Rita Ora is sweet, sassy and a whole lot of fun

As Rita Ora gets ready to make her debut on The Voice UK, she tells Kate Whiting why her flirty manner is ideal for the show.

IN the first episode of the new series of The Voice UK, Rita Ora is so amazed by a singing firefighter, she slips off her chair and collapses on the floor in pure delight.

Whether she spins her chair around for him or not, you’ll have to wait and see — but the newest coach on the block has wasted no time in making an impact.

“Rita’s brought a sassy naughtiness with her,” says the show’s host, Emma Willis.

The lady herself, who replaces Kylie as the only female coach, was looking super-sassy at the show’s launch, her long blonde hair slicked back at the sides. She was rocking a pink tux jacket over a black leather cami.

At 24, she’s the youngest in the line-up and takes her place in the now-famous, high-backed red chairs, between Tom Jones, a good 50 years her senior, and her friend and collaborator, will.i.am, 39, who’s a big part of the reason she’s there.

“Will’s so sweet,” says Ora. “He’s been my soldier, since I first met him. He was the first famous guy I ever worked with, back in 2008. He had a lot to do with convincing me to do it, and now I’m really grateful, because I love the show.”

She wasn’t, as all the headlines have it, ever offered a role as a judge on The X Factor. “Being a guest judge on X Factor was awesome,” she says, “but it’s about The Voice now and I committed to this show, because not only did it work for me, work-wise, but I love Will. He’s my good friend and it felt necessary to join something I was really comfortable with.

“I never actually got offered a job on X Factor, so I never turned Simon Cowell down. It’s not like that at all — this just worked really well for me.”

Ora has had four number-one hits, and an acting part as Christian Grey’s sister in this year’s Fifty Shades Of Grey movie, but she was nervous about The Voice, at first. “I didn’t know what to expect, but I’m really excited, because this is the moment to really show people what I’m like — fun, outspoken, and I try to make people feel comfortable,” she says.

That involves flirting a little. “It’s always harmless. I like to make people feel comfortable, regardless of the situation. No-one really did that for me and I wish they did, so it’s about cracking the ice, so they can do what they came here to do, which was to blow us away,” says Ora, who was born in the then Yugoslavia, but moved to the UK when she was a baby, with her family.

Some of this year’s contestants do ‘blow them away’, while others aren’t so lucky — in the first episode of blind auditions, there’s a 24-year-old Irish opera singer, the firefighter, who is Scottish, and Kym Marsh’s 16-year-old daughter, Emilie.

The format is the same as last year’s. First, the blind auditions: the coaches can only hear the singer and have to decide whether to hit their button and spin their chair around. Then the battle rounds: the coaches pair their acts up to sing together. Then, the knockouts: teams are whittled down to three and the finalists face the public vote.

Since the show started, in 2012, there have been three winners, but none of them have made much of an impact on the music scene — yet. Last year’s winner, Jermain Jackman, is set to release his debut album in March.

“The show needs to produce a star,” says will.i.am. “Not for credibility, the show is already credible, but if it was able to produce a star it would legitimise the whole talent search contest.”

But even with an album deal, warns Jones, there’s no “guarantee of a hit record”, and the winners still have a lot of hard work ahead of them.

“When you get a record contract, that’s just the first step. We all hope for hit records — I still do and I’ve been in it for a long time. ”

Whether The Voice of 2015 will produce a superstar remains to be seen, but one thing’s certain: it’s going to be one hell of an entertaining ride.

  • The Voice UK begins on BBC One tomorrow at 7pm


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