Back at Emirates Stadium, Rita’s on stage performing her song “Roc the Life,” which she wrote with The-Dream. “Put your diamonds in the air / You can hate this all you want / But Roc is everywhere.” Putting her Jordans to the test, Rita runs back and forth, covering every inch of Coldplay’s stage, jumping in the air to emphasize key lines. Her voice rings out strong and her energy connects, even in this cavernous venue. “She’s so good at getting everyone involved and emotionally invested in her performance,” says Elena, who’s been watching the action from the opposite end of the stadium. “They have a good time ’cause she’s having so much fun.”
Jay and Kanye, their minds are on a different level. It’s out of this world how talented they are.
There are lots of hands in the air, but no one is more invested than Rita’s mum, Vera, who lip-synchs the words and mimics her daughter’s hand movements. “Oh my God, I can’t believe it,” she says after the show, her voice filled with emotion. “It’s like, that’s not my daughter! A true artist.”
Vera and her husband, Nick, emigrated from Kosovo in 1990 when Rita was a baby, getting out of the former Yugoslavia before conflict with the Serbs erupted into all-out war. After things calmed down, Rita and Elena began returning home to Pristina every year to visit their grandmother. Both girls speak Albanian, and they rep their homeland proudly.
Kosovo is definitely in the building tonight. Mantor and Zutzi, two childhood friends of Rita’s dad, are dancing, sweating, and enjoying Rita’s set to the extreme—perhaps more than a pair of grown men should. “Everybody who is Albanian around the world is proud of Rita,” explains Zutzi, who hosts a popular talk show in Kosovo. “Now, every day you put the radio on, there is Rita. She’s famous.”
“We just declared our independence in 2008,” says Mantor, lead singer of the Kosovar rock band the Grips. “The freedom to come to a show like this is what we were fighting for. Rita is gonna take Kosovo to the next level.”
Everything in Rita’s life seems to be going to the next level these days. She has a fake Twitter account (a fake Instagram account was recently shut down) and paparazzi follow her moves. “It happened so quickly I feel like it’s a dream,” she says. “I’m living something that I don’t think is real. But it is.”
Two weeks before the stadium gig, Rita had one of those moments: She and Rob Kardashian went on a double date with Kanye and Kim. “We had sushi,” she recalls calmly. “It was good fun. We spoke about music and all that.”
Rita met Rob Kardashian through his sisters at a Watch the Throne show in the States. Although he’s tweeted about how much he loves her, Rita’s taking it slow. Asked if a long-distance relationship is hard, she replies, “I mean, it’s not really a relationship. It’s not that intense. He’s a cool guy. We’re close. We’re good friends. I got his back and he’s got mine. To me, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from—if you’re a good person and you got my back, I got yours. It’s that easy for me.”
Right now, Rita’s more focused on learning all she can from the Roc brain trust. “Jay and Kanye, their minds are on a different level. It’s out of this world how talented they are.” Still she insists she’s no longer starstruck around her boss. “I was when I first got signed, knowing what he’s done and the empire he’s created,” she admits. “But he’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. He made me feel so at ease that I forgot he was Jay for a minute. He turned into this brother figure and an amazing boss.”
She says she admires Kanye for his enthusiasm most of all. “I remember him playing ‘Power’ for the first time and rapping it. I was amazed to see that he’s still that passionate. It was incredible.”
To whom much is given, much will be required. But if Rita’s feeling the pressure she’s not letting it show. After leaving the stadium stage, she finds Chris Martin of Coldplay waiting outside her dressing room. “Well done,” he tells her, adding that the band’s glad to have her along for the tour. On Coldplay’s 2009 tour, the opening act was Jay-Z. A cheeky question comes to mind and Miss Ora can’t resist asking: “So who’s a better supporting act—me or Jay?”
Martin laughs and dodges the question. “It’s not the same thing,” he says. Hey, you can’t blame a girl for trying.
WATCH RITA ORA'S BEHIND-THE-SCENES VIDEO:
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ADDITIONAL CREDITS: (STYLING) Matthew Henson. (HAIR) Paul Percival. (MAKEUP) Emma Osborne. FIRST, NINTH & ELEVENTH IMAGE: Cardigan by A Bathing Ape / Shorts by J Brand / Bracelets by Ben-Amun / Bangle by Cartier / Watch by Rolex / Necklaces and rings Rita’s Own. SECOND, THIRD, FOURTH SEVENTH & THIRTEENTH IMAGE: Sweater by Minimarket / Shorts by Monrow. FIFTH, EIGHTH, TENTH, TWELVETH & COVER IMAGE: Top, Skirt & Sneakers by adidas x Opening Ceremony / Bracelets by Ben Amun / Bangle by Cartier / Watch by Cartier. SIXTH IMAGE: Jacket by Opening Ceremony / Top by OndadeMar / Shorts by Augustin Teboul.