The “New Rules” singer begins by describing the experience of hearing one of her songs on the radio for the first time. “I actually knew my song was going to get played because [DJ] Annie Mac had confirmed that she was going to play my song, ‘Be the One,’ on [BBC] Radio 1,” Lipa says. “I got home, quickly ran through the door, put my radio on, and then my song came on and Annie Mac presented it and I just freaked out,” she recalls. “I’ll never forget it. It was one of the most surreal moments of my life. I was so excited.”
The eldest child of Kosovo-Albanian refugees of the Yugoslav Wars, Lipa grew up in London with a general understanding of the effects of war and conflict. However, it wasn’t until she first moved to Kosovo from London that she fully grasped the impact. “Only when I moved to Kosovo did I really understand what the effects of [war] are and how it impacts people’s lives and people’s families, and how much a place really suffers because of the consequences of it,” she recalls. “I was about 11 years old when I started to really kind of understand what [the effect of war] is like.”
The two-time Grammy Award winner’s first tattoo is a reminder of her Kosovan roots. Tattooed on her right upper-forearm are the words, “Sunny Hill,” a nod to the neighborhood her parents grew up in in Kosovo. “It’s an English translation of it,” she explains. “The Albanian way is ‘Bregu i Diellit.’ It’s something that will always remind me of home, and it’s the name of our foundation in [Kosovo] and also our festival that we throw in Pristina.”
Her dad helped her organize that festival in its early stages. The inaugural show was her first big show in Pristina, and it sparked the idea to invite international artists to perform as well. To thank him for his support, Lipa learned one of the songs from her dad’s own band and performed it during the show to his surprise.
“Everyone in the crowd sang the song with me. My dad was [at the] side of [the] stage and I just basically asked him to come and join me to sing the second verse and it was a really special and quite emotional show. It was amazing.”
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Pristina is also where Lipa attended her first concert. “Method Man and Redman,” she recalls. “I was, I think, 13 years old? It was my first introduction to Wu-Tang. I went with some school friends and yeah, it changed my life forever.”
Later in the interview, Lipa shares some other firsts, including her first time feeling starstruck, getting a job, and standing up for herself.