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Rita Ora Dishes on Musical Roots + Repping Albania

Rita Ora
Neil Mockford, Getty Images

While most regard Rita Ora as a Brit — she’s lived there since she was a year old — the ‘How We Do (Party)’ singer is actually an ethnic Albanian. She was born in 1990 in Kosovo, moving to the U.K. just before the Serbs and Albanians went to war. Despite being raised in Britain, Ora told Vibe she feels a responsibility to Albania to rep her homeland.

Ora told the mag that Kosovoan music played a huge influence in her own sound and that Albanian President Atifete Jahjaga is eager to meet her, since she effectively is one of the only celebs thus far that’s made people want to find the country on a map. “This is the thing: No one from my country has done this or even been on MTV or in the charts, so it’s like what to them, you know?” she said. “I definitely feel like everyone’s watching,” she admitted. “It’s such a huge honor, I’m just a normal girl. I have this opportunity to really make history for our country, but I try not to think about it.”

One thing Ora’s been thinking about for a while? Her career. The ‘R.I.P.’ songstress has been a name in the U.K. since she was 16. Before landing a duet with Craig David on the track ‘Awkward,’ she performed on several U.K. music competition shows (probably giving her an edge in her ‘X Factor U.K.’ guest judging).

Another place Ora performed? Her dad’s bar! “That’s where my addiction to whiskey grew,” she joked. The alcoholic scene actually worked out for her. An A&R rep discovered Ora at a Lykke Li concert and introduced her to the Roc — and the rest is pretty much history. Jay-Z and Co. flew her to New York in ’09 and signed her almost immediately, though they refused to release her album for quite some time.

Why the wait? “They knew what it was, otherwise they wouldn’t have signed me. But they knew my music could be something bigger,” Ora said. She admits that while she knew it was for the best, she wasn’t the most patient. “I’d be like, ‘Put me out!’ I was the eager singer that wanted to just make music. I wanted people to hear everything I was recording,” she said. “And they were like, ‘Rita, relax. You’ve got us. Wait. Find yourself.’”

Ora echoed the most important lesson her mentor, Jay-Z, ever imparted on her. “The best thing that Jay ever taught me was patience. Breathe, find what you are and what you want to write about. No one can tell you what you are. Find yourself.”

Watch the Rita Ora ‘How We Do (Party)’ Video

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