With a couple of No. 1 singles in her home country ("R.I.P.," "Hot Right Now") under her belt, and a supporting slot on Coldplay's recent stadium tour, it's time for Roc Nation signee Rita Ora to set her sights on a U.S. takeover—which at this point seems all but inevitable. Her Notorious B.I.G.-referencing U.S. debut single "How We Do" is climbing the charts—No. 53 on iTunes at time of writing—and it looks like Ora's decade-plus of hard work, from playing near-empty clubs in London to guest-starring in Craig David and Drake music videos, is really starting to pay off. Read more about the international pop star in her own words below:
1. "WE KINDA RUN OUR OWN PARTIES OVER THERE."
Rita was born in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, though she moved to West London at a very young age. She still has a good deal of family there and goes back to visit every so often. "The last time I went, I had the best time," she remembers. "There's not as many rules as there are in America or in London. We kinda run our own parties over there."
2. "I WAS NEVER CRAZY CRAZY, BUT..."
Growing up in West London, Rita says she had a bit of a rebellious streak. One time, her sneaking into a London club while underage helped result in it getting shut down. "The funniest thing is, [the bouncer who kicked me out] was the one that got me in!" Rita remembers. "He acted like he didn't know! I was like 'Whatever....''"
3 "I HAD BROWN HAIR, I WAS 14, I LITERALLY LOOK SO FUNNY..."
In her early teens, Rita was cast as Rosanna, "an Albanian girl that flew to London to look for her sister, a refugee girl" in the 2004 UK crime flick Spivs. She was mortified one day in recent years when her friends put it on at a gathering without warning her. "I get home and it's just on in the background...I'm like, 'Are you guys taking the piss?'" she laughs. "But it's fun to watch back, man, and see how you've grown."
4. "YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND. SHE'S ON ANOTHER LEVEL."
As an aspiring singer in the early '00s, Rita unsurprisingly idolized Beyoncé. "I would cover Beyoncé. I would cover Destiny's Child songs. I would do like a medley," she explains. Now signed to Bey's husband Jay-Z's Roc National label, she finally got the chance to meet her hero when she was 18. "It was [even] more important for me to meet Bey than to meet Jay," she says. "You don't understand. She's on another level."
5. "WELL, AT LEAST I MADE SEVEN PEOPLE CLAP."
Despite her current celebrity, Rita's had her fair share of thankless gigs at near-empty venues. "When I would do bars...you know, no one actually gave a shit," she's reminisces. "I would do some shows, and literally, people would look for a second and go turn back to the bar." She actually remembers it as being a good day when she would do a gig and at least the "seven new fans" would clap. "Every new fan is important."
6. "AS SOON AS I DID IT, I JUST KNEW THAT IT WASN'T FOR ME."
Rita nearly got a break early in her career auditioning for Eurovision: Your Country Need You to be the UK's representative a thecontinent-wide pop music national showdown, but pulled out of the competition early. "Nothing bad towards [Eurovision]," she now says, "But...I didn't want to audition to be a part of something that I didn't creatively control...I said to myself 'If I'm meant to do this, and I'm as good as I think I am, someone will notice me.'"
7. "HE JUST SAID, 'DO YOU WANT TO BE IN THE VIDEO?'"
"[Drake] was the first person that was a known artist that actually cared about working with me," recalls Rita of the Young Money rapper, who eventually cast her in his "Over" video. "He literally just asked me for a favor," explains the singer of her role in the video. And I said 'You know what? Why not?'" After Drizzy returned the favor and then some by co-writing "R.I.P.," Ora's first U.K. #1, she bought him a ring to thank him. "It brings me luck," she explained to him. "And he now wears that, so it's really cool to see."
8. "I THINK IF I MEET HER, I'LL PROBABLY FAINT..."
Like Beyoncé, frontwoman-turned-solo star Gwen Stefani was an early influence on Rita. "It started with the No Doubt days, when she had the pink hair, and the Hebrew makeup," recalls Rita, remembering how she and friends used to rock out to "Hella Good" at her house. "She never tried to sing like Whitney Houston songs, or things like that. She did Gwen, which is what I love about her."
9. "I'M LIKE, 'THAT MAN'S COOL!'"
Rita has had the good fortune of being mentored professionally by legendary rapper Jay-Z, and she has but one word for the man she currently calls boss. "Everything about Jay is cool," she details. "The way he even stands, he's just so cool. Even the way he listens to music. He just stands there, and he's cool. Just swagged out. The way he talks, the way he acts...I'm like, 'That man's cool!'"
10. "I DIDN'T REALIZE HOW SHORT THEY WERE..."
Even as she blows up around the world, Rita's still not immune to the occasional embarrassing public moment. Such a moment happened to her recently in Manchester, when she suffered a self-imposed wardrobe malfunction, wearing a pair of shorts on stage that...failed to cover everything. "I didn't realize how short they were until I was reading about it the next day!" she red-facedly swears.