Rita Sahatçiu Ora (born Rita Sahatçiu; 26 November 1990) is an English singer, songwriter and actress.
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 a pub owner, having previously studied economics. Ora has an older sister, Elena, and a younger brother, Don.
Her 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 baby. 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.
Ora began performing at open mic sessions around London and, occasionally, in her father’s pub. 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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
In December 2015, Ora filed a lawsuit against Roc Nation, seeking release from the label and citing that the contract she signed in 2008 was unenforceable, due to California’s “seven-year rule.” The complaint stated that she had only been permitted to release one album despite creating multiple additional records for release and that her relationship with Roc Nation was irrevocably damaged. 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 and Warner Music Group. 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.
An appearance in an episode of the British drama series, The Brief, was her first television role, at age 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. In 2011, she appeared in Calvin Klein’s CK One campaign. In 2013, she was the face of Italian sneaker brand, Superga, and the 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 was 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 2019, she was the face of several German brands; luxury fashion label Escada, jewellery company Thomas Sabo and footwear retailer Deichmann.
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. In 2018, Ora co-designed a capsule shoe collection with the Italian footwear designer, Giuseppe Zanotti. After appearing as the face of Escada, Ora co-designed her own collection with the brand in 2019.
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 studied medicine at Moscow Medical Academy. She later specialised in psychiatry. Ora’s paternal grandfather, Besim Sahatçiu, was a film and theatre director. Ora’s older sister, Elena, is a part of her management team.
On 10 July 2015, Ora was named an Honorary Ambassador of Kosovo by then-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, organized by Free the Children.
In April 2019, UNICEF UK appointed her as one their ambassadors.