The Voice judge Rita Ora is the epitome of a pop star – beautiful, talented and married to a top Hollywood director. However, as it turns out, things could have been very different for the For You singer indeed.
The singer was born Rita Sahatçiu in 1990 in present-day Kosovo. Her Albanian parents, facing bleak prospects in a splintering Yugoslavia, fled the only home they'd ever known when Rita was only one year old, shooting for a chance at peace in the UK.
"My mom was a psychiatrist and my dad an economist," Ora explained to Vogue Middle East. "They left behind their whole lives and had to start from scratch when they arrived in London as refugees."
Rita said it was tough for her family in London as refugees. "That word carries a lot of prejudice," she told ES magazine. "But it also made us determined to survive. When you put anyone into an alien environment, where other people aren't completely comfortable with them being there, they are automatically going to be defensive. It's the rule of the jungle, right?"
But it wasn't long before Rita's love of singing, inspired by her parent's vinyl collection, led to a place at London's Sylvia Young Theatre School, following in the footsteps of names like Amy Winehouse, Emma "Baby Spice" Bunton and The Great actor Nicholas Hoult.
Rita's career begins
Then in 2008, at just 16, she auditioned to represent the UK in Eurovision, but later withdrew from the audition process, despite being selected to go through to the next round. It was Rita's new manager, Sarah Stennett who convinced her to drop out. "I felt she was a star and so [I said] to her, 'If you want to make it then you should leave the Eurovision Song Contest," Sarah told Hitquarters. "If you can sing better than anyone you know and if you really believe in yourself, I suggest you don't do the Eurovision Song Contest."
Sarah then got in contact with Jay Z's new label Roc Nation and by December 2008, Rita was one of their first signed artists. "You can see the potential," Jay-Z has said. "When she enters a room it changes... and that presence — you can't duplicate it, especially at a young age. It was just infectious, like 'Man, she loves this...' She's driven in that way."
While Rita was keen to get her music out there, Jay-Z convinced her to be patient and her first single R.I.P from her debut album went straight to number one in the UK when it was finally released in 2012.
From there, there was no looking back, quickly showing her talents in other areas including acting — she played Christian Grey's sister in the three film adaptations of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy — modelling and fashion design.
Snaps up The Voice gig
And, after her experience as a judge on The X Factor in the UK, and as a coach on The Voice UK, Rita joined the Aussie version of The Voice. The new role Down Under turned out to be quite fortuitous for the British star too, later meeting her husband, Oscar-winning New Zealand director Taika Waititi, while in Sydney.
The pair say they feel very at home in the harbour city. "We've both got a lot of friends here and everything sort of falls back into place easily," Taika told Vogue Australia.
Taika has helped inspire Ora's creativity again. "I think colliding with Taika in life and things like that, kind of re-sparked my inspiration to get really creative as a songwriter, because I kind of had a block for a while," she revealed to Vogue in May this year. "Growing up in the past five years, and getting married, a lot happened," Ora added.
Now, back filming her third season of The Voice Australia, Rita is happy to call Oz her new home away from home. "For the past three years, my life has changed drastically because of Australia and it just holds a really close place in my heart," she told the Daily Telegraph. "I found love. I found my routine with my physicality. I feel super kind of healthier here and just at ease. I have found a safety net in a place that I am not from, which is just so special."
Watch The Voice Australia Sunday 7pm, Monday 7.30pm and Tuesday 7.30pm on Channel 7 and 7plus.
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