Is Rita Ora her own worst enemy?
Rita Ora is not your average pop star. Equal parts ubiquitous and forgettable, the 27-year-old British multi-hyphenate entertainer's six-year tenure in the spotlight has been anything but ordinary. Touted as the torch-bearer for commercial pop music after signing to Jay Z's Roc Nation in December 2008, Ora possessed the support system necessary to cement instant superstar status. After nabbing the top spot with her addition on DJ Fresh's "Hot Right Now" and the followup lead single "R.I.P." featured on her debut 2012 album Ora, the Kosovo-bred rising star was projected to be the Next Big Thing, under the careful direction of Hov's entertainment conglomerate.
However, gaining instant fame and fortune is one thing; maintaining it is a different practice altogether. Shortly after entering the spotlight, Ora made the mistake of linking up with Rob Kardashian, who quickly showed his colors after the pair decided to split. Pulling a move eerily similar to his 2017 Twitter tirade against baby momma and ex Blac Chyna, Kardashian went OFF on social media, slut-shaming Ora and putting her on blast in a very public forum.
"She cheated on me with nearly 20 dudes while we were together, I wonder how many she will sleep with now that we apart?" tweeted Kardashian, in a series of now-deleted messages. "But I mean 20?!!! How can a woman who is so busy trying to start her own career have time to be with so many dudes all while in a relationship?! I'm actually disgusted a woman could give up her body to more than 20 dudes in less than a year's time while trying to start a career."
With her public image damaged while her budding career was in its infancy, it's no surprise that Ora's rebound was less than impressive. Refusing to respond to Kardashian's claims, Ora quickly turned from a "pop star with promise" to a celebrity willing to seize any available gig in order to remain in the spotlight. From lending her vocals to the chorus of Iggy Azalea's 2014 hit single "Black Widow" to linking up with Chris Brown in 2015 for "Body On Me," Ora no longer wielded the solo star power necessary to stay on the charts. Adding insult to injury, the Roc Nation-signed artist filed a lawsuit later that same year demanding to be released from her contract, arguing that her career was put on the back burner as a result of the label's diversifying interests. In retaliation, Roc Nation countersued for a whopping $2.3 million, claiming that the British star failed to uphold her end of the contract by not releasing a follow-up to her debut album.
After reaching a settlement outside of court in May 2016, Ora's dedication to securing the bag instead of carving out her own girl-pop niche led to a number of brand endorsements and sponsorship deals, soon eclipsing any actual talent she boasted in the early days of her career. Now famous for being famous, Ora's talent behind the mic seems to be little more than a far-away memory that trickles back into the zeitgeist every so often when she returns with a catchy single.
"I do [feel underestimated as a performer]" said Ora, speaking to Noisey about being better known as a spokesperson than as a pop star. "I mean, I don't want people to read this and be like, 'She's moaning and complaining and throwing her toys out of the pram.' But… yeah. Sometimes I feel like, have you guys forgotten I've actually done a lot of things prior to, like, hosting the EMAs? I was nominated for an Oscar and I had four number 1 singles and a number 1 album. I've been a coach on The Voice and The X Factor. I guess people only see what's in front of them. You're only as good as your last gig, you know."
On-screen appearances in the 50 Shades of Grey franchise and Adidas sponsorship deals aside, Ora's time in the spotlight is now long overdue for its first proper renaissance. After dropping "Your Song" in May 2017, the Ed Sheeran-penned electro bop single that put the Brit pop star back on the map, Ora followed up with the track "Anywhere," which peaked at number two on the UK charts.
Riding the wave of her returning popularity, Ora linked up with Charli XCX, Bebe Rexha and Cardi B on the controversial track "Girls," a self-professed ode to open-minded sexuality. Unfortunately for the 27-year-old singer-songwriter, what was intended to be her triumphant return to the American music scene instead came across as a queer-baiting, tone-deaf misrepresentation of the LGBTQ community. Like so many other times in her journey from a low-income British council flat to the opulence of the Hollywood Hills, Ora found herself taking one tiny step forward and two steps back.
"Looking forward, I hope that continuing to express myself through my art will empower my fans to feel as proud of themselves as I'm learning to feel about who I am," tweeted Ora in the aftermath of the "Girls" fallout, encouraging the rapidly-decreasing ranks of her Stan army to stand beside her throughout yet another bout of growing pains.
Moving forward with the determination of someone who hasn't been chewed up and spit out by the American music industry, it's clear that Ora is certain about two things: one, she is NOT "Becky with the good hair," and that she WILL find her footing as an international pop star. Judging by the success of her most recent singles, she's not far from gaining the recognition she's fought so long and so hard to achieve-- but, also, you probably shouldn't count on it, given a history of fumbled opportunities.