At the Hay Festival on Sunday, award-winning singer Dua Lipa wowed the audience by being open about how “persistence” had led to her success.
She told the crowd, “I always wanted to be a pop star, but it never felt like something that was really achievable.
She claimed that her adaptability had helped because she had grown up moving between London and her parents’ home Kosovo.
She told the prestigious literary event, “I’ve been a new girl throughout my life.
Although there were a variety of people in the audience, many of them were patient parents who were waiting in line at the stuffy Baillie Gifford stage with their teenage daughters while looking through Dua’s Instagram feed.
It’s no secret that the singer for One Kiss enjoys reading. She spoke about the importance of literature during the Booker Prize ceremony the previous year.
Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses, which she described as “a first step into understanding racism and classism” when she was ten years old, and Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being were two works that became significant landmarks in her life.
She was born in London after her parents fled the war in the former Yugoslavia and returned to Kosovo with them when she was 11 years old. She returned to the UK when she was 15 to complete her GCSEs and pursue a career in music.
“There was always the idea of being from two places at once,” she said. “Even as a young child, I was aware of the dual nature of my heritage. People frequently inquired about the origin of my name.
“I was really proud of it, but when I was younger, I wished my name was, say, Hannah – something ‘normal’ and English.”
The singer added that reading “was also such a big part of my life” in addition to “making up dance routines in the playground at school.”
When she relocated to Kosovo, she came across the 15th-century battle novel The Castle/The Siege by Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare.
“I recall that reading it was quite challenging because it is a large book, but it opened a door to my Albanian heritage. It was similar to another turning point in my life that significantly changed things for me.
At age 15, she returned to London alone and shared a flat with a family friend’s Kosovo-born daughter. Most young teenagers would find that to be rather intimidating.
“I was quite determined,” Dua said. “I didn’t feel I had the same opportunities in music as I had in London. I was driven. My dad says I’m very hard to say no to!”
She began working toward success in the music industry after completing her education.
“I was quite tenacious. I recently began composing frequently and working with a producer. I was 17. A publication deal was presented to me, but [producer] Felix advised me to consult a lawyer first, who advised me, “Don’t sign that deal!” Then they assisted me in entering the studio.
She said that she had been in a “difficult, early relationship in my life” and went on to say, “I guess I was in a relationship with someone who had a very different idea of fidelity than I had.”
She got over it with the aid of Kundera’s timeless 1984 work The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
‘In the deep end’
Tomas, the main character, has a very outspoken view on relationships and monogamy. My philosophy hasn’t changed, but reading literature can help you better grasp the human condition and other people’s feelings.
Due to her passion for reading, Dua has conducted interviews with well-known writers for her podcast Dua Lipa: At Your Service, including Hanya Yanagihara, author of A Little Life. As the first book of the month for her new Service95 book club, she also taped a special episode in conversation with Shuggie Bain author and Booker Prize winner Douglas Stuart at Hay on Saturday.
Sometimes I’m still working things out. Why not give something a try if you like it? If you don’t just jump in, you’ll never know,” she said.
“With the podcast, I experienced that. I was utterly terrified but also incredibly excited. Would I be an effective interviewer and able to maintain the conversation?
But perhaps I do best when tossed into the deep end. I’m motivated to take risks when I’m uncomfortable.
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