Rita Ora on Leaving Kosovo to Land in the U.K. With One Chart-Topping Hit After Another

Rita Ora talks about her tumultuous path, going from landing the role of Cinderella in a school play to becoming a singer-songwriter signed to Jay-Z's Roc Nation label.

Image courtesy of The Talks.


Image courtesy of The Talks.

How does British transplant Rita Ora follow up the major success of her first album, Ora, which debuted at No. 1 in the U.K. in 2012? When she's not landing roles in films like the upcoming adaption of Fifty Shades of Grey, she's whipping street-style photographers into a tizzy and appearing on albums by a range of artists, from Snoop Dogg to Iggy Azalea, whose latest release (The New Classic) features Ora on a track written by Katy Perry.

Rita, your parents moved from Kosovo to London in order to give you and your siblings a better life. What does your home country mean to you today?

I feel very close to it, even though I left Kosovo so early in my life. I don't want people to think that I've abandoned where I'm from. I'm actually working with UNICEF in order give back for all the love and support I've received from the people there. But I also really admire my mom and dad's brave decision to move.

As a child, were you able to understand what your parents had done for you?

They didn't even speak English, and it was a big adjustment, but at the time I just didn't realize how bad it was. The older I got, the more I saw what they sacrificed most—their families. It was a pretty dark moment, but my mom and dad always made the best out of a bad situation.

Since your parents gave up their lives to give their kids a better one, how did they react when you told them that you were going to quit school and pursue an uncertain career in music?

I think they were pretty scared when I told them I was going to leave school and see if I can do this. Because honestly—I knew it in my gut—I couldn't do anything else.

Did you try?

I've tried. I've tried to study, I've tried all of that, but I honestly just couldn't and didn't want to do it. I wanted to get out in the world. It's such a common dream for so many people, and it's such a difficult world to get into, so I'm really quite proud of that achievement.

Why, exactly, were you so sure that this is what you have to do?

I just wanted to be an artist. I didn't care how or what, I just wanted to express my artistic integrity, and I wanted the world to have a vision of what I was seeing in my mind. My mom and dad have always pushed us to achieve whatever you want in life and doing it to your fullest potential. I don't know why that was important to me, but I just felt like if I didn't do it, I would never be happy with myself. I had no answers, I just did it. I just went there, and I had no idea what was going to happen. So, honestly, I think it was just inside me from a young age on.

How young?

I think I first realized it when I got the role of Cinderella at my school play. I got the main role, and that's when I said to myself, "I can do this." I was about 6 or 7.

A lot has changed since then. You've had several No. 1 hits and were signed to Jay-Z's label, Roc Nation.

I've learned so much since the beginning, but I'm still that girl that needs and wants to express myself. Now I just have a better understanding of the business and know what needs to be done.

So, what needs to be done?

I just figured out what's possible in, for example, music videos or in things I'm saying, in my ways of performing and working with the band. Everything now makes sense to me, and I know there's a reason for everything.

Read more of The Talks With Rita Ora.

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Patti Smith: "Rock and Roll Belongs to the People"

A$AP Rocky: "I Can't Be Mad"

Shirley Manson: "I'm Enough for Me"

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