The Improbable Rise of Rita Ora: A Guide for the Modern-Day Celebrity
At the end of last year, Rita Ora colorfully exploded onto the scene in the way of five-foot giant-cardboard cutouts in every major London drugstore. She had just landed a huge contract with UK-based beauty brand Rimmel London, launching a set of twelve 60-second nail polishes, with one aptly named the “Rita Rouge.” There was a retro print postcard of her face printed on every single product. She was then handpicked by Madonna to model the Queen of Pop’s debut clothing line, Material Girl, and just recently hinted on Instagram that she is now part of the Adidas Originals family. She’s also rumored to be the face of a new Roberto Cavalli campaign, has appeared on Jimmy Fallon, plugged her debut on the new MTV show Hoods, graced the cover of Paper magazine as part of DKNY’s Beautiful People launch, and reminded us that she is one of the real women starring in the Marks & Spencer advertisements.
Oh, and there’s her acting! (If you can call it that.) With only a very few screen appearances to date (X Factor and 90210 for a few minutes, which don’t really count), it came as a surprise to learn that she had been cast in one of the most hyped-up films of the year: the upcoming Fifty Shades of Grey. Forget cameo, she’s playing the supporting role of Mia Grey, the younger sibling of the sexual fiend Christian.
All of this begs the most important question: How did Rita Ora burst onto the scene to begin with? You’d be forgiven for forgetting. The now 23-year-old singer from London first gained our attention for that well-known catchy tune by DJ Fresh, “Hot Right Now,” to which she contributed vocals. She has since released just four more (pretty weak) pop singles to date.
Yet somehow, she went from entering the scene in 2012 as another sassy “Rihanna-like” musical newcomer to becoming one of the most well-known faces in fashion.
Kate Moss had to wait almost a decade to get a look from Rimmel, and let’s not even start on how long it took Victoria Beckham to move the needle from pop star to serious designer.
So, how did Rita do it?
It seems millennial celebrities have started a new trend: They launch their careers in one “industry” and then very quickly dip their toes into others. These types of people are called “slashies,” according to viral news site My Daily, because their job titles necessitate a few slashes. And the key to becoming a slashie is—shocker—social media. Twitter and Intstagram allow these young stars to quickly reach out to and recruit new fans, turning their burgeoning young stardom into viral celebrity brands.
On paper, Ora may have launched her career as a bona fide “singer” (despite her slightly thin discography), but her “It” girl status as a “slashie” is what’s reeling in the dollars—aka she’s now famous for being famous. It doesn’t really matter whether she became Rita Ora, Ruler of the Universe, because of her vocal chords, nails, eyelashes, or derriere—they all need to be insured in equal measure.
Examining Rita’s booming “career,” there are four steps to perpetuating fame in a variety of fields once you start becoming famous:
1. Include “Feat. [Your Name Here]” on as many music videos as possible.
To date, Rita has been featured on records by DJ Fresh as well as UK R&B musicians Craig David, Tinchy Stryder, and James Morrison. In 2009, she made an appearance in a Jay Z video, and in 2010, made a cameo in the “Over” video by Drake. What’s the phrase—stick your fingers in lots of pies? Yep, do that.
2. Associate yourself with famous media friends.
Rita hangs around with such social butterflies as broadcaster Nick Grimshaw and model-of-the-moment Cara Delevingne, who starred in Rita’s 2013 “Radioactive” video. If you can be seen misbehaving in the streets with Grimmy and Harry Styles that’s also a bonus. Extra points if they’ll post natural-looking pictures of you two just ‘hanging’ sans make-up on Instagram having a movie night or such like.
3) Get a celebrity DJ boyfriend.
It helps if he’s recently started ramping up the gym time, becoming quite buff (like Rita’s current beau, Calvin Harris). Bonus points for holding hands in public and getting caught canoodling in a posh taxi.
4) Peacock in public.
Never heard the term “peacock”? Think wearing yellow lipstick, lime-green nails, and a SpongeBob SquarePants jumper with no trousers. This will also work effectively at boring launch events; your loud colors and headline-grabbing outfits will turn you into the story instead. It’s a paparazzi’s dream, in fact.
With Rita, we’re not buying into her voice, her acting skills, or even her Man-Repeller fashion. Rather, we seem happy just to observe, and maybe try to emulate, her actual lifestyle: her friendship circles, her schedule, her Instagram feed, her dressing room freebies, and the parties she attends. We want to follow her as we would our own friend, a tinge of jealousy and all. As Vice so accurately described, “Rita Ora looks like one of those London society girls that goes to Dalston on the weekends to hang out in weird sweaty downstairs rooms that double as garage/jungle nights (or The Alibi), a look she’s cultivating so perfectly you might believe it to be true.” Rita can do whatever she wants to do now. In our minds, she is a crazy girl on the town who we would love to bump into at a bar or simply compare nail art with.
Rita Ora may be the most obvious example of this celebrity phenomenon populating our Instagram feeds. But she does make one thing pretty clear: this new type of modern-day star comes armed with an entourage of marketing teams with the sole intention of making them famous after a steady “launch” phase of their career. She peaked with a few good songs, but now is riding the wave of promotions, brands, and paparazzi. In our crazy social media-obsessed world, these celebrities don’t really need to do much other than go to festivals like Coachella and make a few cameos to keep our interest flying.