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Rita Ora is more than a tabloid headline, and it’s time we treat her as such

Rita Ora is not just an artist and entertainer. Nor is she just the face of multiple brand campaigns. Yet the media continue to overlook her achievements, and tabloids leave out what’s of actual importance: her career triumphs.

Back in 2018, Rita Ora made Official UK Chart history with the most Top 10 singles for a British female artist, and she wasn’t even born in the UK. In the same year, Rita Ora had a crowd of 300,000 people gathered in Kosovo, celebrating 10 years of independence. That’s more than you will find at any festival main stage! Throughout her career, she has performed for former President Barack Obama, the Vatican, and at the Oscars. Now she’s reached a new milestone: becoming the 11th artist with the most gold-certified songs in the UK

Besides her musical success, Rita Ora has been lending her voice to UNICEF since 2013 and due to her work in Kosovo back in 2019, she became an official UNICEF UK Ambassador. Thanks to her speaking up and representing her roots, she has inspired a lot of young people by showing us the importance of using your voice to help others. 

Over the last decade, Rita Ora has built her own brand. From making music, appearing in several movies like Fifty Shades of Grey and Detective Pikachu and TV shows like The Masked Singer UK and the upcoming 10th season of The Voice Australia to launching her own tequila back in 2019, Rita Ora is doing it all.

Today, she is a household name, known for not just her musical talent, but her charming personality and stage presence. Remarkable, right? These are just a few of the many outstanding parts of her overall success story. Yet, media outlets still reduce Rita Ora to a headline that has less to do with her entertainment industry success and more to do with her current relationship status, bikini pictures, and social media presence.

While each of these accomplishments is something you can easily discover after a simple Google search, there is so much you will not see by just looking at what certain media outlets cover. There is more to a woman’s name than what you can read between the lines of a news article. It is neither right nor fair to base someone’s current success and status on past relationships alone, or to define a woman by her dating life.

Women have proven to be successful forces in all kinds of industries, and it is time to not just see and recognize that but to respect and value women’s contributions. What a woman brings to the table has no connection to a male companion. She embodies her own hard work and determination. 

Described by fans as a huge inspiration, Rita Ora has positively influenced so many from all around the globe. While her music has reached millions of people, what truly stands out is the powerful force behind her art. It is the artist behind the art who gives the art its meaning. Personally, Rita Ora’s music has created a safe, therapeutic space, a place of comfort.

Artists tell stories through music. They put real emotions and truth between the lines of their poetic work, and we connect to it. Rita’s music has been my heart’s band-aid and has turned my light back on many times. Even Prince once said: “Rita is a force of nature, that girl—the way she walks into a room. She’s got it.” I couldn’t agree more. Her energy is electrifying and she has made being confident look so effortless and fun.

Following someone’s journey for years goes beyond just listening to their music. Just looking at how far Rita Ora has come and knowing how hard she has worked to make a name for herself and have her voice heard, makes me proud. Watching and learning from her, I have found the courage to fight for my own career and dreams. Today, I am more aware of the power I have and what I can do with it because she showed me how.  

This is why I strongly believe that the media conversation around Rita Ora should be about the empire she has built, rather than the irrelevant tabloid headlines that just want to financially profit from her name. It is disappointing that there are people out there who believe and trust the media and cannot do their own research to see the amazing person who has made such a huge impact on so many people. Of course, this goes beyond the entertainment industry. Think about how in five to 10 years, young women will be confident enough to pursue their own careers because they saw someone like Rita Ora succeed despite so many obstacles and rejections.

The media has to start thinking about the effects their journalistic abuse towards women has and how it constantly puts their mental health at risk. The media must start respecting women for their hard work, for what they truly stand for and represent. Rita Ora is someone who’s surely paving the way for the future generation of artists.

With everything she does, she is opening doors for the women of tomorrow and leading by example when it comes to juggling it all so remarkably. Let me remind you that Rita Ora is not just an artist and how she does it all is a question I have asked myself for many years. She doesn’t stop working hard, always trying to reach higher stars. 

Rita has touched the hearts of those who have been positively influenced by her tremendous light and has made a huge impact on those who have crossed her path. She treats her fans like family, appreciates everyone who has shown support throughout the years, and the best part is she never forgets a face. She helped so many find the strength within themselves and has given me friendships I will cherish for a lifetime. It is not something to take for granted. 

Michelle Obama once said, “Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” I can proudly confirm that Rita Ora has made a difference by brightening up my life. Her impact and legacy surely are legitimate reasons why the media’s reporting on well-known women should be more respectful. This is not only necessary to protect their mental health but to assure future generations can evolve and succeed in the entertainment industry. 

As you can see, Rita is an empowering force of nature you can’t get rid of. And the Ora Wave is one you should catch if you haven’t already. 

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British tabloids’ objectification of women is a step back from gender equality in the UK

In 2019, the UK’s upskirting law made it a criminal offense to take an image or video under someone’s clothing. In the same year, Wales made menstrual products available for free in hospitals and schools, and Northern Ireland finally legalized abortion. Over the last few years, there have been countless wins for gender equality in the UK and Ireland. However, women are far from being equal yet – especially if British tabloids continue to objectify women’s bodies in their newspapers.  

Unlike broadsheet newspapers that provide reliable news stories, tabloids run on celebrity gossip, sex scandals, and conspiracy theories. Yet despite being known for reporting stories that are factually inaccurate, The Sun, The Daily Mail, and The Daily Mirror – all tabloid newspapers – were the most read newspapers in the UK last year.

I’ve spent the pandemic working in my local supermarket, a job which on the morning shift, requires me to put the day’s newspapers out onto the shelves. I try my best not to look at the front page of the tabloids – a 6 a.m. start is hard enough without seeing them hurl abuse at Meghan Markle, and use Brexit propaganda as a way to pedal the UK’s vaccine roll-out – but the other day, my curiosity got the better of me. I took a copy of The Sun, one of the country’s most popular tabloid newspapers, and opened it behind the till. I knew what I would find inside, but I was still shocked when I found it.

Three pages in and there was already a bikini shot of Walking Dead star, Lauren Cohan, blown up in HD, as she ‘spoils readers rotten in her latest photoshoot’; the fact that Cohan was returning to the show’s 11th and final series was buried among the detailed description of her ‘toned torso’ and mention of ‘those fans who think she’s drop-dead gorgeous.’

The Sun page 3 feature with Lauren Cohan
[Image description: The Sun page 3 feature with Lauren Cohan.] The Sun

The fight against Page 3 girls – the tabloid tradition of publishing an image of a topless woman on their third page – has been going on for over four decades. For a 23-year-old like me, this regular soft-core porn feature has been around for as long as I can remember. It took countless campaigns for this feature to finally be stopped in 2015 after 45 years of printing new explicit photos of women’s bodies every single day. 

However, as I saw in the copy of the newspaper I was reading, this ban has a loophole: women in bikinis. As long as their breasts are covered, tabloids can continue to objectify the female body and sell copies of the newspaper by printing suggestive photos. The “women in bikinis loophole” lets tabloids continue to treat women as commodities, and sell their bodies as a form of entertainment.

The “women in bikinis loophole” lets tabloids continue to treat women as commodities, and sell their bodies as a form of entertainment. 

Another way that tabloids are getting around this ban, is by having women write the articles that include these photos. On page twelve of the same newspaper I had picked up that morning, there was a double-page spread of nine female celebrities in bikinis – including a nude photo of the woman who wrote the article herself.

The angle of the piece was celebrating the bodies of the over 50’s, while also attempting to take down the ‘polyfilla-ed twenty-something wannabes’ at the same time.

A double-page spread written by female writer in The Sun that pits women against each other.
[Image description: A double-page spread written by a female writer in The Sun that pits women against each other.] The Sun

At first glance, a piece like this written by a woman to celebrate women’s bodies might seem like a form of female empowerment – a clever way for women to turn this degrading tradition on its head in the fight for gender equality, and release suggestive photos on their own terms as an attempt to control their own narrative. But by posting these photos in a tabloid that for over four decades has used female bodies to sell stories, a spread like this is just another way for men to continue to sensationalize and objectify the female form, marketing it instead as a new form of feminism.

Don’t even get me started on the fact that the piece was celebrating the bodies of women over 50 – something that should be done – by tearing down the younger generation of women below them – something that definitely shouldn’t. If your brand of feminism focuses on bringing other women down, then I’m sorry, but it isn’t really feminism at all.

On a similar note, in all nine photos on this page, the women pictured had what many would consider an ideal body type; likewise, there were only two women of color on the whole double-page spread. Again, if your view of feminism doesn’t include women of all ethnicities, women of all shapes and sizes, and trans women, then you can never truly say that you’re fighting for the rights of all women.  

I am of course not saying that women who share suggestive photos of themselves aren’t real feminists – I understand how empowering this way of creating your own narrative is, and its a great way to encourage female body positivity – but I’ve seen first hand the people who buy these papers, and I’m certain that the first thing they think of when they see these photos isn’t female empowerment or the country’s fight for gender equality.

In a post Me Too era, British tabloids cultivate a misogynistic culture, letting it grow and fester while the rest of the country works hard to scrub it clean; these newspapers provide some of the last remaining drabs of blatant female objectification in print. It doesn’t come as a surprise then, that in a 2012 YouGov survey about the attitudes toward Page 3 girls, 48% of men overall were in favor of keeping the sexist feature – in comparison to just 17% of women.

By British tabloids continuing to print suggestive photos like these, the female body will never be seen as anything but a commodity used to sell stories. It doesn’t matter how hard we fight for gender equality in the UK, if the tradition of page three girls continues to exist in some way, shape, or form, this goal will forever remain out of reach. 


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Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah reminds us not to romanticize the British Monarch

Since the beginning of their marriage in May of 2018, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have grown familiar with the grief accompanying their involvement with the British Monarch. They have been on the receiving end of racist media coverage and a part of an ever-growing conflict with the Crown.  

Now, almost three years later, Meghan and Harry’s discord with the Institution has come to a head. On Sunday night, the pair took control over their narrative in a private, sit-down interview with Oprah. In the emotional interview, Meghan Markle candidly illustrated the maltreatment she endured as a working royal within the monarchy, setting social media into a frenzy. 

[Image description: photo captured from Oprah Winfrey interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.] Via
[Image description: photo captured from Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.] Via
Firstly, Meghan shared her struggles with getting help for suicide ideation from the Royal institution stating, “I said that I needed to go somewhere to get help… and I was told that I couldn’t [because] it wouldn’t be good for the institution.”

Meghan disclosing her mental health issues to an institution that was supposed to protect her but was prevented from doing so serves as a reminder: all-too-often Black women are expected to be strong or endure abuse for the comfort or protection of others. Social media quickly noted the hindsight surrounding the Crown’s unwillingness to offer protection to a Black woman they deemed unworthy of assimilation into the monarch, solely based on her personhood.

Additionally, Meghan and Oprah discussed a popular tabloid story published by the Daily Mail that circulated six months after Meghan and Harry’s wedding. The story covered a scandal claiming Meghan made Kate Middleton cry days leading up to the wedding due to a disagreement over flower girl dresses. 

Meghan revealed in the interview, however, it was Kate who made her cry.

Following the incident, Meghan said Kate apologized and brought flowers and a note to heal the rift. However, this story would then expose Meghan to the inner workings of the racist tabloid press and the extent UK media would go to publicly villainize a Black woman.

[Image description: photo captured from Oprah Winfrey interview with Meghan Markle.] Via
[Image description: photo captured from Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Meghan Markle.] Via
In fact, the British tabloids are infamous for racism, bigotry, and bullying; something which they vehemently deny. In recent years, UK tabloids have written offensive and discriminatory stories covering Brexit, the refugee crisis, and immigration. Meghan Markle has only been the latest target within a media storm as the British press profit from writing racist stories on the former Duchess. 

Notably, one of the more major disclosures made by Meghan in the interview, and later affirmed by Harry, is how an unnamed member of the Royal Family raised concerns about how dark the complexion of their son Archie’s skin might be while Meghan was pregnant. 

Oprah’s shocked reaction after hearing this revelation mirrored many viewers’ own disturbance upon learning the extent of the Crown’s racism. The comments made toward Meghan’s son were abhorrently racist and highlight the long existed presence of anti-Black racism the British Monarch often perpetuates. 

All of this considered, Megan’s experience of enduring racism and misogynoir within the ranks of the establishment and the press should serve as a reminder of Britain’s violent racism and oppressive colonialism. More specifically, the crown’s history is quite literally intertwined with slavery and the colonization of African and Caribbean nations.

Slave-trading initiatives were endorsed by the British monarchy starting in the 1500s. Throughout the following centuries, Britain profited from slave-trading out of West Africa, at times even supplying enslaved individuals for the United States, with the Crown’s financial and political support. At one point, Britain even ruled almost 30 percent of Africa. African countries like Egypt, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda were under British rule as early as the start of the twentieth century. And many of the aforementioned nations are still navigating the negative impact of colonization

In recent years, there has been a slew of television series depicting royal life on screen from Netflix’s hit shows Bridgerton and The Crown to Hulu’s The Great. Shows like Bridgerton have been accused by critics of romanticizing the British Monarch, perpetuating colorism, and erasing the legacy of slavery in the process. 

There have been similarities drawn between Meghan’s mistreatment by the Crown to Harry’s mother, Princess Diana. The eerie parallels, if nothing else, prove The Royal Family has not learned from history, nor will they change. Rather, the Crown continues to bully those with less power. So, we must remember not to romanticize the seeming and intentional glamour of royal society. 

As Kathleen Newman-Bremang accurately states in an article for Refinery29, “An institution built on colonialism and racism that publicly prides itself on decency and decorum not only thrives on their bigotry being wielded in secret —  it depends on it.” Instead, we must engage with the British monarch as they are: an imperialist institution with a detailed history of anti-Black violence.

On the other hand, many on social media have critiqued Meghan for her willingness to marry into such a corrupt institution. Therefore, online critics claim she is liable for the suffering she endured at the hands of the Crown.  

However, we can acknowledge Meghan’s consent to marry into a colonialist institution complicit in the oppression of marginalized people. We can additionally acknowledge the colorism, featurism, and texturism which allowed Meghan such proximity to the monarch, while it was racism that sought to root her out. All while also empathizing with the anti-Blackness she endured from the institution and support her and Harry’s willingness to learn the ways they can improve going forward. 

Meghan and Harry’s interview with Oprah was a necessary one in revealing how far the Palace will go to protect white members of the royal family. Subsequently, allowing Meghan, a Black woman, to be appallingly villainized in the process. 

Harry confessed he feared history would be repeating itself if he didn’t take action to protect his family. As the public, we must continue our efforts to protect and advocate for Black people and the most oppressed among us. 

The empire the royal family benefits from at the expense of Black lives must continuously be held liable for the ongoing destruction it has caused— even long after Meghan and Harry’s exit.


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