Rita Ora is a British singer and actress who gained recognition after featuring as the main vocalist of DJ Fresh's single 'Hot Right Now.' She caught the attention of Jay-Z, whose record label released her debut album 'Ora.' She took the music industry by storm after her singles topped the charts in the UK. Since then, she has appeared as a judge in a number of talent shows in the UK and the US, such as 'The X Factor' and 'America's Next Top Model.' She is also an actor who is part of the 'Fifty Shades' movie franchise. After entering the UK as a refugee, she rose to prominence with hard work and perseverance. Ora, whose family faced oppression when she was young, is a philanthropist and advocate of women's rights. She has participated in many fundraisers and charity concerts for various causes. She has endorsed top brands like ‘Calvin Klein,’ ‘Coca-Cola,’ and ‘Samsung.’ She has also been the face of Madonna's clothing line 'Material Girl.'
Childhood & Early Life
Rita Ora was born Rita Sahatçiu on 26 November 1990, in Pristina, SFR Yugoslavia, which is now Kosovo. When she was a year old, her Albanian parents, Vera and Besnik Sahatçiu, fled Kosovo and moved to the UK at a time when Albanians were being oppressed by Dictator Slobodan Milosevic.
Her father is an economist and pub owner, while her mother is a psychiatrist. She is the granddaughter of Besim Sahatçiu, one of Yugoslavia's most prolific film directors. Her maternal grandfather Osman Bajraktari was a diplomat.
Her parents added ‘Ora’ to their family surname as it was easier to pronounce. She was named after Rita Hayworth, her grandfather’s favorite film star. She has an older sister named Elena and a younger brother named Don.
Growing up near Portobello Road in West London, she attended ‘St Cuthbert with St Matthias Primary School’ in Earls Court. She graduated from ‘Sylvia Young Theatre School,’ a specialist performing arts school.
As a child, she used to listen to her father's record collection and was influenced by artists like Blondie, Hendrix, Prince, ‘Earth, Wind & Fire,’ and Celine Dion. However, according to her, Gwen Stefani and Beyoncé influenced her the most.
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Rita Ora began singing at an early age and used to perform at open mic sessions around London. She occasionally performed at her father's pub. However, her professional career started as an actor in 2004 when she appeared in an episode of the British drama series 'The Brief.' The same year, she landed a role in the British film 'Spivs,' playing an Albanian immigrant.
In 2007, she got her first break in music when she was featured in Craig David's track 'Awkward.' The next year, she was featured in Craig David's 'Where's Your Love' along with Tinchy Stryder.
In 2008, she successfully auditioned for 'Eurovision: Your Country Needs You' on ‘BBC One’ and became the British contestant for 'Eurovision Song Contest 2009.' However, she withdrew from the competition after a few episodes when her manager Sarah Stennett convinced her that participating in it would be detrimental to her efforts of being a solo artist.
In 2008, her manager got Jay Z's record label ‘Roc Nation’ to notice her work. She flew to America to meet Jay Z in person and was immediately signed to ‘Roc Nation.’ Over the next couple of years, she appeared in Jay Z's music video 'Young Forever' and Drake's video 'Over.'
In February 2012, DJ Fresh chose her as the female vocalist for his song 'Hot Right Now.' The track topped the ‘UK Singles Chart’ and made her famous overnight.
In May 2012, she released her debut single 'R.I.P.,' featuring Tinie Tempah. It was followed by another single, 'How We Do (Party),' in August that year. Both the songs topped the ‘UK Singles Chart,’ and were later included in her debut album 'Ora' which released on 27 August 2012. In late 2012 and early 2013, she toured the US and the UK respectively to promote her album.
She released the single 'I Will Never Let You Down' on 18 May 2014. It reached the top of the ‘UK Singles Chart.’ The next month, she was featured in the single 'Black Widow' from Iggy Azalea's album 'The New Classic.' It became her first top-ten song on the ‘Billboard Hot 100’ chart when it peaked at number three.
In early 2015, she appeared as a coach on the ‘BBC One’ talent show 'The Voice UK.' Later that year, she was seen as a judge on 'The X Factor.' She was part of the reality television series 'America's Next Top Model' as host and a judge in 2016.
She portrayed ‘Mia Grey,’ the sister of the protagonist, in the 2015 film 'Fifty Shades of Grey.' She went on to reprise her role as ‘Mia Grey’ in the film’s sequels, ‘Fifty Shades Darker’ (2017) and ‘Fifty Shades Freed’ (2018).
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In November 2018, Ora released her second studio album ‘Phoenix.’
In April 2019, she released the song ‘Carry On’ which served as a standalone single for the film ‘Pokémon Detective Pikachu’ in which she also portrayed ‘Dr. Ann Laurent.’ The same year, she also played 'Yana' in 'Wonderwell.'
Ora appeared as a judge in the British reality singing competition TV series ‘The Masked Singer’ which was premiered on 4 January 2020 on ITV.
Rita Ora's debut album 'Ora' peaked at number one on the ‘UK Albums Chart.’ It became the 35th bestselling album of the year and received platinum certification from the ‘British Phonographic Industry’ for selling 300,000 copies.
Awards & Achievements
Rita Ora was named an honorary ambassador for the Republic of Kosovo at the Embassy of Kosovo in London. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie Blair were present when she received the honor.
Her song 'Grateful,' from the soundtrack of the film 'Beyond the Lights,' was nominated for an ‘Academy Award.’ She performed the song at the 87th ‘Academy Awards’ in February 2015.
Personal Life & Legacy
Rita Ora was in a relationship with Calvin Harris from May 2013 to June 2014. She started dating Richard Hilfiger in July 2015. She broke up with Richard after dating him for about a year.
Her mother is a Catholic, while her father is a Muslim. She considers herself spiritual, rather than religious
In December 2015, she got involved in a dispute with her record label ‘Roc Nation.’ She filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against the company, in response to which the company filed a counter lawsuit the next month. They eventually reached a settlement in May 2016.
She considers herself a feminist, and performed at the 'Chime for Change' charity concert in London, which was about female empowerment. Ora, who is a philanthropist, has performed as a special guest on many occasions to raise money for cancer research and to fight Ebola crisis.
Her mother, a free-spirited woman, was diagnosed with breast cancer when Rita was 15 years old. The incident had such an impact on her that she stopped going to school. However, her elder sister convinced her to go back to school.
Rita Ora, who acted in the 'Fifty Shades of Grey' movie series, originally hoped to contribute to the film's soundtrack. However, the director asked her to audition for the role of ‘Mia Grey,’ for which she was selected.