What’s Rita up to? In 2018, as with seemingly every year of Rita Ora’s career, the answer requires a list and some time. The enigmatic singer has worn many hats, from acting and philanthropy to guest judging and looking flawless in Palomo Spain. Through all that, she’s become one of the biggest international stars in the world—all without dropping an album.
This year, the artist is still burying herself in work, of course, but she’s shedding a few of her many hats to focus more on her music. With last year’s release of “Your Song” and “Anywhere” and the recent release of the Liam Payne collaboration “For You” from the Fifty Shades Freed soundtrack, her distinct vocals have become a sonic fixture. Now, ahead of her sold-out spring tour in the U.K. and her long, long, long awaited album drop later this year, Ora has a new track ready for constant rotation in your monthly playlist—and this one is for the fans.
Today, Ora unveiled “Proud,” an empowering new anthem she’s created for Absolut’s Open Mic Project, which she’s also the face of because girl does it all (including the creation of a signature cocktail called the Rita Blossom). The new project by Ora and Absolut taps into the fanbase she’s amassed over her career and looks to “unite the voices of change-makers and fearless fans” by advocating open conversation through stories of acceptance. Alongside the new track, the Open Mic Project's website has become host to an archive of fan-submitted stories of self-acceptance and determination.
During a very, very brief break in the singer’s packed schedule, we caught up with Ora to talk about “Proud,” her LGBTQ family, and why she’s a visionary.
OUT: How’d you get involved with the Open Mic Project?
Rita Ora: It’s a beautiful thing because it’s about using music to encourage more acceptance in today’s world—regardless of your beliefs or borders. It was really cool to connect with my fans and even make new ones and collect hundreds of real stories of acceptance. It was so inspiring to read. I read through as many as absolutely possible to read and it really helped make writing “Proud” that much more meaningful and real.
The process of this whole project was really authentic and when Absolut came to me about it, it felt intimate and personal and I love doing projects like that. I’ve been involved in other charity work and raising money for the things I belief in so, to be able to do something that involves music, I was so excited to do it.
“Pride” is an LGBTQ anthem. What’s been your most memorable experience with the LGBTQ community in your career?
It’s always been such a close relationship with me. My whole life has been very weird in a lot of places and people thought I was a crazy person and would look at how I dressed and think I was crazy—all that type of stuff. The only people who didn’t think that was the LGBTQ community. Since even before I became a public figure. I’ve always felt like I owe a lot to the community because I’ve always had a family there. It’s helped me to become the person I am today.
What do you want people to take away from this song? What’s the message you want to convey?
I just want to encourage more acceptance in today’s world. It’s such a positive thing to do—now more than ever we really need it. Two or three years ago, I wasn’t sure if I would ever put out the music that I want and to be me and be free. Now, in 2018, I feel like that. In 2016, I thought there was no fucking way I’d be able to do what I want. How times change, right?
Does this mean 2018 is the year we finally get your album?
Yes, definitely. I know. It’s so amazing to say that.
Other than the album, what is Rita Ora up to this year?
I start my European tour in May and then I come overseas to America for a few pop-up shows. We’ve got “For You,” the single I released with Liam Payne for the 50 Shades Freed. I just want to put out as much content as possible and perform and really just share my life with the world.
You’re so busy all the time. What do you do when you’re not working?
I don’t really know because I’m never not working. When I get a minute to myself, I just take on another project. I’m a visionary and I do things that don’t show immediate results. Today I had a really incredible meeting and I won’t get results from it until the end of the year, but it’s absolutely fine. Things like that. I love preparing for the future and love working.
You’ve definitely got a long-term vision, which a lot of people don’t have.
(Laughs) I try to, for sure.