Rita Sahatçiu Ora (born Rita Sahatçiu; 26 November 1990) is a British singer and actress. She rose to prominence in February 2012 when she featured on DJ Fresh’s single “Hot Right Now”, which reached number one in the UK. Her debut studio album, Ora, released in August 2012, debuted at number one in the United Kingdom. The album contained the UK number-one singles “R.I.P.” and “How We Do (Party)”. Ora was the artist with the most number-one singles on the UK Singles Chart in 2012, with three consecutive singles reaching the top position.
In January 2014, Adidas announced a designer collaboration with Ora for their brand, Adidas Originals. The two singles from her upcoming second studio album, “Your Song” and “Anywhere”, both reached the UK top-ten in 2017.
Ora was born in Pristina, SFR Yugoslavia (present-day Kosovo), to Albanian parents. Her mother, Vera (née Bajraktari), is a psychiatrist, and her father, Besnik Sahatçiu, is an economist and a pub owner. Ora has an older sister, Elena (who is a part of her management team), and a younger brother, Don. She was born as Rita Sahatçiu (pronounced [sahatˈtʃiu]; surname derived from the Turkish word, saatçi, which means “watchmaker”), but her parents later added Ora (which means “time” in Albanian) to the family surname so it could be easily pronounced.
Her family left Kosovo for political reasons, because of the persecution of Albanians initiated with the disintegration of Yugoslavia. They relocated to London, England in 1991, when she was a year old. She grew up in Notting Hill, in West London, and attended St Cuthbert with St Matthias Primary School in Earls Court, following which she graduated from a performing arts school, Sylvia Young Theatre School. She began singing at an early age.
2007–2010: Career beginnings
Ora began performing at open mic sessions around London and, occasionally, in her father’s pub. In 2007, Ora had her first music release when she appeared on Craig David’s track titled “Awkward”, and then again in 2008 on “Where’s Your Love”, featuring Tinchy Stryder. On both tracks she was not officially credited. She featured on two songs of James Morrison’s album, Songs for You, Truths for Me, as backing vocalist.
In 2008, she auditioned for Eurovision: Your Country Needs You on BBC One to be the British contestant for the Eurovision Song Contest 2009 and qualified, but later withdrew from the competition after a few episodes as she “did not feel ready” and thought “that challenge wasn’t for her.” Her manager, Sarah Stennett (who also worked with Ellie Goulding, Jessie J and Conor Maynard), later told HitQuarters that Ora had entered the competition because at the time she felt it was her only chance at finding success. Stennett reassured her that performing in Eurovision would hinder rather than help her chances to make it as a solo artist.
Shortly after, Ora’s management got in touch with the American label, Roc Nation, and told them about her. Ora signed a recording deal and a publishing deal with Roc Nation in December 2008, and was one of their first signees. She made cameo appearances in Jay Z’s video for “Young Forever” (2009) and Drake’s video, “Over” (2010). After being signed, Ora recorded an album and wanted to release it, but her label advised against it and she started to work on other material for her debut album.
2011–2013: Breakthrough and Ora
Throughout 2011, Ora released covers and videos about working on her debut album on YouTube. The videos caught the attention of DJ Fresh, who at that time was looking for a female vocalist for his song, “Hot Right Now”. Ora featured on the single that was released on 12 February 2012, debuting at number one on the UK Singles Chart. During February 2012, Ora was also the opening act at the UK concerts from Drake’s Club Paradise Tour.
The first UK single from her debut album, “R.I.P.” (featuring Tinie Tempah), was released on 6 May 2012. Produced by Chase & Status, the song debuted at the top of the UK Singles Chart, becoming her first solo UK number one. On 12 August 2012, “How We Do (Party)” was released and reached number one in the UK and Ireland. It was Ora’s second UK number one as a solo artist, and third overall in 2012.
Whilst supporting Coldplay on their Mylo Xyloto Tour, she later announced that her debut album would be titled Ora. The album was released on 27 August 2012 in Europe and Oceania, and debuted at the top of the UK Albums Chart. Ora was nominated for Best New Artist, Push Artist and Best UK/Ireland Act at the 2012 MTV Europe Music Awards. In September 2012, it was announced that Ora will be the opening act on the UK concerts from Usher’s Euphoria Tour set to start in January 2013. Eventually, the tour was postponed due to Usher’s “professional and personal commitments.” From 23 October through to 30 October 2012, Ora embarked on her first headlining tour, Ora Tour, a mini-concert US tour.
“Shine Ya Light”, released on 4 November, became Ora’s fourth consecutive UK top ten single in 2012, peaking at number ten. On 28 November 2012, Ora performed as a special guest at the concert held in Tirana, Albania for the 100th Anniversary of the Independence of Albania. Ora embarked on her first UK tour, “Radioactive Tour”, in January 2013, to support her debut album. She was nominated for three awards at the 2013 Brit Awards, including the Brit Award for British Breakthrough Act.
2013–present: Upcoming second studio album
In January 2013, Ora revealed that her second album would be clearer and have more direction than the first one. On 26 February 2013, she revealed to Digital Spy that her second album shows a different angle to a “party girl.” On 24 May 2013, Ora was the headline act on In New Music We Trust stage at BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend. On 28 June 2013, Ora performed on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury.
On 18 May 2014, the song “I Will Never Let You Down” debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart, making it Ora’s fourth overall single to reach the apex of the chart, and third as a solo artist. In July 2014, Ora featured on Iggy Azalea’s single titled “Black Widow” which peaked at number four in the UK, and became Ora’s first top ten song on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at number three. On 14 December 2014, Ora performed at the 2014 telecast of Christmas in Washington, filmed at the National Building Museum. On 22 February 2015, at the 87th Academy Awards, she performed the Academy Award-nominated song “Grateful”, which appears in the film Beyond the Lights. On 28 June 2015, Ora released the song “Poison”, which debuted at number three on the UK Singles Chart, becoming her sixth top five single in the country.
In December 2015, Ora filed a lawsuit against Roc Nation, seeking release from the label and citing that the contract she signed in 2008 is “unenforceable”, due to California’s “seven-year rule.” The complaint stated that she’s “only been permitted to release one album despite creating multiple additional records for release” and that her relationship with Roc Nation is “irrevocably damaged.” Her complaint also pointed out a breach of contract, reporting that Roc Nation breached the recording agreement by improperly taking twenty percent commission of her income. In January 2016, Roc Nation filed a counter-lawsuit against Ora for breaking her recording contract, in New York. They reached a settlement in May 2016.
In June 2016, it was reported that she signed a new record deal with Atlantic Records. On 3 September 2016, she performed in a concert at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, in Rome, at the vigil for Mother Teresa’s canonisation, alongside other Albanian artists, accompanied by the Kosovo Philharmonic Orchestra.
Ora in an interview for MTVI (2018)
On 26 May 2017, Ora released her first solo single in almost two years, titled “Your Song”, which peaked at number seven in the UK. The track is expected to be the lead single from Ora’s upcoming second studio album, after previous attempts at her second record were lost in her lawsuit against her former label, Roc Nation. Ora performed at BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend on 28 May 2017. The second single, “Anywhere”, became her eleventh top ten song in the UK, peaking at number two.
In January 2018, Liam Payne and Ora released the song “For You”, from the soundtrack of the film Fifty Shades Freed, in which Ora co-stars. In February, “For You” reached number eight in the UK, marking Ora’s 12th top-ten song and equalling a 30-year-old record, jointly held by Shirley Bassey and Petula Clark, for most top-ten songs by a British female solo artist. In May, Ora released her third single, “Girls”, featuring all-female singers, Cardi B, Charli XCX and Bebe Rexha.
An appearance in an episode of the British drama series, The Brief, was her first television role, at the age of 13. Shortly after, she appeared in the British film, Spivs (2004). In April 2014, Ora appeared alongside Korean popstar, Hyuna, in an episode of Funny or Die called “Girl, You Better Walk.” In 2015, she played Christian Grey’s sister, Mia, in the film adaptation of the best-selling novel Fifty Shades of Grey, a role she later reprised in the film’s two sequels. Ora originally approached the production hoping to contribute to the film’s soundtrack and instead was asked to audition for the role of Mia Grey by the director of the film, Sam Taylor-Johnson.
In 2010, Ora featured in a commercial for Skullcandy headphones. She appeared in two Calvin Klein campaigns, in 2010 and 2011. In 2013, she was the face of Italian sneaker brand, Superga, and the new face of “Material Girl”, a clothing line designed by Madonna. In September 2013, cosmetics brand, Rimmel, announced their collaboration with Ora for makeup collections. She was the face of two Donna Karan 2014 collections, Resort collection and Autumn/Winter collection. She’s also the face of the label’s fragrance, DKNY My NY, inspired by New York City. In March 2014, Ora was one of the cast members of Marks & Spencer’s “Leading Ladies” campaign. Later in 2014, she appeared as the face of Roberto Cavalli Autumn/Winter campaign. In 2015, she appeared in Coca-Cola and Samsung Galaxy S6 advertising campaigns.
In January 2014, Adidas announced a designer collaboration with Ora for their line of casual sports clothing, Adidas Originals. Ora designed her own apparel collections for the brand, including footwear and accessories. In 2016, she collaborated with Italian fashion brand, Tezenis, on a capsule lingerie collection.
Following the departure of judge Kelly Rowland, Ora was asked to be a guest judge on the ninth series of The X Factor in the UK. She was a judge during the auditions that were filmed at the O2 Arena in London. In 2013, 2014 and 2017, Ora hosted the BBC Radio 1’s Teen Awards alongside Nick Grimshaw.
In 2015, she was a coach on the fourth series of The Voice UK on BBC One. The same year, it was confirmed that Ora and BBC Radio 1 presenter, Nick Grimshaw, signed as judges for the twelfth series of The X Factor on the rival TV network ITV, after a bidding war between The X Factor and The Voice UK.
In July 2016, Tyra Banks, the creator of America’s Next Top Model, announced that Ora would replace her as host of the revamped show which aired on VH1. Ora hosted the 2017 MTV Europe Music Awards on 12 November in London, at Wembley Arena.
Ora possesses a mezzo-soprano vocal range. Ora credited Gwen Stefani and Beyoncé as her big influences. Her other musical influences include Freddie Mercury, Christina Aguilera, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, Celine Dion, Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, and Sade. Ora also stated that she was inspired by her parents’ record collection which included artists such as Prince and Earth, Wind & Fire, among others.
“My parents brought us [my older sister and I] to this country with the hope and the dream that we could get a decent education, which is so important for our aspirations and for what we want to achieve in our lives. I grew up in Britain, a country that has given me so much for which I am grateful, but I will always have a special place in my heart for my home town and Kosovo.”
Ora speaks Albanian. Her mother is Catholic and her father is a nominal Muslim. When asked about her religion, Ora said that she does not consider herself religious, but “more of a spiritual person.” Ora considers herself a feminist.
Her maternal grandfather, Osman Bajraktari, was the Albanian consul to Russia (then part of the Soviet Union). While her grandfather was a diplomat there, Ora’s mother, Vera, studied medicine at Moscow Medical Academy. Ora’s paternal grandfather, Besim Sahatçiu, was a film and theatre director.
On 10 July 2015, Ora was named an Honorary Ambassador of Kosovo by the country’s president, Atifete Jahjaga, at the Embassy of Kosovo in London. Ora, who was joined at the ceremony by her parents, and former British Prime Minister and his wife, Tony and Cherie Blair, stated she was “overwhelmed” by the honour and pledged to help the youth of Kosovo.
On 23 March 2013, Ora performed as a special guest at Bal de la Rose du Rocher, an event organised by Karl Lagerfeld in Monte Carlo in aid of the Princess Grace Foundation. On 1 June 2013, Ora performed at the “Chime for Change” charity concert at Twickenham Stadium, London, which raised funds and awareness for girls’ and women’s issues around the world. In December 2013, along with other British artists, she filmed “No Place Like Home” campaign with UNICEF UK, in support of their appeal for the children affected by the Syrian conflict. On 7 May 2014, Ora headlined the third annual “Gabrielle’s Gala” fundraiser at Old Billingsgate Market, London, raising money for Cancer Research UK.
On 15 November 2014, Ora joined the charity group Band Aid 30 along with other British and Irish pop acts, recording the latest version of the track, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, to raise money for the 2014 Ebola crisis in West Africa. On 14 November 2015, Ora performed during half-time at David Beckham’s UNICEF charity “Match for Children” held at Old Trafford, Manchester. On 9 March 2016, she gave a speech on immigration and the Syrian refugee crisis at the We Day UK event in London, organised by Free the Children.