The Stunning Transformation Of Dua Lipa

Dua Lipa has been making headlines across the globe since the release of her single "Hotter Than Hell" in 2016. Before she'd even released her debut album, she had risen to fame in her parents' home country of Kosovo, driven by a love of hip-hop and her own creative intuition. By 2018, she'd been recognized by the Brit Awards as the top British Female Solo Artist and British Breakthrough Act. She's won Grammys and has had many songs on the Billboard Hot 100 list... and she doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

You may not have heard of her until the late 2010s, but the Future Nostalgia singer has been making music for most of her life. She comes from a creative family and has collaborated with many of the industry's elite such as Calvin Harris and Martin Garrix, but she's developed a style and sound that's all her own — and she's come so far! Here's a peek into the stunning transformation of Dua Lipa.

Dua Lipa was born in London

In 1995, Dua Lipa was born to parents Anesa and Dukagjin Lipa in London. While her parents "worked as waiters in cafes and bars," her father was also studying business, while her mother trained in travel and tourism, according to The Guardian. Just a few years earlier, though, her parents' lives had been very different.

In 1992, Anesa and Dukagjin fled their native Kosovo when "war came." Dukagjin's father, Seit Lipa, led the Kosovo Institute of History at the time conflict developed. Dua Lipa recalled to The Guardian, "Once the Serbians came in, they wanted a lot of the historians to rewrite the history ... 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."

Before this time, Dua Lipa's father was pursuing a career in dentistry and her mother had begun to study law. But moving to London meant that both of the Lipas had to give up their careers to make ends meet for their growing family. 

A penchant for music runs in Dua Lipa's family

While growing up in London, Dua Lipa had a very musical childhood. She credits this to her parents, especially her father, who always had music playing at home, as she told ABC News. Her dad, Dukagjin Lipa, had been a singer in a rock band called Oda before relocating from Kosovo to London. 

But in an interview with Harper's Bazaar, Lipa revealed that, despite growing up in a creative and musical home, her parents never pressured her to pursue music. Instead, it came naturally to the young performer, who would often put on DIY concerts for her parents' dinner guests.

Lipa's parents have remained her biggest fans. Later in life, when she chose to pursue music instead of university, they were skeptical but supportive of her decision, according to Harper's Bazaar. They travel with her whenever they can, keeping her grounded to her roots in both London and Kosovo. "Both places are part of me," she told Elle. "So much of what I do is in twos. ... I feel like my dual heritage, being from two places at once, with all of those things trickling into the other, is what makes me, me."

Dua Lipa moved from London to Kosovo

Because she was already immersed in her heritage, Dua Lipa was excited to move with her family to Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, in the 2000s (via The Guardian). She admitted to Clash that, despite speaking Albanian, she couldn't read or write proficiently when she started school in Pristina. Dua Lipa –– whose first name means "love" in Albanian, according to The Cut –– found herself the new girl at a school in a new country.

While living in Kosovo, Lipa learned about the horrors that took place in the region in the 1990s. She confessed to The Line of Best Fit, "It didn't affect my family as much but going to school with people who were very, very badly affected by the war, who lost a lot of family members, or their homes, you really get an insight into the situation." When the Lipas moved to Pristina in the 2000s, though, the area was much safer than the London neighborhood where they had previously lived. This allowed Lipa to go out with friends and explore the city, as she told The Line of Best Fit, bringing her even closer to her heritage.

Dua Lipa fell in love of hip-hop

While living in Kosovo, Dua Lipa was introduced to hip-hop, which was gaining traction in the country in the early 2000s. Seeing American artists on a Kosovar stage was a big deal for Lipa and her friends, as she recalled to The Line of Best Fit. She started going to concerts at the age of 13.

After attending her first concert, a Method Man & Redman show, Lipa's love for music continued to blossom. In 2019, she told Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show that she soon discovered rappers such as 50 Cent (her second concert) and Snoop Dogg. "Basically, in Kosovo, people only really listen to hip-hop," she said in that interview. "It's so massive out there. I guess the only artists there was such demand for were hip-hop artists."

Fallon was quick to note how cool her parents were for letting her attend a Wu-Tang concert at such a young age. As Lipa revealed to The Line of Best Fit, her father worked for a telecom company which helped bring popular concerts to Kosovo. 

Dua Lipa headed out on her own at age 15

Although she had enjoyed living in Kosovo, Dua Lipa quickly realized that the UK was the better place to pursue a music career. She explained to The Line of Best Fit how small the music industry in Pristina really was. "It's so small you send a CD to the radio station and give CDs to your friends and the song would be played on the radio, a lot of it was word of mouth," she said. In order to go global, she decided, she would need a bigger market for her music.

At the age of 15, she moved back to London, completely on her own. She moved in with an older friend who attended graduate school, which made Lipa's parents feel much safer about the move –– even though this friend was only vaguely responsible, Lipa admitted to Evening Standard. In London, she continued school, finishing her education while attending the Sylvia Young Theatre School and Parliament Hill girls' school, as noted by NME and Evening Standard. Soon enough, though, she decided to focus on music full time.

Dua Lipa's start on social media

In her teens, Dua Lipa took to YouTube. At the time, social media seemed to be the easiest way to reach an audience. She told ABC News that she had hoped for what she called a "Justin Bieber effect," as Bieber had rocketed to stardom through YouTube. But she instead built a formal portfolio to show off her skills. Soon enough, though, she began receiving messages from producers offering her the use of their studios. Eventually, TAP Music, the agency that represents Lana Del Rey, discovered Lipa and her unique voice, according to Evening Standardand offered her management.

At the time, she had no idea what kind of sound she wanted her songs to have, but that didn't stop the melodies from flowing. "When I started writing, I was really figuring out who I was and what I wanted it to sound like," she told ABC News. "It's a form of a 'Dear Diary' for me." She told Clash she wanted to sound like a combination of J. Cole and Nelly Furtado, a style she now calls "dark pop."

Dua Lipa stopped modeling for this reason

When she was 16, Dua Lipa began modeling for the ASOS Marketplace online catalogue, according to Evening Standard. This was a short-lived career, though, once she realized that the industry's values did not match her own. A manager told her she would have to lose weight, but Lipa admitted that she would rather eat junk food than be a runway model. "The only reason I'm in this is to make contacts," she told The Fader. "I just really want to eat Krispy Kreme."

Although she had the courage to tackle modeling as a teenager, the singer hasn't always been the most confident. She confided to Fuse, "Body confidence issues have definitely played a big role in my life and having that has made me change my mindset. ... Being true to who you are is so important and being able to use your voice to empower that is great."

Because she started modeling for the sake of making connections, missing out on the catwalk didn't break her heart.

Dua Lipa hit the pop music scene

Before she truly found fame, Dua Lipa had a more stripped-back and laidback sound. Her song "New Love" premiered in August 2015, along with a music video that looks like it came straight from her Instagram feed.

On the track, Lipa sings about wanting to find a new love because she's found it to be "harder and harder to breathe." She wrote in an email to The Fader, "'New Love' might sound like a classic tale of unrequited love. ... But at the time I was writing this song it was about finding my place in an industry that often seems to neither want nor need you. This is a song about facing the fear of losing the only thing that matters to you."

While her debut single may have received little attention from critics or fans, her next few singles, such as "Be the One," gave the push that propelled her into the spotlight (via Fuse).

This song by Dua Lipa was a hit

During her time uploading to YouTube, Dua Lipa focused on recording covers rather than writing her own songs. She told The Fader she did this so that she was able to concentrate on showing off her voice rather than preparing a track, but her mindset changed when she began working on her debut album.

She credited one song in particular for launching her career: "Hotter Than Hell." This single helped others understand her style. In the wake of the song's success, Lipa chose to announce a tour rather than an album. "I want people to get to know who I am first, so I'll put out more bits and pieces and make sure they know an album's coming," she told Evening Standard.

She embarked on her Hotter Than Hell European tour in October 2016, before opening for Troye Sivan in the eastern United States later that year (via Fuse). This was her big break in the United States, where she felt she was welcomed. "It was quite an easy transition," she noted in an interview with Fuse, "but it was definitely a scary one."

Dua Lipa and her dad created the Sunny Hill foundation

Dua Lipa confided in Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show that she wished she'd had the chance to see her favorite musicians while growing up, but when she lived in Kosovo, not many artists came there to perform. So she and her family created the Sunny Hill Foundation and festival, an annual celebration of music that raises funds for Pristina's most at-risk populations, according to its website.

Clash reported that it all began in 2016, when Lipa's father organized a concert featuring her in Kosovo's National Park. As the festival became an annual event, more artists traveled to Kosovo in support. Lipa told Fallon that the Sunny Hill festival brought singer Miley Cyrus to Kosovo, making her "the first international female" to perform in the country. "For me, it was the biggest dream come true," Lipa shared. "Just seeing how happy and how excited people were to see her on stage. ... I was so close to crying."

As Lipa told Refinery29, she even paid tribute to the charity with a tattoo that reads "SUNNY HILL" on her right arm. 

Dua Lipa's self-titled album made its debut

On June 2, 2017, Dua Lipa's self-titled album was released after much anticipation. She had teased her fans with album artwork nearly a year earlier, explaining on Facebook, "The reason [that the album] is self-titled is because this album is me. It's a representation of who I am as a person and as an artist." The album originally consisted of 12 tracks, including one collaboration –– "Lost in Your Light," featuring Miguel. As of July 2020, it was the most-streamed album by a female artist, according to Spotify. The album sold over 4 million copies, with over 40 million songs sold, and it landed at No. 43 on Billboard's 50 Best Albums of 2017, essentially confirming that her debut was a hit.

In 2018, as reported by NME, Lipa announced a re-release of her album featuring three previously unreleased songs as well as a collaboration with female K-pop group BLACKPINK.

This Dua Lipa song hit No. 1

"New Rules" was the tenth track on Dua Lipa's self-titled album, but it reached No. 1 when it was released as a single in the summer of 2017. According to Official Charts, "New Rules" became the first chart-topper by a female solo artist in nearly two years.

The lyrics of the empowering female anthem give listeners a list of rules for getting over an ex-boyfriend. In a behind-the-scenes clip on the making of the "New Rules" music video, Lipa explained to Hyatt that it's supposed to "show that you and your friends are kind of helping each other. ... They are the ones that are preventing you from making a mistake with this guy."

In the video, she mentioned that she chose to include flamingos on set and in the choreography because, like the girls in the cast, they represent unity and community when they travel in flocks. "New Rules" choreographer Teresa "Toogie" Barcelo told Hyatt that "the way that they move their head and the way they move their eyes, and rhythmic variances that they have when they're moving in a group" inspired the pose-like stances the dancers take throughout the video. 

Dua Lipa followed her heart

In June 2019, Dua Lipa and longtime boyfriend Isaac Carew parted ways. The couple had been on and off since 2013. Representatives of the singer did not confirm why the couple split, according to The Sun, but the model and chef unfollowed Lipa on Instagram around the time the news broke. Lipa posted a sweet note for a friend on her Instagram story, confessing, "My bb came to spend a night in Paris [with] me. Friends when you need them the most." Carew, on the other hand, posted a vague, melancholic photo on his story with a broken heart emoji.

The next month, Lipa was spotted getting cozy at a music festival with Anwar Hadid, the younger brother of models Gigi and Bella, who lead an extremely glamorous life. The two attended the British Summer Time Hyde Park music festival in London, where, as E! News reported, they looked "over-the-moon happy together." At the time, they had yet to confirm their relationship, although they'd previously been spotted together on a date in Malibu, according to The Sun.

Dua Lipa released Future Nostalgia early

In March 2020, Dua Lipa surprised fans by releasing Future Nostalgia, her highly anticipated sophomore album, a week early. This decision was made not without hesitation, she told NPR, as the premiere of the album coincided with the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. In an Instagram livestream, Lipa admitted, "I've been a little bit conflicted about putting music out and, you know, whether it's the right thing to do during this time because lots of people are suffering." However, she ultimately decided to release the album ahead of schedule in hopes it "would bring her fans a bit of joy at a very uncertain time," as The New York Times reported.

The decision wasn't only for her fans, though. "I wanted to make sure that I wasn't focusing my energy on anything negative," she explained to NPRdiscussing the end of her first album's cycle. She added, "I just wanted to grow and mature as an artist and work toward getting better."

While her sound may have evolved since the release of her debut single, "New Love" — and her look may have changed, as she debuted one of the best celebrity hair transformations during quarantine — her message of confidence and authenticity has remained the same.