“Hi, I’m Rita Ora, and I’m an alcoholic.” With a raspy chuckle and crinkled nose, the 22-year-old R&B star is poking fun at Rimmel’s formal introductions inside the art-deco-meets-Edwardian Savoy Hotel in London. She’s just been announced as the British cosmetics giant’s latest spokesmodel, joining Kate Moss and Georgia May Jagger. Much like her brand-mates, Ora is bona fide fashion royalty. Her Instagram, followed by more than 1.5 million “Ritabots,” documents hangouts with Karl Lagerfeld, Jeremy Scott and BFF Cara Delevingne, along with her first runway stint, closing the spring DKNY show.
But unlike the rest, Ora, never without her signature scarlet lips, has serious beauty cred. Today, she wears Rimmel’s new Crayola-like lip balm, Colour Rush, in The Redder, The Better. “It reminds me of when I was a kid and I chewed crayons,” she says. At 12, she was pairing a rouge pout with her school uniform. “My mom didn’t recommend it, but I didn’t listen,” she laughs.
If red is for confidence, it’s served her well. Ora, her debut album of raucous club anthems, was released under Jay Z’s Roc Nation label in 2012 (her first single, “R.I.P.,” was written by Canadian sometime-bad-boy Drake). The follow-up, due for release later this year, will be less party-girl, and, she says, more honest.
That could mean heartfelt ballads about her boyfriend, Scottish DJ Calvin Harris, or, maybe, her dramatic past. Born in Kosovo, formerly Yugoslavia, Ora relocated to London as an infant when her parents fled the looming civil war. She returned to her homeland to shoot the “Shine Ya Light” video last year, and has since become a UNICEF supporter for the region. “They have been really generous with my ideas, like helping orphanages where kids don’t have anywhere to play,” says Ora. “They’re the only charity to stand by the war in my country since it started.” Although organizations such as Oxfam International may beg to differ, Ora never shies from speaking her mind.
“Being from Kosovo, we’re very blunt,” she admits. “I’ve got a bit of boiling blood about me, like my dad.” That effusive quality (see: boozing jokes in the presence of recording devices) sets Ora apart from her more guarded counterparts, and it’s what guides her bold fashion and beauty choices.
Like her style idol, Gwen Stefani, Ora plans to launch her own clothing line—eventually. “It’s about making sure I have time to make a collection that’s worthy,” she says. If she can successfully translate her sporty-siren pop polish, we’re willing to wait.