“What do you think? Should we go see Mariah Carey or Bruno Mars?” asks Rita Ora, planning her Saturday evening’s antics in Las Vegas. In terms of respective set times, the pop star could technically go see Mariah’s Caesars Palace residency then be done in time for Bruno’s headline slot at Rock In Rio festival. “Yeah? Sorted. You’re coming with,” she smiles.
Rita’s arrived at the MGM Grand where she’s staying to present at the Billboard Music Awards (held here in Sin City last night). Entering her room is like landing in Aladdin’s Cave. She’s only been here a hot minute but all her worldly possessions appear spread out around her. Apart from some Chanel trinkets that have gone astray somewhere between London, the East Coast, LA, and wherever Rita’s been jetsetting to for the past 48 hours.
Louis Vuitton suitcases crammed with outfits are strewn all over, boxes of scarves, bags of rock t-shirts (Bad Brains, Bowie, Circle Jerks), a hat case filled with headwear and a hairdresser who’s sat on the bed with us, cutting Rita’s casual, long white braids out to prepare her for an ultra glam red carpet look tomorrow. Four different choices from room service are on the bed. Wherever Rita Ora goes, she has options for every eventuality, ready for whatever takes her flight when it eventually arrives. She relentlessly believes all of it will. That’s why she’s constantly on-the-go. Rita has looks for days, business deals to make reality and a music career she’s almost re-launching from scratch. “Guys, where are my socks?” Thankfully, she has socks too, somewhere among the clothes rubble.
Born Rita Sahatçiu, 24 years ago in Pristina, Kosovo, she was barely a year old when her parents fled the war-torn country with their family—including her older sister Elena,who now acts as her manager—moving to a housing project in West London. Named as a nod to her filmmaker grandfather’s favorite actress Ms. Hayworth, Rita showed an early aptitude for the spotlight, the seeds of which were sown when, at six-years-old, she scored the starring role of Cinderella in the school play. Eventually she enrolled in Sylvia Young Theatre School, whose alum include Amy Winehouse and Emma “Baby Spice” Bunton. In 2009, despite featured appearances on singles by Craig David and Tinchy Stryder, she auditioned for the Eurovision Song Contest, a cheesy European talent competition.
She sailed through and was offered the chance to represent the UK, but wisely went with her gut and pulled out. Thanks to some savvy management reach out, by the end of that year Rita was in New York meeting with Jay Z. Fourt-eight hours later she signed to Roc Nation, and two years after that, when Rita was still a teenager, her debut record, Ora, went to number one in the UK. The album included four songs which also went to number one and its long-protracted follow-up (two years is an eon in pop terms), is being readied for a release later this year.