Name: Rita Sahatçiu Ora
DOB: 26 November 1990
Place of Birth: Priština, Kosovo
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 am actually working with UNICEF in order give back for all the love and support I have 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 so they figured it out.
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.
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 six or seven.
A lot has changed since then. You've had several number one 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 am 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.
What is it like to have Jay-Z as a boss?
I love how involved Jay is with his business. He definitely knows what’s going on all the time. My favorite thing would probably just be his simple questions like: “What do you want?” “What do you feel?” “How do you feel?” With him, it’s always about how I feel. To have an artist being an artist and a boss makes it so much more believable and so much more honest. He doesn’t care about anything else apart from being an artist.
Did you have answers to his essential questions?
No, I didn’t have answers then.
But that sort of dialogue with him helped you to find them?
Yes, it made it more real, because you know it’s not real for a girl from West London that was born in Kosovo to be signed to one of the biggest labels of our generation. So it made it real when Jay Z asked me those questions. It just made me realize this is actually real life.
Your parents must be pleased with the outcome of all of this. This could have also gone really wrong.
They are. Now they just want to know that I’m eating and I’m healthy and I’m sleeping.
Probably not, no?
No. (Laughs) I’m definitely not sleeping enough, but I’m eating healthy. You have to since you can get so drained, especially when you’re never in one place. You have to take care of your body.
And what about school?
I will go back one day.