Rita Ora looks like Rihanna, but says she wants to be Beyoncé. Maybe you noticed her if you watched the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards. She was the blonde woman whose hair was slicked back and who was not Iggy Azalea. Or maybe you'll know her based on this: she's a tattooed "bad-girl" with a British accent, and a Yugoslavian background. She's also performing at the 2015 Academy Awards.
Still not sure who this is? Well, you should get to know her. The 23-year-old singer is one of the biggest up-and-coming names in music.
1) Who is Rita Ora?
Rita Sahatçiu Ora is a singer-songwriter. She was born in what is now Kosovo in 1990, but immigrated to London before she was 1 because of civil unrest. Ora is currently working on her sophomore album and recently released a single with Australian rapper Iggy Azalea.
2) How did Rita Ora get famous?
Ora's first performance came when she was just a high-schooler at a performing arts school. She sang "jazzy, old-folky songs" at a London club. She continued to play such clubs throughout high school and eventually was noticed by members of Jay-Z's record label Roc Nation.
She signed with Roc Nation in 2009. Jay-Z often likes to work with young artists with a twist on their genre. For Ora, that twist is her accent and her look. From early on, she was compared to another of Jay-Z's best finds: Rihanna. Together, Jay-Z and Ora scrapped her first attempt at a debut album and started over.
She made her U.S. debut in 2012 in a Los Angeles bar full of record executives, and her first single, "R.I.P.," came out two weeks later. Her debut album, Ora, was released in August of 2012 and debuted at no. 1. on the U.K. charts. She opened for Coldplay. Ora had made it.
3) Does she actually have any musical talent?
Yes. But not a lot of credentials. Ora performed well enough in the U.K., and the few singles she has put out have all done just fine. She's also has the benefit of a hell of a team behind her production.
Not only is Rita Ora under the Jay-Z Roc Nation umbrella, but she worked with some of the greatest writers and producers alive on Ora, including Drake, The-Dream, Ester Dean, Stargate, Diplo, and will.i.am. Rita Ora, as a musician and a person, is highly produced.
However, unlike Katy Perry and other heavily constructed and produced pop stars, Ora actually does have an interesting and dynamic voice. Her accent, of course, helps with an American audience, but her voice still has a bit of that jazzy-folksy tone she started with, even when she sings about "party and bullshit." She also sang a bit of "I Will Never Let You Down" without backing vocals for Jimmy Fallon and sounded pretty good.
4) What songs should I know?
Rita Ora, despite only having released a single album has had two singles top the U.K. charts. She has yet to have a no. 1 United States hit, however, so here are three songs that should get you better acquainted with her:
"How We Do (Party)" is the song that Steven Tyler had stuck in his head after he saw Ora perform for the first time in the United States. It's a catchy, Dr. Dog-produced summer anthem.
Ora wrote "I Will Never Let You Down" while in a long-distance relationship. It showcases her voice better and gives a slower take on her skills between two massive pop anthems.
"Black Widow" is Ora's most recent hit. She collaborated with Australian rapper Iggy Azalea on the single, and the two performed the song at the VMAs.
5) So she's a pop star?
Not exactly. Rita Ora is a little bit of everything. She has a nail polish line with Rimmel. She loves fashion and has modeled in several fashion shows. As a child, she found a love for the spotlight in primary school when she played Cinderella in a school play. "It was my first taste of stardom that I felt," Ora said in her episode of MTV Hoods. Now, Ora is trying to be an actor too.
6) Does she have any big acting roles?
So far, not really. Rita appeared as a street racer for a hot minute (skip to 0:58 in the clip) in Fast and Furious 6. She also appeared in a 2013 episode of 90210. Despite being named after Rita Hayworth, Ora's acting credentials up until now have been sparse at best.
That's why initially it was amazing that she was cast as a supporting actress in the upcoming film adaption of 50 Shades of Grey. Ora played Mia Gray, sister of heartthrob Christian Grey. She went through eight callbacks to land the role and told ABC she has since been struggling to master the American accent. As it turned out, Ora appeared in the movie for a total of three minutes, and barely said anything at all.
7) It sounds like she's only kind of good at a lot of things. Why is she so talked about?
Record executives call Rita Ora the complete package. What they mean by this is that she's calculated. She isn't afraid to use social media to her advantage, or to wait two years to get an album just right. Rita Ora isn't rushing to produce albums. She's trying to be the next Beyoncé, a mammoth superstar, with monster power. It helps that her career is being run by Beyoncé's husband.
"We control what we let out in the media," she told GQ. "Social media is so influential now. I feel like I'm lucky to be in this position now, in this time. Because there's nobody else to blame if it all goes tits up." For Rita, the media is something she can manipulate.
8) Fine. What else do I need to know?
One of the biggest ways Rita Ora has made herself a celebrity is by staying in the public eye. She often dates people who will increase her star potential (something Kim Kardashian: Hollywood has taught us is very effective). In fact, she dated Kim's brother, Rob Kardashian. Well, this relationship may have been a bit one-sided. She told Complex, "I mean, it's not really a relationship. It's not that intense. He's a cool guy." Meanwhile, Rob tweeted love letters to her.
"I am aware that I need to stay current, keep connecting and keep bringing things to the table. ... Otherwise, you can just disappear," Ora told The Standard. She gets spotted in clubs with Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill. Ora's strategy is to stay in the public eye, and stay famous.
9) What's next for Rita Ora?
Rita Ora's sophomore album was supposed to be released in the fall of 2014, but it is currently delayed for the foreseeable future. Ora broke up with her boyfriend DJ Calvin, which was a problem, because he had produced several of the tracks on her new album. Those are currently being re-produced by wil.i.am and DJ Mustard.
Whenever that new album drops, though, it's one worth a listen.