have to be dressed down; you can glam it up as well,” the London native says of her most recent collection.

September will also see the launch of her first lingerie collection with Italian brand Tezenis, which the singer has already been informally linked.

“Clothes are fun,” she adds of her brush with fashion. “The designers have so much fun making them, you should have fun wearing them, too.”

And this, in part, explains her own adventurous sense of style. As likely to be seen wearing a couture gown as she is in an athleisure look. Describing her approach to dressing herself, she says, “I never think too hard about a look. When you consider an outfit too much, that’s when it goes wrong.”

Her humble beginnings

Despite living in London’s fashionable Kensington, and growing up around trendy Portabello Road, Rita Ora certainly didn’t have the easiest early years. Born Rita Sahatçiu in 1990, in Pristina, Kosovo, her Albanian family were forced to flee when she was just one, due to Slobodan Milosevic’s political oppression. The family moved to London, unable to speak any English, and made a life for themselves, with her father opening a pub and her mother learning English to be able to practise her profession as a psychiatrist. Of the term ‘refugee’, Rita says, “That word carries a lot of prejudice but it also made us determined to survive”. Adding, “When you put anyone into an alien environment where other people aren’t completely comfortable with them being there, they are automatically going to be defensive. It’s the rule of the jungle, right?”

But her past, she says, has certainly influenced her. When asked about her music and her past, she simply says, “All I can do is take influences from where I was raised.”

Rita diaries

Ruling the red carpet

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While providing some of the red carpet’s most dramatic looks, Rita doesn’t take herself too seriously when it comes
to fashion. Her point is that designers have fun making the clothes, so we should have fun wearing them.

On the international stage

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Despite not yet having made a convincing breakthrough in the US, Rita Ora’s popularity has swept Europe. Here she’s seen at the Bambi Awards last year in Berlin, and, below, with Kosovo’s Ambassador to the UK, Lirim Greicevci, when she was made an honorary ambassador to her home country.

Family and friends

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Seemingly able to get on with people of all ages and backgrounds, and certainly no wallflower, Rita surrounds herself with friends and family. She enjoys a close relationship with her mother, Vera Sahatciu, who she took to a VH1 special Mother’s Day event, where she was spotted chatting to Jaden Smith. In the fashion world she counts Vera Wang as a good friend.

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