"People always ask me: Do you have black in you? Do you have Spanish in you?" says Rita Ora, the 21-year-old pop singer whose debut album drops this fall on Jay-Z's Roc Nation label. Her look is indeed hard to place, though there are shades of Rihanna in her style and sound (not to mention that before Ora's recent Z100 debut, Rihanna had been the only artist Jay personally brought to the radio station).

In fact, Ora was born in Kosovo. Her parents moved to London soonafter, and scrimped and saved to put her through five years of Sylvia Young Theatre School. At 17 she found herself gigging wherever possible and working at a shoe store to make ends meet. "Everyone in theater school thinks it happens overnight," she says. While her success may not have been instantaneous, she didn't exactly grow old waiting to be discovered. The first song she ever recorded (on her laptop), "I'll Be Waiting," a ballad worlds apart from "How We Do (Party)," her bubbly new single, found its way to an A&R man and then to Jay-Z. Two days later she was in New York. "I flew straight from London. I didn't even have time to wash," she remembers. "When I shook Jay's hand I was like, 'Oh. My. God.' We went to the studio, and that was it." '

With assists from Drake, Stargate and The-Dream on the record, the question isn't whether people will hear Ora's music, but what she wants from those who do. "My vision is to create music that can help people to think that they can do the same thing. Because you can," she says. "I want to create a language that's got no boundaries."

Rita wears a jacket by Isabel Marant, shirt by Kenzo, shorts by Louis Vuitton and rings by Pamela Love.