Dua Lipa’s Career Success Is No Accident

Dua Lipa has a talent for disappearing quickly and efficiently. In her song “Levitating”, she sings about someone with little patience for superficial gestures who will vanish if a potential partner doesn’t make a strong effort. In the large LA studio where we met in February, Lipa performed a different kind of disappearing act – she appeared very suddenly when it was time for us to chat, and was gone just as abruptly 45 minutes later. Her swift entrance and exit should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed her fast pace over the past few years. Yes, Lipa is a global superstar who has had great success and appeared in movies, but she has only been able to produce so much because she makes excellent use of every minute. The human behind the hype seems to have a plan for everything – since the beginning of her career, she has taken a 24 hour day and stretched it like taffy, carefully considering next steps and turning ideas into actions.

“Since I was very little, I’ve jotted down things I dreamt for myself,” the English-Albanian singer and songwriter says in an interview after her photo shoot. “I’ve always planned ahead. Although surprises arise that I evaluate in the moment, there’s always a long-term goal.”

Sitting with her legs crossed in a black Jacquemus minidress, her red-tinted hair falling in loose waves around her face, Lipa speaks precisely, carefully considering each question before answering. Pop stars, especially those with incredibly successful careers, are often accused of being calculating. But in person, Lipa comes across as intensely thoughtful, whether she’s revealing what’s in store on Radical Optimism or sharing travel tips (pack light, bring books) and, in keeping with her one-time modeling career, poised. “It’s important to just write things down,” she says. “You never know what could come true.”

Does Lipa believe in the power of manifestation? Absolutely. “Manifesting is a big thing for me,” she admits. “I stand very firmly in the belief of putting things into the world. Subconsciously, you just work towards them. Nothing’s ever too big.”

Though Lipa chuckles at her younger self declaring her plans to take over the world, it’s hard to deny her stratospheric rise. Lipa was born in London in 1995 to Kosovo-Albanian parents Anesa and Dukagjin Lipa, who left Pristina as refugees in the early ‘90s. When Lipa was 11, her family moved back to Kosovo — a few years later, Lipa would persuade her parents to allow her to return to London to pursue a career in music.

While attending theater school as a teenager, Lipa started uploading covers to YouTube and SoundCloud, juggled restaurant and nightclub server gigs, and signed with a modeling agency. In 2013, Lipa got her first job singing — a version of Sister Sledge’s “Lost in Music” for a televised X Factor ad — which led to a publishing deal with TaP Music, and later, a record deal with Warner Bros. (Last fall, Lipa bought her publishing rights back and left TaP’s artist roster.)

Lipa’s glimmering debut single, “New Love,” dropped in 2015, and was quickly followed up by the rhythmic “Be the One.” She rolled out more singles — “Hotter Than Hell” and “Blow Your Mind (Mwah)” — plus a dynamic collaboration with Sean Paul (“No Lie”) in 2016. By summer 2017, Lipa would finally unveil her self-titled studio debut.

Following the success of Dua Lipa, which earned her five nominations at the 2018 Brit Awards (she won British Breakthrough Act and British Female Solo Artist), Lipa unleashed her Future Nostalgia, a shimmering, modernist take on the ‘70s genre which won her the Brit Award for British Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards.

Lipa’s success led to her involvement in Barbie. Her jubilant “Dance the Night,” which she co-wrote, soundtracks a pivotal scene in the film. (The film also features a cameo from the pop singer as mermaid Barbie.) Earlier this year, Lipa appeared in the spy film Argylle, where she plays a Bond-esque villain named LaGrange. “I loved being on set,” Lipa says. “I love the idea of embodying a different character and having an assignment. I also love when I go to a photo shoot, and I can completely change up my look. It gives me like a different persona.”

To honor her roots, Lipa is equally committed to shifting how her Western fanbase might perceive countries like Kosovo and Albania. “When people think about Kosovo, I don’t want them to be like, ‘Oh, war-torn Kosovo.’ There’s so much more to it,” she says. “We do a festival in Pristina, me and my dad, that’s about getting people from all over the world to come down and see how different it is to what they expect — whether that’s artists from all around the world, or fans that come in to see artists they love from neighboring countries. I know when I was living in Kosovo, none of my favorite artists were coming there. It is my biggest dream to be able to bring that to the kids there.”

For the time being, however, Lipa’s primary focus is getting her third album out the door. Naturally, she envisioned what it would sound like years in advance. “I remember when I was working on my first album, I was making notes on what my third album was going to be,” Lipa says. “It’s mad to think about, but I remember speaking to my close friend and A&R Joe [Kentish], ‘Maybe album three, I could work with [Tame Impala’s] Kevin Parker,’ and he was like, ‘Alright, hold your horses, let’s take baby steps.’”Lipa’s theory at the time was that if her first two albums were well received, “maybe I’d be deserving to be in a room with an artist I so deeply admire and look up to.” Not only is Tame Impala’s Parker a producer on the 11-track project, but Lipa assembled a tight-knit team of alt/indie-pop luminaries, including longtime co-writer Caroline Ailin, Danny L Harle, and Tobias Jesso Jr., to be in the studio with her.

“The record as a whole is more mature,” Lipa shares of her latest work, which features the singles “Houdini,” “Training Season,” and “Illusion.” Describing the album as being heavily influenced by ‘80s Scottish rockers Primal Scream and famed English trip-hop collective Massive Attack (a noted divergence from the mirrorball-spinning Future Nostalgia), she continues: “I’m definitely not the same person I was when I wrote my first album. I’ve evolved and learned so much… taking it as it comes, not seeing anything as bad or something as a setback. That in