Dua Lipa Is About To Blow Your Mind

Dua Lipa Is About To Blow Your Mind

Alongside a photo shoot by Mario Testino for V's January issue, the soulful singer with a devilish charm and the face of an angel opens up about her debut album, conquering her fears, and having what it takes to make it to the top.

Alongside a photo shoot by Mario Testino for V's January issue, the soulful singer with a devilish charm and the face of an angel opens up about her debut album, conquering her fears, and having what it takes to make it to the top.

Photography: Mario Testino

Styling: Tom Guinness

Text: William Defebaugh

Twenty-one-year-old Dua Lipa is one of those rare, once-in-a-generation artists that has it all: naturally gorgeous looks, business-savvy ambition, the presence of a diva without the attitude of one (much like Cher, who served as the inspiration for this shoot), and a soulful voice that lends easier comparisons to Amy Winehouse than any other artist on mainstream radio today.

As a young girl growing up in London, Lipa always knew she would pursue a career in the performing arts. She trained from an early age at the Sylvia Young Theatre School, where she honed her voice, until her family decided to relocate to their home country of Albania when she was 11—forcing her to put a pin in her aspirations, and spend her early teenage years dreaming of a life of stardom outside her new home. “I didn’t want to pursue music in Kosovo because I didn’t feel like there was any way of me getting out to a more global audience,” recalls the singer. “And it just didn’t seem like the viral thing existed. If I were to post covers and hope for the best—that someone would find me and ship me away from Kosovo—that didn’t seem realistic, and all I wanted was to just make music.”

At the age of 15, she finally convinced her parents to let her move back to London on her own to pursue her passion. She and another girl from Kosovo got a flat together in the city, where Lipa attended high school and quickly learned to take care of herself. It was an experience that she now sees as being integral to her becoming the artist she is today: “I think that period of my life really made me who I am because I knew the reason why I was there and what I wanted. I started posting covers online and having this crazy determination about what I wanted to do and just went for it. I was like, Okay, no one else can create my future for me and no one can get what I want for me, so I have to go out and get it myself. I have to do this and be my own person. It pushed me to not give up on my dreams because it was the only thing I had my heart set on from the very start.”

In the years that followed, Lipa wrangled meeting after meeting with members of the music industry—many of whom told her that they were simply not interested in taking on a new pop act—while supporting herself as a model and nightclub hostess on the side. Eventually, she met her soon-to-be manager Ben Mawson, who saw huge, untapped potential in the young singer. (Mawson also manages Lana Del Rey, a fact that would later garner numerous early comparisons between the two musicians.)

When she was 18, she signed her record deal with Warner Bros. Records. Shortly after, she began working on her debut album, drawing influences from ’90s pop sirens like Nelly Furtado and P!nk as well as contemporary rappers, including Kendrick Lamar, whose honesty and dark subject matter she finds inspiring. In August 2015, just before turning 20, she released her first single, “New Love,” about being a new artist in the music industry. Her follow-up track “Be the One,” released a few months later, was never intended to go to radio—only to blogs and online outlets—but it quickly grabbed the attention of the recording world. She began getting radio requests in other countries, setting off a chain reaction that would eventually result in the song charting in 21 countries and earning over 88 million views on YouTube.

In the time since, she’s already scored two more hit singles with “Blow Your Mind (Mwah)” and “Hotter Than Hell,” garnered an impressive social media following (she’s at nearly 500 thousand Instagram followers as we go to press), booked numerous television performances including The Today Show and The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, headlined a European tour, and scored a stint opening for Troye Sivan on his sold-out Suburbia tour in the United States—all leading up to her album launch this year.

Despite her boundless determination, confidence is not a trait that has always come naturally to Lipa. “Today was one of the ballsiest things I’ve ever done,” she says after this shoot. “It made me get out of my comfort zone and feel really confident. It was the first time I was willing to even get undressed in front of someone [at a shoot]. I’m learning to accept myself. I’m still in the process of learning to love who I am. And it’s been really refreshing and really nice to be able to do that and be okay. I think my fans have brought that out in me.”

The subject of confidence is one she tackles most directly in her empowerment anthem, “Hotter Than Hell,” which she wrote about a former flame who made her feel like she was never good enough. After a televised performance in Sweden, one fan came up to her with a letter thanking her for making her “feel hotter than hell,” a sentiment that reverberated deeply with Lipa. “Now when I sing it, I don’t think of the person [I wrote it about], but how it helped me get over that. And to see that something that was so therapeutic for me made someone else feel good.”

It’s this newfound confidence, coupled with her raw, unfalsifiable voice, that will ultimately be Lipa’s most powerful weapons in proving herself to an industry that is immediately skeptical of any artist who appears too perfect to be true. (Just look at Del Rey, who had to prove her authenticity after being deemed too manufactured.) Luckily, Lipa knows this: “I want people to know that music has always been my one and only goal. I want them to know that everything else comes secondary, that I’m an artist first before anything else.”

Dua Lipa's self-titled album is out June 2 from Warner Bros. Records. This story appears in V105, on stands Thursday, available for pre-order here. View the full photo shoot in the slideshow below.

DRESS LOUIS VUITTON, BOOTS MANOLO BLAHNIK, EARRINGS TIFFANY & C0., GOLD RING (THROUGHOUT) JENNIFER FISHER. ON EYES: M.A.C. DAZZLESHADOW IN SHE SPARKLES. ON LIPS: M.A.C. MINERALIZE RICH LIPSTICK IN CYBERNAUT. ON NAILS: ESSIE NAIL POLISH IN LEGGY LEGEND.
Credits: MAKEUP YADIM (ART PARTNER) HAIR CHRISTIAAN  MANICURE GINA VIVIANO (ARTISTS BY TIMOTHY PRIANO) SET DESIGN JULIA WAGNER  PRODUCTION GABRIEL HILL AND ROGER DONG (GE PROJECTS)  DIGITAL TECHNICIAN JAKOB STORM PHOTO ASSISTANTS ALEX WALTL, PATRICK ROXAS, WILLIAM TAKAHASHI  STYLIST ASSISTANT BIANCA RAGGI MAKEUP ASSISTANT JANESSA PARE AND AYA WATANABE SET DESIGN ASSISTANTS MELISSA LIVAUDAIS AND DYLAN BAILEY  PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS STEFAN CHRISTOPHER, STEPHAN WERK, GUS POTTER, DAVID KING ON-SET RETOUCHING LIAM BLACK LOCATION PIER 59 STUDIOS  CATERING DISHFUL

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