How Did Dua Lipa Get Famous?

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She’s had two number one hit singles, has 63 million Instagram followers and is one of the most-streamed female singers.

Her 2016 single Hotter Than Hell saw her become a household name. But how did Dua Lipa get famous? Like so many artists, it was a mixture of streaming platforms, YouTube, autobiographical songwriting, drive, solid training, a great image and hard work. 

In this article, we’ll explain the steps this popular musician took to eventually achieve such incredible success.  

How did Dua Lipa get famous? 

She has a fantastic voice, creates hit songs with subtle messages and has a great sense of style. But how did Dua Lipa get famous? The singer is thought to be worth over £3 million. Her super high streaming figures, tours, appearances and record sales all contributing to this newfound fame. But not only this, she’s become a celebrity figure and role model. As an advocate for feminism, she calls out sexism in the music industry and xenophobia, speaking out for refugees. Yet she isn’t overly controversial either, ensuring her activism doesn’t overshadow her work and striking a happy medium with her fans and followers. 

Dua was born in London on the 22nd August 1995 and is the oldest of two siblings. As a child, Dua Lipa loved to make up dance routines in her school playground. The first album she ever bought was by Nelly Furtado. Lipa learned all the lyrics and listening to them constantly. Lipa also took up the cello during primary school but found it annoying and cumbersome, so gave up playing. While at primary school her confidence was knocked when she was told she ‘couldn’t sing’, due to her inability to hit higher notes.  

Dua Lipa’s parents

Musical talent often runs in families. Dua Lipa’s father is a musician too. He sang in a band called Oda, in his home country of Albania. Dua’s name means ‘love’ in Albanian. She is Kosovan and very proud of her Albanian heritage and geographical roots. Being around music from an early age contributed to her career choice – they often played David Bowie and Bob Dylan in the house. She was also heavily influenced by her parents’ work ethic.

She has said that they had to work very hard, waiting tables and studying in the evening and believe that you make your own luck. They left the country during a national period of unrest in the 1990s, moving to the UK’s capital. But, once the political situation had settled made the decision to return when her father was offered a good job. Lipa was 11.  

Did Dua Lipa take singing lessons?

Yes. She attended weekend classes at the Sylvia Young Theatre School where singing lessons were a huge part of the curriculum. Here she thrived and grew in confidence while learning solid performance technique. But when she returned to Kosovo with her parents, she found there to be fewer opportunities to perform and advance as a singer. Nevertheless, she carried on with her music and began posting herself singing covers of her musical heroes, on the video platform YouTube.  

Being at such a prestigious stage school, with its own talent agency and alumni including Denise van Outen, Emma Bunton and Amy Winehouse, opened some doors. Dua began to attract attention musically. She also landed modelling jobs for brands like ASOS, but modelling was never her goal and she was once advised to lose weight if she wanted to go further in that field, an idea she rejected in favour of maintaining her own image. 

Dua Lipa First Song

How Dua Lipa was discovered

The ‘dark pop’ singer, seemed to burst onto the music scene just a few short years ago. But in reality, she’d been grafting away on her music for many years. Like lots of big stars, she started young, using social media and streaming platforms to get noticed and releasing her own music videos. But the path wasn’t always easy. Dua has a fantastic work ethic and she’s a great inspiration for emerging artists. Singing from an early age is always a great way to build up experience and develop your voice. 

Who discovered Dua Lipa? 

Her first original songs were uploaded to SoundCloud in 2012, and quickly caught the attention of Lana Del Rey’s managers, Ed Millett and Ben Mawson of Tap Management. After she signed a management contract with them, they sent her for two years of intensive recording sessions. She laid down around 130 songs, but only 12 made it to the album. As yet, she was unsigned and awaiting the right opportunity.  

Lipa’s manager spoke to GQ of her clear career drive during their first meeting:

“That’s really what stood out for me. I want to look in their eyes and see they really want it. Apart from her talents, one of her defining factors is ambition. I remember Madonna came up. She didn’t quite say directly, ‘I want to be as big as Madonna’, but Madonna was the reference point. That was a joy to our ears.”

How did Dua Lipa get a record deal? 

While Lipa had a high profile and well-connected management company to help and steer her, she didn’t sign to a label until she found the right one and was ready. In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, she talked about keeping her own voice and style: 

“I’ve always been very much in control of my music and my image and I think one of the things I’ve been lucky about is I didn’t bring a label on board until I really figured out who I was. I just needed to find a team that believed in my idea and my dream, and that made things way easier because I never had to deal with the thing of people wanting to change me or wanting to make me sing songs that aren’t really for me because I already had such a clear idea of what I wanted to do.” 

When did Dua Lipa get signed?

Lipa did eventually sign with Warner Music Group in the summer of 2015 and began working on her debut album for them. At the time, they didn’t have a big female pop artist, so it was a smart move, meaning they devoted a lot of time to ensuring the songstress’s career really took off. Once it was agreed, she called her parents in Kosovo and asked them to come over for the signing. Lipa was on her way to being catapulted into the public eye. Dua explained her rise to fame in a 2020 interview with The Guardian.

“With every song, the momentum was building, but only tiny little bits,” she says. “I was doing new things, I was learning what was expected of me, how to be in front of a camera, how to better the last performance.”

Dua Lipa songs

When she first started writing, she had no idea what genre her music style was, nor what she was doing. But having seen her self-released covers on YouTube, several producers began reaching out to her, offering her the opportunity to come and develop her sound at their studios. This gave her space and tools to find her musical voice, resulting in some great demos.

Once she started writing, she soon delivered a collection of songs. Lipa believes in beginning songwriting as if she were writing in a diary. As a result, her music is often autobiographical, authentic and sincere, adding to her popularity as an artist. To make ends meet, Dua worked in restaurants and clubs once she was 16 – these experiences have since inspired her lyric writing. 

Dua Lipa Record Label
Justin Higuchi

Dua Lipa’s first song

She released her first single New Love in 2015, produced by Emile Haynie and Andrew Wyatt, then her second single, Be the One in October 2015. It reached number one in Belgium Poland and Slovakia, number six in Australia and number 20 in New Zealand. Later that year she was announced as one of the acts on the BBC Sound of… 2016 list. 

As 2016 began she was touring the UK and Europe and released her third single Last Dance, followed by Hotter than Hell – the track that really got her noticed by the general public and made her famous. Later that summer, the release of Blow Your Mind brought her success in America, winning her an appearance on Tonight with Jimmy Fallon.  

Lipa has since opened for Troye Sivan, made several hit appearances at Glastonbury and been a BRIT Critics’ Choice runner-up. Meanwhile, her massive single New Rules became the second song by a female artist to get a billion streams. But it was in 2018 that she really hit the big time. She won a Grammy for Best New Artist and took home a total of five BRIT awards. 

Who writes Dua Lipa songs?

Dua mostly writes her own material or performs covers. But like many artists, she knows the value of working alongside big names to increase her profile. She has also collaborated with Martin Garrix, Miguel, Chris Martin, Sean Paul, Blackpink, Andrea Bocelli and Silk City. And her next album Future Nostalgia is due for release in April 2020, accompanied by a tour.   

In an interview with the BBC, she spoke of her own writing credits:

“With my first record, I was lucky to get songs like New Rules and Be The One that I didn’t write, but which were also massive parts of my career,” she says. “But I also felt like I had a lot of proving to do. For a pop artist, people can see you as manufactured, and that you just get a writing credit for turning up. But, for the songs I did write, I was in those sessions and they are my personal experiences. And that’s something I wanted to get across in every interview I did.”

Dua Lipa got discovered and became famous by working very hard, making sacrifices and ensuring her work seen by influential people. Not only does she have an amazing voice, but she’s also a gifted songwriter with a unique sound. Dua will be playing some of the UK’s biggest venues this autumn, with the Future Nostalgia Tour. Tickets can be booked via her official website.

Related Questions

At what age did Dua Lipa get famous?

Dua was signed and had her first hit single, aged 20. But the star began working on her career many years before this. If you want to get famous, you should start early too. It’s becoming more common for singers to get picked up by labels in their teens. 

How do singers get discovered?

Predominantly these days, via YouTube, streaming platforms and TikTok. It’s therefore really important to keep your online presence strong and have a lot of followers, so you get noticed. A&R also frequent live gigs though, so ensuring you’re playing lots of live venues will up your chances too. 

Is Dua Lipa dating Anwar?

Yes, Dua has been seeing the American model Anwar Hadid for nearly two years now. Hadid is 21, four years younger than the singer. Prior to this, she had been dating the celebrity chef Isaac Carew for five years. Anwar apparently approached Dua after their split and they became an item in 2019. 

Have you been closely following Dua Lipa’s career? Do you make YouTube covers as she does? Post your own video links in the comments below.