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Rita Ora's Edgy Aura

©Roc Nation
Rita Ora

Signed to Jay-Z's empire, the UK newcomer is ready for her close-up

By Kathy Iandoli
Special to MSN Music

Rita Ora isn't your typical pop princess, and with the September release of her debut album, "Ora," the world will soon understand that. Handpicked by Jay-Z to join his new-school Roc Nation empire, the U.K. siren adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the mainstream musical landscape. Her bleached-blond, tattooed edginess packages a strong vocal powerhouse, evidenced by her U.K. lead single "R.I.P." and its U.S. counterpart, "How We Do (Party)." She knows her way around soul, while simultaneously hanging with hip-hop and bringing it all back to pop. As Ora gears for her big arrival, she breaks down her first meeting with Jay-Z, singing a Destiny's Child song for Beyonce, and how eating meat is apparently tabloid fodder.

MSN Music: When did you know that you had a voice like that? Your voice is really powerful.

Rita Ora: Thank you! I've been singing since I was 6. With my dad we used to kind of listen to his tracks. He used to have a big collection of albums and things like that that we used to sing along to. Funny story ... I used to sing along to the Celine Dion karaoke CD! My dad will hate me for saying this, but yeah, me and my dad used to do it. Then from 10 to around 14, I started to kind of really understand music and really kind of love it. Then from 14, I had my first production deal, and that's how I started. That's how I kind of started singing, yeah. I also went to a music school, Sylvia Young Theatre School -- Amy Winehouse went there, Spice Girls went there years ago, a lot of people have come from that school.

Bing: Watch Rita Ora's video for"R.I.P."

What was it like for you to sing Destiny's Child's "Say My Name" while Beyonce was sitting there at the Cartier event in NYC?

That was amazing! I didn't know she was there because if I did, I don't know if I'd find balls to sing it, but it was amazing and she gave her approval. I guess you can't really have a better approval than from the person whose song it is, so it was amazing, actually. I was really nervous, but it was great. It was fun, and I didn't sing exactly like her, you know what I mean? I made it my own, and I feel that's what I loved about it. I watched it back and I just thought, "Yeah!" You know, you're not going to try and beat her version because you just can't.

What did you do the day you met Jay-Z? Was it a total freak-out or was it just really chill?

It was really, really chill, actually. When I first met him, I didn't know that I was going to meet him, which was great because I think if I knew I was going to meet him, I would have freaked out. But it was great. It happened really, really spontaneously, and I can tell you that he made me feel so at home. I knew that [Roc Nation] was the team for me as soon as I met them, you know? I felt really, really, really at home. It was a great night and it was definitely a moment I'll never forget.

Have you noticed that there are fans that are dressing like you? Or dying their hair and trying to get the Rita Ora swag going?

Yeah! At my show in New York recently ... and in L.A.! Those people in the front had, like, red lipstick on and beanies and blond hair, and I was like, whoa! My sister was like to me, "It looks like you guys all live in the same cupboard!" I'm like, "I know!" That's what she said, and I was like true!

Bing: Find out more about Rita Ora

So of course with the industry, people like to spread rumors, but what's the funniest one you've heard about yourself so far?

Oh, I've heard a lot of rumors. I mean, being a new artist ... I guess people don't really know me that well, they're going to obviously think whatever they can. I hear everything from things like, I don't eat meat, which is a lie. And I do! You know ... a lot of things, just random things.

That's so weird that they would make that up! Like, what does that even matter?

I know! It's just really random! I'm like, "What?" And I heard that whilst I was like, eating Roscoe's [Chicken  n' Waffles, a Los Angeles restaurant chain]. So I can definitely assure you: I like my meat.

Kathy Iandoli has written for publications including The Source, YRB, BUST, XXL,VIBE, RIME and Vapors, and her work has appeared online at MTV, AOL and MSN Music sites. She is the former Alternatives editor of AllHipHop.com and the current music editor of HipHopDX.com.

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