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Five UK chart-toppers, a black bob-assisted S&M film trilogy appearance and six seasons of speculating whether [insert kooky beast here] is [insert iconic singer here] later… Rita Ora is finally entering her ‘weird’ era. In the visual for her infectious summer banger ‘Ask & Ye Shall Receive’, the multi-hyphenate embraces her inner Harley Quinn as she strips, serves choreo and terrorises innocent laundromat locals on the same set as the sci-fi epic Everything Everywhere All At Once. “I’m just trying to create a bit more of an uncomfortableness to my visuals,” she says. “Everything feels a bit more left, a little bit risky for me.”

Speaking with GAY TIMES ahead of Mighty Hoopla, where she went viral after attempting to duet with a front row queer (camp and iconic, to be honest), the set was a perfect showcase of her banger-filled discography with hits such as ‘Your Song’, ‘I Will Never Let You Down’, ‘Let You Love Me’, ‘Hot Right Now’ and ‘Anywhere’. “You know when your best friend gasses you up? That’s what I feel like [when I do LGBTQIA+ events],” Ora tells us. “I grew up in that environment, all of my friends were not straight so I always felt a sense of safety and home and acceptance in that community.”

Read ahead for our full, chaotic interview with Rita Ora, where she discusses her love for the community, her “freaky and destructive” new era and her husband Taika Watiti’s unexpected status as a pop music connoisseur. She also jokingly reflects on her “rumble” with ‘Girls’, her 2018 queer anthem with Charli XCX, Bebe Rexha and Cardi B, and reveals Kylie Minogue’s valuable career advice.

Is Mighty Hoopla the first time you will perform ‘Ask & Ye Shall Receive’?

Yeah. I only do it for the queens, darling. I only show out for the queens and the kings.

How do you decide which of your bangers you’re gonna perform?

I think it’s really about what I think my show needs. Old songs, new ones, and great mashups and interludes of some of my favourite songs, because I like to celebrate music, as well as perform my own songs. I love doing covers and things like that, as well.

S Club 7? Steps? Something like that?

Jojo Siwa?

Jojo Siwa.

Which I just saw on the line-up, which I’m actually really excited about.

Yeah I think that gagged the gays a little bit.

Not “gagged the gays”. I’m done.

What a line-up, that we’re getting Jessie Ware, Rita Ora and Jojo Siwa on the same day. This is Pride.

This is real Pride. If Pride ain’t Pride-ing, it’s Pride-ing now.

I loved your performance at London Pride last year. Do you ever think, ‘How am I gonna top this for the gays?’

It’s just about celebrating the music, and do you know what I love? The crowd is always so vocal, especially the LGBTQIA+ crowd. I feel like there’s so much support there, because they’re not afraid to be who they are. There’s a celebration there that I’m so obsessed and envious of, and wanna be like everyday. I’m constantly inspired, constantly… What’s the word? You know when your best friend gasses you up? That’s what I feel like when I do Pride. I grew up in that environment, all of my friends were not straight so I always felt a sense of safety and home and acceptance in that community.

If you’re performing for the heterosexuals, they’re not gonna know a song that peaked at 102 on the UK Singles Chart. The gays will know every single lyric and dance move.

That’s what I mean! They don’t care. It’s more about the person. It’s about, if you love a person, they’ll always back you. I was speaking to Kylie Minogue about this recently, I saw her at the Met Gala in New York, and I asked her so many questions because her career is such a great example of the support [of the LGBTQIA+ community]. She’s always feeding her fans, always delivering. If she doesn’t have music out, she’s touring. You’re just an arm’s reach from Kylie, and that’s such an amazing way to be a musician. She was like, ‘Listen, if you just keep feeding your fans, and keep being an artist, then everything else will follow.’

Alright then, where is the Rita Ora x Kylie Minogue collaboration?

I know! I love her so much. I think, you know, time… She’s definitely someone I want to ask when the song is right.

Get her on a 10-year anniversary remix of ‘Girls’.

I’m gagging. ‘My name is Kylie!‘ You know, that’s not a bad idea.

I know it had a little bit of controversy at the time, but…

A little bit! But darling, you’re speaking about me. If I don’t have a bit of a rumble going on behind me, then it wouldn’t be an Ora experience, would it? I think my idols have always been people that have, not deliberately gone against the grain, but have been vocal about their opinions that may not be what everyone else thinks. Everyone has their own opinion, but all my idols have never followed the crowd. So, I’ve just taken it in my stride because, at the end of the day, as long as I’ve been true to who I am, then that’s all I can do ready.

To more rumbles!

To being free and being yourself, and putting out music you wanna put out, and making shit you wanna make. If it doesn’t make you feel good, don’t do it.

Let’s talk about ‘Ask & Ye Shall Receive’. When you complete a banger such as this, do you ever sit back and think, ‘I did that shit’?

It’s been about a decade since I’ve been in the game, right? I sit back now and get so excited, still, because music is my baby. It’s my life, it’s everything I’ve done. Even though I do so many other things, I’m never gonna stop making music. Seeing Raye and her story, I remember asking her to support me on tour when she didn’t have any support from labels, and she would come out as a surprise guest at my shows, like Radio 1 Big Weekend… I had her back because, first of all, she’s super talented. Second of all, like everyone else now has discovered, she’s an artist. I’ve always treated her like an artist. Now her writing my single is 360, like serendipity. Everything happens for a reason, and timing is also everything. The song has a lot of different meanings for me, and it’s also a great feeling, summer banger. I found that, sometimes, it’s just not that deep. ‘Does it make me feel good? Yes. Okay, it’s going to make other people feel good,’ and that’s it.

It’s been ever-so long since I let a man hold me” is quite relevant for me right now, Rita. As you’re singing that at Hoopla, I’ll be in the crowd looking at some men like, “It’s been ever-so long…”

I’m dead. I’m gagged. Save yourself, honey. Hold on tight.

What does the music video for this look like? What was it the press release said? You’re not in a washing machine, are you?

I’m in a washing machine, babes.

This is the future of music video filmmaking.

Basically, my new era is a bit… not perfect, so there’s always a slight weirdness to it. I wanted to make a world that was a bit off-centre, something’s not just quite making sense. The laundromat is in the same laundromat as Everything Everywhere All At Once, one of my favourite films. There’s weird characters in there, and they start sewing their arms. I take my clothes off and jump in the washing machine. I’m wet, and then tumbling around. I’m getting out, and I’m doing the dance routine while everyone else is getting their laundry done, but they’re all a bit… off. Then, I slowly take over and it becomes this sort of Margot Robbie… What’s that character? It becomes this Harley Quinn [situation], I start getting angry and mashing up the place, taking the money and then I leave.

Love it. So you’re in your freaky and destructive era?

That’s a good way of explaining it, yeah. I’m just trying to create a bit more of an uncomfortableness to my visuals.

I just love a music video. It’s an art-form that…

I know! I was speaking about it today, too, it’s sad because it feels like a dying art-form, which is really miserable. Us, as artists, we thrive off videos to represent our era, our world, what we’re trying to say and how we wanna look. So, if that’s a dying breed, what the fuck? What is gonna be our stage of how to introduce a new world? We need visuals. I need visuals. I grew up with visuals. I need a look, a whole world, a stage set, a design, an aesthetic.

I love (and miss) pop eras where artists release six or seven videos…

I’m still gonna be holding down the fort.

Thank you, Rita. I never ask people about the husband or love interest, but what does Taika think of the song?

And I love you for that. Honestly, you can. There’s no secrets. He loves it. He loves what I do because it’s so different from what he does. He’s there, actually, on Sunday. To see him in my element, because [Mighty Hoopla] is my element, where I thrive, he’s gonna love it. I think he’s gonna be in the crowd, he won’t even be side of stage. I think he just wants to get in the mix, dance, he loves it all.

So he’ll be in the crowd as I’m looking at men singing, “It’s been ever-so long…“?

Just hold him. Why don’t you just grab him from the back?

I’ll tap him first, ask for his consent because that’s important.

Right, right, right. Okay.

If you see headlines on Monday like, ‘Taika Waititi dances with unnamed rainbow person’ then it’s me.

I’ll be like, ‘It was only a matter of time.’

Alright then, let your hubby know that this is something that could happen.

It’s really sweet, he wasn’t supposed to come and then he decided to surprise me, so that was really nice.

Does he love his pop anthems?

Loves! I was like, ‘Let’s go watch Madonna’ and he was like, ‘But I don’t really know any of her songs.’ I was like, ‘What? Of course you do.’ We get there, he’s got the t-shirt, he’s screaming at the top of his lungs. He’s got all the lights on his wrists and he’s sweating profusely. I looked at him in the car like, ‘I thought you didn’t know any of her songs?’ He was like, ‘Leave me alone.’ I think he’s one of those people that doesn’t know until he’s there like, ‘Oh, that’s what she sings.’ He’s got massive knowledge of music, to be fair.

I’m just imagining him now with his headphones in listening to a deep cut from her Like a Virgin album.

Not a deep cut! On Side B, not even Side A.

It’s a bonus track, one that’s not even been released on streaming. He’s found it on Soundcloud.

Hilarious. It didn’t even make the album, she performed it once in Pennsylvania.

With this revelation of his reverence for pop music, I’m fully expecting to see Taika in the crowd singing every single word to Rachel Stevens’ ‘Sweet Dreams My LA Ex’.

Exactly. Oh my god, I forgot she’s there. That’s gonna be major. I’m done. You guys make me laugh, I don’t even wanna perform, I just wanna be in the crowd. The running commentary is gonna be commenting. I’m done.

I’ll wave a rainbow flag, because I don’t think anyone will wave…

No, I don’t think there will be one… It’ll be missing, I think.

I’ll wave the one rainbow flag for you to see me, and then you can come join me and Taika in the crowd, because we’ll be dancing, won’t we…

You’re so funny. Okay, well, we can arrange that if you wanna come say hi.

Is ‘Ask & Ye Shall Receive’ gonna be on a new album?

Potentially! I’m actually still finishing it, to be frank. I’m really excited because I made some new songs in New Zealand that I didn’t expect to happen when I was there filming with Taika for a film – that comes out next year. I had time to write, right? It felt odd, because I was so far away from all my friends. It was a blessing in disguise. I really tapped into my artistic side, and it kinda fits the visuals. Everything feels a bit more left, a little bit risky for me. I tried to challenge myself, sonically. It’s way darker, more mysterious. It feels different for me. There’s nothing [on this album] like this single, because the single is so upbeat and summery, but I just wanted to give people something really positive for the summer. Then, gradually, go into winter.

What was it you said earlier, “freaky and destructive”?

I’m gonna take that from you, I hope you don’t mind. Freaky and destructive, without being offensive. I just wanted to challenge myself. If you look at my catalogue, I’ve done a lot, so I wanted to do try and do something I’ve never done before.

You mentioned films… You’ve got a slate of films coming up such as Tin Soldier, an action thriller.

Yes, that’s in the bag. The Descendants film comes out July 14th, I think, which is for Disney. I play this evil Queen of Hearts, which was really fun to do. I studied Charlize Theron, because she’s so good at playing villains. I just want to do it all. I want to break the box, be an actor, be a musician, be a businesswoman, and just live my best life. That’s it.

You’re wearing so many different hats.

All of my inspos have been that person: Mariah [Carey], Cher, Madonna. All these girls have not just done one thing. That’s what I love. Jennifer Lopez… I think there’s something so empowering about being able to do so many different things at once. And isn’t that the description of a woman?

So, how do you feel right now in your career?

I feel really calm, weirdly. I’m usually always, ‘Do we have this? Is that good?’ But with music, I’m feeling really confident about it, so I’m feeling really in my skin and understanding that we can only go so far, then it’s in everyone else’s hands. [I’m] just leaving it to the people, knowing I’ve done my best.

When album number four’s out, let’s do this again. We’ll have a lot to chat about with the album, my relationship with Taika… Stuff like that.

And how I feel about that because, by then, I’ll be single and alone.

Yeah, it will be a really awkward conversation.

We’ll get through it.

I can’t wait to have a song on Rita Ora 4 dedicated to me, titled ‘Fuck This Gay’.

…I didn’t say it. You did!

This interview has been edited for length and clarity, etc.

You can watch our interview with Rita Ora in full here or below.