Reality TV

How Rita Ora’s nationality is shaped by a conflict that forced her parents to flee for the UK

''When someone expands to do something out of our country it’s a big deal.''
Loading the player...

While The Voice contestants continue to turn chairs, new judge Rita Ora is busy turning heads. You may recognise her as the artist behind For You with Liam Payne from Fifty Shades Freed, or Black Widow with Iggy Azalea – both certified bops.

But the popstar has added another bullet point to her resume, joining the Aussie Voice mentor line-up, alongside Jessica Mauboy, Guy Sebastian and Keith Urban. So just where has Rita come from in her quest to find Australia’s newest star?

Rita Ora is currently a judge on The Voice Australia.

(Credit: Getty)

Where was Rita Ora born?

Rita Ora was born on the 26th November 1990 in Pristina, Kosovo, in what was formerly known as Yugoslavia. Her parents, Vera and Besnki, are Albanian and she has an older sister, Elena, and a younger brother, Don.

Interestingly, Rita’s surname is actually Sahatçiu which is derived from the Turkish word saatçi – meaning watchmaker. The musician’s parents later decided to add on Ora, meaning hour in Albanian.

As for her first name, the singer was apparently named after classic film star, Rita Hayworth. This influence may have just come from her grandfather. Yep, while Rita’s mother Vera is a psychiatrist and her father Besnik is a pub owner, her grandfather, Besim, was quite the big film director back in Yugoslavia.

And it’s clear that the 30-year-old had a touchingly close relationship with her grandfather. In 2013, the Ritual singer shared a tribute to him on Instagram, writing, “I miss you grandad….Besim Sahatciu. I love you. You made me believe this was possible. Your stories your movies we had so much fun dressing up. You believed in me before I even did. Dam you were such a Gangsta. Don’t get into any trouble up there. Love Rita Pita.”

“I can speak fluent Albanian because we spoke it in the house. I’ve been back to Kosovo quite a lot.”

(Credit: Getty)

When did Rita Ora move to London?

Rita’s family moved to Notting Hill in West London when she was just a baby, in the year 1991. The family fled Kosovo for political reasons – Albanians were being persecuted due to the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Speaking to The Sun in 2012, Rita was overcome with gratitude for her situation, telling the publication she was “lucky” that her parents “left early.”

That same year, The Voice coach gushed to the Evening Standard about her experience growing up around Portobello Road, saying, “I love that everyone knows each other there, it’s a real community.”

But Rita hasn’t forgotten her roots by any means, telling The Sun that she still speaks her birth-country’s language and that she remains a big proponent of Kosovan music.

“I can speak fluent Albanian because we spoke it in the house. I’ve been back to Kosovo quite a lot. When someone expands to do something out of our country it’s a big deal because there aren’t many opportunities, unfortunately,” she explained.

Clearly proud of her heritage, Rita told the publication that she wished she “could translate Kosovan music into (her) album.”

“I tried but it doesn’t work yet. I’ll do it though. And I definitely want to play shows over there in the future and raise some money.”

Why has Rita Ora gotten into trouble over her heritage?

In the past, Rita has faced backlash after being accused of “blackfishing” (changing one’s appearance via bronzer, tanning, etc. to appear black or mixed race), as well as cultural appropriation after wearing traditionally Black hairstyles like box braids, cornrows and an afro.

Rita has infamously faced backlash for blackfishing.

(Credit: Getty)

In 2016, American talk show host Wendy Williams told Rita that she thought she was “half-black”, to which the Black Widow singer replied, “Everybody usually does. I might as well be. But no, I’m Albanian.”

This story was originally featured on our sister site, Girlfriend.

Related stories