BRIT Awards 2021: How Dua Lipa came back to the UK at 14 to become a star

Dua Lipa dominated the Brit Awards last night, walking away with the best female solo artist and the coveted best album gongs.

At just 25 years old, the stylish songstress has firmly established herself as one of Britain’s biggest pop stars – realising a dream that started when she was a primary schoolgirl in Camden.

Born in London to Kosovar-Albanian parents who fled conflict and political instability in the Balkans, Dua attended a small state primary school and had her first taste of performing while taking Saturday classes at the world-renowned Sylvia Young Theatre School.

After spending a few years in Pristina after her father’s job as a marketing manager took them back to his native Kosovo, Dua bravely decided to return to the UK alone at the age of 14 in pursuit of her dreams of pop stardom. 

In 2014, after achieving 4 A-Levels at a Camden all-girls sixth form college, the talented teenager had signed with Warner Bros. Records. 

Now, just seven years later, she is preparing to tour the world with a No.1 album – and has picked up three Grammy awards, an Evian brand ambassadorship and a celebrity boyfriend in Anwar Hadid along the way. 

Golden girl: Dua Lipa dominated the Brit Awards last night, walking away with the best female solo artist and the coveted best album gongs

Golden girl: Dua Lipa dominated the Brit Awards last night, walking away with the best female solo artist and the coveted best album gongs

Golden girl: Dua Lipa dominated the Brit Awards last night, walking away with the best female solo artist and the coveted best album gongs

Humble beginnings: Born in London to Kosovar-Albanian parents who fled conflict and political instability in the Balkans, Dua has realised a childhood dream of becoming a star

Humble beginnings: Born in London to Kosovar-Albanian parents who fled conflict and political instability in the Balkans, Dua has realised a childhood dream of becoming a star

Humble beginnings: Born in London to Kosovar-Albanian parents who fled conflict and political instability in the Balkans, Dua has realised a childhood dream of becoming a star

Breaking into the industry: Dua started by recording YouTube covers at home, pictured

Breaking into the industry: Dua started by recording YouTube covers at home, pictured

Breaking into the industry: Dua started by recording YouTube covers at home, pictured 

Famous friends: Dua Lipa and Rita Ora's grandfathers (left and right, respectively) enjoying a drink in Kosovo in the 1960s in a throwback image, which has been circulating social media

Famous friends: Dua Lipa and Rita Ora's grandfathers (left and right, respectively) enjoying a drink in Kosovo in the 1960s in a throwback image, which has been circulating social media

Famous friends: Dua Lipa and Rita Ora’s grandfathers (left and right, respectively) enjoying a drink in Kosovo in the 1960s in a throwback image, which has been circulating social media

Born in London in 1995, Dua is the eldest daughter of Dukagjin Lipa and his wife, Anesa, who is of Bosnian and Kosovan descent.

Dukagjin, a former rocker who shares his daughter’s love of music, is the son of well-known historian Seit Lipa, who served as head of the Kosovo Institute of History. 

‘Once the Serbians came in, they wanted a lot of the historians to rewrite the history of Kosovo,’ Lipa told the Observer in 2018.

‘To change it – that Kosovo was always part of Serbia and never part of Yugoslavia.

‘And my grandfather was one of those people who wouldn’t, so he lost his job, because he didn’t want to write a history that he didn’t believe to be true.’ 

He was an acquaintance of Besim Sahatçiu, the late grandfather of pop star Rita Ora, who was born in Pristina. This week Dukagjin shared a photo of the two men enjoying lunch together in the 1960s.

Proud parents: Born in London in 1995, Dua is the eldest daughter of Dukagjin Lipa and his wife, Anesa, who is of Bosnian and Kosovan descent

Proud parents: Born in London in 1995, Dua is the eldest daughter of Dukagjin Lipa and his wife, Anesa, who is of Bosnian and Kosovan descent

Proud parents: Born in London in 1995, Dua is the eldest daughter of Dukagjin Lipa and his wife, Anesa, who is of Bosnian and Kosovan descent

Young love: Dukagjin was training to be a dentist and Anesa a lawyer before leaving Kosovo but they gave up their professions to flee their home country in search of somewhere safer

Young love: Dukagjin was training to be a dentist and Anesa a lawyer before leaving Kosovo but they gave up their professions to flee their home country in search of somewhere safer

Young love: Dukagjin was training to be a dentist and Anesa a lawyer before leaving Kosovo but they gave up their professions to flee their home country in search of somewhere safer

Big sister: Dua Lipa is big sister to Rina, now 17, a model, and Gjin, 15, who has a 190,000-strong Instagram following. Pictured, with younger sister Rina as a little girl

Big sister: Dua Lipa is big sister to Rina, now 17, a model, and Gjin, 15, who has a 190,000-strong Instagram following. Pictured, with younger sister Rina as a little girl

Big sister: Dua Lipa is big sister to Rina, now 17, a model, and Gjin, 15, who has a 190,000-strong Instagram following. Pictured, with younger sister Rina as a little girl

Primary school: Dua attended Fitzjohn's Primary School, a local community school in Camden

Primary school: Dua attended Fitzjohn's Primary School, a local community school in Camden

Primary school: Dua attended Fitzjohn’s Primary School, a local community school in Camden

Young star: Dua her first taste of performing while taking Saturday classes at the world-renowned Sylvia Young Theatre School. Pictured, as a young girl

Young star: Dua her first taste of performing while taking Saturday classes at the world-renowned Sylvia Young Theatre School. Pictured, as a young girl

Young star: Dua her first taste of performing while taking Saturday classes at the world-renowned Sylvia Young Theatre School. Pictured, as a young girl

Seit died of a heart attack in 1999, the year the Kosovo War ended. Besim died in 2005. 

Dukagjin was training to be a dentist and Anesa a lawyer before leaving Kosovo but they gave up their professions to flee their home country in search of somewhere safer to raise a family.

They settled in Hampstead, north London. After Dua, whose name means ‘love’ in Albanian, came daughter Rina, now 17, a model, and son Gjin, 15, who has a 190,000-strong Instagram following. 

To earn money, Dukagjin and Anesa picked up jobs waiting tables at cafes and bars. Her father took night classes in business and Anesa retrained in travel and tourism. 

‘I’ve seen my parents work every day of my life,’ said Dua, who attended Fitzjohn’s Primary School, a local community school. ‘While I was going to school they were going to school.’

When Dua was 11, Dukagjin finished his business course and was offered a job in Pristina as a marketing manager. 

Family: Dua Lipa, left, with her parents and younger siblings in New York in 2019

Family: Dua Lipa, left, with her parents and younger siblings in New York in 2019

Family: Dua Lipa, left, with her parents and younger siblings in New York in 2019

Seeking stardom: At the age of 14 Dua returned to the UK with her parents permission, moving in with an older family friend in Camden who was studying for a master's degree. Pictured, a young Dua showcases her singing skills at a talent show

Seeking stardom: At the age of 14 Dua returned to the UK with her parents permission, moving in with an older family friend in Camden who was studying for a master's degree. Pictured, a young Dua showcases her singing skills at a talent show

Seeking stardom: At the age of 14 Dua returned to the UK with her parents permission, moving in with an older family friend in Camden who was studying for a master’s degree. Pictured, a young Dua showcases her singing skills at a talent show

Dua enrolled at Parliament Hill School, a comprehensive all-girls secondary school and sixth form where she achieved four A-Levels in Politics, Psychology, English and Media Studies

Dua enrolled at Parliament Hill School, a comprehensive all-girls secondary school and sixth form where she achieved four A-Levels in Politics, Psychology, English and Media Studies

Dua enrolled at Parliament Hill School, a comprehensive all-girls secondary school and sixth form where she achieved four A-Levels in Politics, Psychology, English and Media Studies

The young family moved to the Kosovan capital where Dua, who spoke Albanian but could not read or write, initially struggled with her studies. 

It was in Pristina that Dua also truly fell in love with music, particularly the US hip hop that was so popular in the city. 

She began writing and recording songs but believed she needed to move back to London if she wanted to break the international market.  

Showcasing extraordinary maturity, at the age of 14 Dua returned to the UK with her parents permission, moving in with an older family friend in Camden who was studying for a master’s degree. 

Dua enrolled at Parliament Hill School, a comprehensive all-girls secondary school and sixth form where she achieved four A-Levels in Politics, Psychology, English and Media Studies.

Despite the distance, Dua remained close to her family and her mother even flew to London for parents’ evenings. 

Finding fame: Dua has taken home a total of three Grammys. Pictured, at the 2019 awards

Finding fame: Dua has taken home a total of three Grammys. Pictured, at the 2019 awards

Finding fame: Dua has taken home a total of three Grammys. Pictured, at the 2019 awards

Celebrity beau: Dua has been dating Anwar Hadid, brother of Gigi and Bella, since 2019

Celebrity beau: Dua has been dating Anwar Hadid, brother of Gigi and Bella, since 2019

Celebrity beau: Dua has been dating Anwar Hadid, brother of Gigi and Bella, since 2019

Alongside school and the odd modelling job for ASOS and Topshop, the teenager was taking weekend classes at Sylvia Young Theatre School, whose alumni include Billie Piper, Amy Winehouse and Keeley Hawes, and filming covers of pop songs for YouTube and SoundCloud.

Eventually her videos caught the eye of Ben Mawson at Tap Management, which represents Ellie Goulding, Lana Del Rey and Little Mix’s Leigh-Ann Pinnock.

Her original song Hotter Than Hell, which appeared on her self-titled debut album, led to her signing with Warner Bros. Records in 2014.

She released her debut single New Love in August 2015, the same month she turned 20. It was followed by Be The One, which went platinum in Australia, and Hotter Than Hell, which reached No.15 in the UK Singles Charts. 

Remarkably, Dua’s first No.1 came just four years ago with catchy summer pop anthem New Rules, which was turned down by a number of acts including Little Mix before being brought to Dua. 

Hometown hero! A mural in Pristina celebrating Dua Lipa's continued success

Hometown hero! A mural in Pristina celebrating Dua Lipa's continued success

Hometown hero! A mural in Pristina celebrating Dua Lipa’s continued success

The song was from her 2017 debut album which reached No.3 in the UK Album Charts.

The following year the singer became the first female artist to be nominated for five BRIT Awards at the age of just 22. She won two. 

The awards kept on coming. Her 2018 single One Kiss with Calvin Harris peaked at No.1 in the UK and won her the 2019 BRIT Award for Song of the Year. 

In March 2020 Dua released her second album Future Nostalgia, which topped the charts in 15 countries including the UK. Dua has also won three Grammy Awards and one American Music Award. 

Away from the spotlight, Dua remains close to her family and is dating Anwar Hadid, the 21-year-old younger brother of supermodels Bella and Gigi.

The couple began dating in 2019 and have travelled the world together, including spending time in Kosovo and at the Hadid’s family farm in Pennsylvania. 

Charity work: Dua Lipa poses with children on a visit to Lebanon with Unicef in April 2019

Charity work: Dua Lipa poses with children on a visit to Lebanon with Unicef in April 2019

Charity work: Dua Lipa poses with children on a visit to Lebanon with Unicef in April 2019

Close family: Dua with her mother Anesa, brother Gjin, sister Rina and father Dukagjin in 2019

Close family: Dua with her mother Anesa, brother Gjin, sister Rina and father Dukagjin in 2019

Close family: Dua with her mother Anesa, brother Gjin, sister Rina and father Dukagjin in 2019

Red carpet glamour: Dua with Anwar Hadid at the 2020 Grammy Awards in Los Angeles

Red carpet glamour: Dua with Anwar Hadid at the 2020 Grammy Awards in Los Angeles

Red carpet glamour: Dua with Anwar Hadid at the 2020 Grammy Awards in Los Angeles

Dua, who says she feels both Kosovan and British, also co-founded the Sunny Hill Foundation with her father, who now heads up Republika Communications Agency, based in Bucharest. 

The Foundation has given away 100,000 euros to charities and cultural events in Kosovo and runs the Sunny Hill Festival, which was headlined by Dua Lipa in 2018.  

Speaking to Line Of Best Fit, she said: ‘I feel very proud to be from both places and I feel like I represent both places.

‘In Kosovo, the second that you do something and you’re making these moves around the world, you’re instantly a key person there. 

‘So if someone’s like “oh, where’s Kosovo?” people say “it’s in-between Italy and Greece, but Rita Ora’s from there, Dua Lipa’s from there.” 

‘They start talking about it and it’s a thing that you become proud of. You instantly feel responsible about the image you portray and the way you represent your place.’ 

Link hienalouca.com

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