British singer and blossoming actress Rita Ora bears little resemblance to Mia Grey, the chaste, peripheral character she plays in the Fifty Shades franchise. In real life, the 26-year-old is a sexy, ambitious, hardworking star.
This past year, she inked a massive record deal with Atlantic Records UK; launched her 15th Adidas line; and became the host of America’s Next Top Model.
To think, when Ora broke through in 2011, it was as a guest vocalist on a dance cut called, ironically, “Hot Right Now.” She could’ve become a hook-singing studio chanteuse, but being in the background was never the plan: “I attack any job with energy and respect.”
It shows. This year she’ll drop her sophomore LP. “It’s my pride and joy,” she says. “The theme is celebrating the fact that I’m free”—the “free” referring to the successful lawsuit she brought to get out of her Roc Nation contract.
That holdup, she says, just gave her time for everything else. Like acting alongside the late Carrie Fisher in Wonderwell—“I play an evil witch/manipulative sexy person”—and filming February’s Fifty Shades Darker. Her role is larger in the sequel, but she’ll “leave the more erotic scenes to Dakota [Johnson].”
Not that she’s camera shy—her 2016 shoot with photographer Terry Richardson, whose photos never seem to feature anyone clothed, made waves. But Ora doesn’t see the problem: “I don’t look at being naked as risqué,” she says. “I look at it as beautiful, fun, and artistic.”