Rita Ora normally sports scarlet-stained lips with her unruly, blond locks, but for our interview she went with a more neutral palette paired with a Mickey Mouse graphic dress and her signature black Jordans. She was discussing how she was going to have it “rain” streamers into the crowd for her VEVO Lift gig –  a taped performance happening in less than five hours and was to be held at the Gramercy Theatre in New York City. It was a technicality that needed more than a day’s worth of planning, but we stayed tight-lipped. What we did notice was her unwavering ease at the issue. You’d think she was a seasoned performer in the business with that sort of confidence, or maybe she’s good at convincing us she’s been in the game for awhile.

“Oh, I’m so sad it’s over, you don’t understand — it was the best kind of experience, I’ve experienced, so far,” Rita Ora tells us when we ask about her gig on Coldplay‘s tour. “It was literally stadiums — I’m talking like 60,000 people — it was a huge adjustment but I have great memories.” She then adds, “The catering was the best — they had the best food so I have a bit of a belly while I was on that tour.” [Laughs] This is Rita Ora: weighty ambition juxtaposed with a bubbly attitude.

Since Jay-Z introduced Ora on New York’s Z100, The 21-year-old U.K. singer (originally from SFR Yugoslavia, present-day Kosovo) has dropped one single ‘How We Do (Party)’ (with ‘R.I.P.’ set for release on Aug. 14), toured with Chris Martin and his crew, performed at a slew of festivals such as T in the Park, and landed covers on four magazines (Complex being one of them). Now the songstress is gearing up to appear at Budweiser’s Made in America Festival and prepping the release of her debut album ‘Ora,’ which drops Aug. 27 in U.K. and later this year for the U.S.

Unlike other pop stars, Rita actually sounds better live. Her Tinie Tempah-assisted single ‘R.I.P.’ is a mix of catchy pop confection and attitude, and would get lost in the mix of Top 40 hits. But when she performs it with a live band, she hits just the right amount of vibrato while simultaneously bouncing around the entire stage. “I don’t ever use dancers, and when I do it’s literally like four break dancers,” she told us about her typical live routine. “I’ve learned a lot of things about my performance, and the band, and how to make sure we’re tight.” That was evident during the Gramercy Theatre performance.

Since she doesn’t have enough songs (yet) to fill an entire set list, she tends to mix in a wide range of impressive covers into her routine. This year alone, she’s put an R&B spin on Gotye’s smash ‘Somebody That I Used to Know‘, delivered a gospel laden ‘No Church in the Wild‘ (Kanye West, Jay-Z, Frank Ocean), and turned Destiny’s Child ‘Say My Name‘ into a soulful ballad. Unknowingly to Ms. Ora, Beyonce was in the audience when she performed the latter back in April. “Luckily I didn’t know — I think if I did I would have chickened out, because I would have been like ‘What?!” She adds. “I find out afterwards, and she came in and said ‘thank you!’ and she was really kind of honored and flattered that I did her song.”

Queen B may have praised Rita’s cover, but it was her advice after listening to Rita’s entire debut that really stuck. “Destiny’s Child was one of my favorite favorite bands growing up so to have her literally be listening to my debut album — I don’t even know when that ever happens,” Rita humbly admits. “I was so lucky. She never got involved musically, she just wanted to see that I believed what I was singing — just too be comfortable in my skin, and to really understand what I’m about to do. That’s what she was trying to do, and that was the best advice ever.”

If you’ve seen Rita’s mag covers on The Hundreds and ASOS, you know her style is a mix of street and high-end fashion — designer pieces, usually flashy gold sequins, are paired with kicks and tees. “That’s what I love about fashion — you never know what to expect,” she states. Her fashion sense is just as prominent as her vocals, sighting Daphne Guinness, Kanye, Vogue Japan’s editor-at-large Anna Dello Russo among others, as icons. “The people that I look [up] to, fashion-wise, are people that literally know what they’ve got and feel comfortable in their skin. Daphne Guinness was amazingly comfortable in her skin, and she has an amazing collection in fashion that I wish I could just touch. Like, amazing Alexander McQueen pieces.” She continues, “And Anna Dello Russo, who works Vogue, she’s just comfortable in her own skin, and she looks so cool all the time. And then you have someone who is a hip-hop mogul like Kanye West. I wish I could be a female Kanye, like that kind of cool thing… he makes his Jordan’s [work] with Balmain leather pants.”

In addition to her Drake-penned single ‘R.I.P.’ (featuring Tempah) and the Notorious B.I.G-inspired ‘How We Do (Party),’ the U.S. version of her album should feature ‘Roc the Life’ (written and produced by The-Dream), as well as her collabo with J. Cole on ‘Love & War.’ But there’s one track that Rita is really looking forward to sharing with her fans: “I’m just excited about people hearing the sensitive side of Rita that everyone thinks there isn’t,” she states. “There’s one song, and there’s only one song, called ‘Unfair’ which is on my album, that literally shows the sensitive side.… I haven’t been through any heartbreaks yet, so I didn’t want to write about it. But this song is about something that I thought was real that wasn’t. So [there's] a difference. Everyone has disappointment sometimes in life, so I wanted to explain [it], and be honest. I wanted people to know that.”

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