Dua Lipa Manifested All of This

9 minute read
By Rachel Brodsky
Zhong Lin for TIME
9 minute read
Updated: | Originally published:

Dua Lipa is a master escape artist. In her nu-disco bop “Houdini,” she sings about someone with so little patience for superficial gestures that she’ll vanish if a potential suitor doesn’t go above and beyond. In the cavernous LA studio where we met in February, Lipa performs a different sort of disappearing act — which is to say, she materializes very suddenly when it's time for us to chat, and, 45 minutes later, is gone just as abruptly.

Her swift appearance and retreat shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has followed her frenetic pace over the past few years. Yes, Lipa is a global superstar who has had five Top 10 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 and appeared in last year’s most successful movie, but her output has only been possible because she makes use of every minute. The human being 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 out like taffy, carefully examining next steps and turning ideas into action.

Lipa’s deliberate approach to her work tracks with what she told TIME with a grin in 2017: "I'd like to take over the world... If I could." The Dua Lipa from that interview is noticeably younger and more eager — an early 20-something on the verge of massive commercial success, thanks in part to her hooks-packed self-titled debut album, which housed gleaming electro-pop tracks such as "IDGAF," "New Rules," and "Be the One." Lipa, now 28, is more composed but no less enthusiastic about the year ahead, which includes the May 3 release of Radical Optimism, her much-hyped third studio album. After all, she's been manifesting it for seven years — perhaps even longer.

TIME 100 Dua Lipa Cover
Photograph by Zhong Lin for TIME

"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 TIME100 cover 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. (Lipa left TaP's artist roster in 2022, and bought her publishing rights back last fall.)

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 critically acclaimed 2020 homage to disco, 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.

Dua Lipa
Zhong Lin for TIME

Lipa’s success led to her involvement in Barbie. Her jubilant “Dance the Night,” which she co-wrote with Mark Ronson, soundtracks a pivotal scene in Greta Gerwig’s box-office smash. (The film also features a cameo from the pop singer as mermaid Barbie.) Earlier this year, Lipa appeared in the spy thriller 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 be a pop star — or any famous person in 2024 — requires diversification. On top of music and “little baby roles,” as she calls them, Lipa also moonlights as a journalist; Dua Lipa: At Your Service was named one of the Best Podcasts of 2022 by Spotify and features a who’s-who of celebrity guests from a variety of fields, from pop contemporary Billie Eilish to relationship guru Esther Perel. Meanwhile, Lipa launched a book club and lifestyle newsletter, Service95, in early 2022. (She name-checks Patrick Radden Keefe’s Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland as a recent favorite.)

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Lipa, who was granted Albanian citizenship in 2022, also speaks passionately about her dual heritage, as well as the importance of Kosovo getting its visa liberalization, which allows nationals to travel freely around Europe's borderless zone. “I'm from two places at the same time,” she says. “Being from Kosovo is just such a big part of who I am, and getting my Albanian citizenship was really exciting.”

“For a population in Kosovo, where over 50% is under 25 years old, it's one of the youngest populations in Europe,” Lipa continues. “The opportunity to be able to travel freely is really important. There are all these kids who have big dreams and hopes and want to be able to move around, travel, and explore. They want to evolve and grow and hope that maybe they can be heard and seen in a different way. Now that their passports mean something, it feels really good.”

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.”

Dua Lipa
Zhong Lin for TIME

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 inspired 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 involves a lot of growing and understanding myself, knowing my worth, whether it be in business, love, or friendship.

Dua Lipa
Zhong Lin for TIME

“I'm just a different person, so of course this record is going to be different,” Lipa muses on leaning into new sonic territory. “I have different thoughts, wants, needs, and perspectives. I've done a 180 on myself… I feel the most confident at this point in my life.”

The confidence is paying off, especially as she’s recently launched Radical22, an independent media and management company, which signed a global publishing administration deal with Warner Chappell Music. “I’ve been planting seeds for my other endeavors my whole life,” Lipa says. “It's a way for me to be able to show everyone other sides to who I am. I love my music career and the fact that it gives me so much opportunity for expression. But it's not the only thing I am.”

Set design by Michael Avina; styling by Lorenzo Posocco; hair by Peter Lux; make-up by Sam Visser; production by T Creative

Correction, April 15

The original version of the story misstated the year Lipa left TaP’s artist roster. It was 2022, not 2023.

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