Rita Sahatçiu Ora was born in in Pristina, Kosovo to Kosovar-Albanian parents. She was named after her film director grandfather, Besim Sahatçiu's, favorite film star, Rita Hayworth.
Her mother, Vera, fled the war-torn family home in 1991, bringing one-year-old Rita with her. Her father Besnik joined the family later and bought a pub, the Queens Arms in Kilburn, North London. Rita began singing from an early age including some gigs in her dad's pub.
Rita's childhood idols were the Spice Girls. "I just remember watching them - not even meeting them - and I was completely mesmerized," she told Elle about the '90s girl group.
She attended the Sylvia Young Theatre School, whose other famous former pupils include The Spice Girls' Emma Bunton, Leona Lewis and Amy Winehouse. Ora was in the same class as Vanessa White from The Saturdays. "It was a musical theatre school and I didn't have that kind of voice," she recalled to Britain's Cosmopolitan magazine. "In singing classes I'd let rip, turning a musical theatre song into an R&B record. I was never the quiet one – I was always the girl with the annoying laugh. I still am. It's very potent and very loud."
Ora's dramatic mezzo-soprano singing voice was brought to the attention of Craig David who featured her on two of his tracks, 2007's "Awkward" and 2008's "Where's Your Love." She also appeared in the latter song's music video.
Ora signed to Jay-Z's Roc Nation when she was just 17 in late 2009 after her manager, Sarah Stennett, recommended her to the label. The same year, she made a cameo on her boss' video for "Young Forever
Throughout 2011, Ora released videos about working on her debut album on YouTube. The clips caught the attention of DJ Fresh, who at that time was looking for a female vocalist for his single, "Hot Right Now
." Fresh recalled to CraveOnMusic.com
: " I saw a YouTube clip of her and I just knew right away that she was the right person partly cos she's so animated, she has got so much charisma, she's hot and fresh, everything really that I wanted to be vocal on that song. Released on 12 February 2012, the track reached #1 on the UK Singles Chart.
Rita Ora's first solo single in the UK was "R.I.P.
" It was released on May 6, 2012 and debuted at #1. "I really, really believed in this song," Ora told BBC Radio 1's chart show on being told of its arrival at the peak position. "It was the first track I had for my album when I started recording it, so I've been sitting on it for two-and-a-half years."
Ora combines her singing career with acting roles. In 2004 a young, dark-haired Rita played the part of a young Albanian girl called Rosanna in the British crime film Spivs
(see this YouTube clip
). Her big break came when she was cast as Christian Grey's sister, Mia, in the 2015 film adaptation of the best-selling novel Fifty Shades of Grey
. She also appears in the 2013 movie Fast & Furious 6
where she starts a race.
Ora was recruited for the fourth series of The Voice UK as a coach. Charlotte Moore, the controller of BBC One said that, "Rita Ora has a unique sense of style and her no-nonsense attitude will really mix things up on the spinning chairs alongside will.i.am, Tom Jones and Ricky Wilson."
Rita Ora revealed in 2017 that she froze her eggs in her early 20s because she "always wanted a big family."
When "Let You Love Me
" reached #4 on the UK singles chart in 2018, it marked Ora's 13th Top 10 song. In doing so, she broke the record for most Top 10 singles scored by a British female, previously jointly held by Shirley Bassey and Petula Clark.