Last night, the singer — who has been touring her blockbuster album Future Nostalgia all over the world since February — met with Albania’s president, Barjam Begaj. As part of the country’s 110th anniversary of declaring independence from the Ottoman Empire, Lipa was officially granted Albanian citizenship.
“Happy to give the one and only Dua Lipa the decree of Albanian citizenship,” said Begaj in a statement. “She has made us proud with her global career and engagement in important social causes.”
Lipa returned the love, tweeting: “Thank you President Bajram Begaj and Mayor @erionveliaj for this honour ~ got my Albanian citizenship!!” She then posted a photo as she posed with the Albanian flag on Monday (November 28), ahead of the final show of her Future Nostalgia tour in Tirana.
Although the 27-year-old was born in England, she spoke Albanian as her first language growing up, as her parents are half Albanian, and spent a two-year stint in the country after finishing primary school. 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.”
With six Brit Awards, three Grammys, two Guinness World Records for most tickets sold for a live-streamed concert by a solo female artist, and most monthly listeners on Spotify for a female artist, Albania has every right to be proud of Lipa. From her YouTube beginnings to sold-out arena world tour, here’s how Dua Lipa became Britain’s biggest pop star.
Her yo-yo childhood between London and Albania
Lipa was born in London in 1995, to Anesa and Dukagjin Lipa, who migrated from Kosovo two years prior due to the war in Bosnia. "My mum is half Bosnian, so her mum was in Sarajevo at the time, but they moved to London as the situation started getting really difficult in ex-Yugoslavia,” Lipa told the American news service NPR. “Something that people forget all the time is, people don’t really want to leave their country unless they really have to. It’s really out of necessity.”
They arrived in Camden as refugees and her father studied dentistry while her mother studied law alongside their waiting jobs. This instilled a strong work ethic in the future pop star. “They had to work very hard, waiting tables and studying in the evening and believing that you make your own luck,” she told Vogue in 2021.
In 2006, Lipa’s parents felt it was safe enough to return to their home country and decided to bring an 11-year-old Lipa and her younger siblings, sister Rina and brother Gjin, back to Kosovo. “I was returning to a place where I almost already felt I belonged. It was really exciting for me to get to go to a place where also I felt, in some way, I would be more normal,” she told Vanity Fair in a 2021 interview. However, it soon became apparent that her language skills weren’t good enough to thrive in school, and Lipa had dreams which she knew she needed to be in London to fulfil.
Deep down, I wanted to have that Justin Bieber effect, where someone would find me on YouTube!
Dua Lipa, on hoping for stardom
From uploading song covers on YouTube to getting her big break
Inspired by her father who had been in a rock band called Oda and often played the likes of David Bowie, Prince, and Bob Dylan in the house, Lipa knew she wanted to be a pop star from an early age. "My father was a musician, and music was always played around the house, so it just always kind of had a big impact on me,” she shared with Holr magazine. In fact, she wrote her first song around the age of four.
At 14, she began posting covers of her favourite songs by artists such as P!nk and Nelly Furtado on YouTube. “Deep down, I wanted to have that Justin Bieber effect, where someone would find me on YouTube!” she told the BBC in a 2020 interview. She then begged her family to allow her to move back to London by herself.
They finally caved in a year later. Another girl from her home city was also moving to the UK’s capital, which meant they would be able to flatshare in Kilburn. So, at jus 15 years of age, Lipa began studying at Parliament Hill School and at her former weekend stage school, Sylvia Young (which also taught Amy Winehouse and Rita Ora), while living without any parental supervision. But the gamble quickly paid off.
Like many pop stars, she got her start on X-Factor — although Lipa never actually appeared on the reality TV contest. Instead, she sang the hit show’s commercial, which led to her being offered a music publishing deal. Lipa contacted a lawyer for advice on the deal, who then put her in touch with Lana Del Rey’s managers, Ed Millett and Ben Mawson of Tap Management, whom she later signed with.
Tap Management sent her for two years of intensive recording sessions, where she laid down around 130 songs. During this period, they held off on signing her to a record label, to allow her time to develop as an artist.
“I’ve always been very much in control of my music and my image and I think one of the things I’ve been lucky about is I didn’t bring a label on board until I really figured out who I was,” she told Harper’s Bazaar. “I just needed to find a team that believed in my idea and my dream, and that made things way easier because I never had to deal with the thing of people wanting to change me or wanting to make me sing songs that aren’t really for me because I already had such a clear idea of what I wanted to do.”
Becoming one of the biggest pop stars in the world
In 2015, Lipa signed to Warner Music Group and, by August that year, she had released her first single, New Love. However, it was her second single Be the One, released two months, later that catapulted her into stardom. The song reached number one in Belgium, Poland, and Slovakia, as well as charting within the top 10 in more than 11 European countries. In Australia and New Zealand, the song also became a radio hit, reaching numbers six and 20 respectively. What’s more, her follow-up singles only took her from strength to strength.
At the start of 2016, she began touring the UK and Europe and released her third single Last Dance, followed by Hotter than Hell – the track that properly broke Lipa into the mainstream. Later that summer, the release of Blow Your Mind brought her success in America, winning her an appearance on Tonight with Jimmy Fallon.
Lipa spoke to ABC News, explaining her response to the massive success she achieved with record sales and streams. “It’s terrifying! I can’t even say it myself. I don’t even want to say it out loud! It’s really exciting but it’s also crazy as a new artist to have that happen because artists that are much bigger in the industry have a lot more leverage.”
In 2017, she released her debut self-titled album and it broke back-to-back records. The lead single, New Rules, earned her her first Number One single, while the music video for it made her the youngest female artist in history to hit one billion views on YouTube. All in all, she was named Spotify’s most-streamed female artist in the UK, with other singles like IDGAF and Lost in Your Light going platinum.
Cementing her status during Covid
At the beginning of March 2020, Lipa was gearing up to release Future Nostalgia when disaster struck. Her highly awaited album leaked online just as the world was shutting down due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which put her in a precarious situation. Although many other artists were putting their work on pause, believing that the pandemic was the worst possible time to put out music, Lipa was forced to release Future Nostalgia a week early.
The gambit paid off. Despite the departure from her signature “dark pop” sound to all-out dance bangers that were begging to be heard in clubs, Future Nostalgia nonetheless thrived amid quarantine. Lipa became the top female artist on Spotify’s listening charts the week her album came out, with her at-home roll-out including live Zoom performances on Jimmy Fallon and self-shot Vogue cover stories. Tours were off the table so, in November 2020, Lipa live-streamed the concert Studio 2054, which included guest appearances by Kylie Minogue, Bad Bunny, and Elton John. More than five million people watched, which set a Guinness World Record for the most paid views ever.
All in all, the album received six nominations at the 63rd Grammy Awards, and won for Best Pop Vocal Album. Moreover, she has just wrapped the delayed Future Nostalgia tour, which included 97 shows over five continents.
Finding her voice for causes close to her heart
Though her music isn’t explicit on the topic, Lipa has always been willing to speak out about causes close to her heart, with the pop star crediting her political convictions down to her time in Pristina. “It mainly came because of my roots in Kosovo, and wanting to take a stand on that and talk about that and the refugee situation. And then, slowly starting to understand how, you know, the politics of war, how that all happens, why so many children are displaced,” she told Vanity Fair. “Things stemmed from a personal experience into then wanting to learn more and trying to also be a voice for lots of other people.”
With her father, Lipa created the Sunny Hill Foundation, an organisation that assists younger people, in Kosovo, in 2016. Since its inception, the foundation has given away 100,000 euros to charities and cultural events in Kosovo, and thrice hosted the Sunny Hill Festival, which was headlined by Dua Lipa in 2018.
We want to give peole a sense of belonging
Dua Lipa, on her Sunny Hill Festival
“We want to give people a sense of belonging, of European living and the idea that we are part of Europe,” Dukagjin told the Observer ahead of the Sunny Hill Festival opening. “This is the greatest way to promote Kosovo as a peace-loving and music-loving country that welcomes all our neighbours and all visitors who want to have fun.” For her work with the foundation, Lipa was named an honorary ambassador of Kosovo by Republic of Kosovo president Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu.
I look forward to visiting Qatar when it has fulfilled all the human-rights pledges it made when it won the right to host the World Cup
Dua Lipa, on the World Cup
Lipa has also shared her support for abortion rights, women’s rights, Black Lives Matter, and LGBTQ rights, and most recently refused to perform at the QatarWorld Cup. “There is currently a lot of speculation that I will be performing at the opening ceremony of the World Cup in Qatar,” she wrote in a statement posted to Instagram. “I will not be performing and nor have I ever been involved in any negotiation to perform. I will be cheering England on from afar and I look forward to visiting Qatar when it has fulfilled all the human-rights pledges it made when it won the right to host the World Cup.”
As for what’s next, in an interview with Vanity Fair, Lipa brought up acting or wine-making as things she might one day try, but emphasised that music remains her focus. “I want to solidify myself as an artist in that aspect first, before anything else,” she said. “For now, I just wanna make sure the music is good.”