This interview first appeared in Radio Times magazine.


The first time I see Dua Lipa "in person" is at the BRIT Awards in March, albeit from a couple of hundred metres away.

Having opened the show, she’s up on stage for the second time, accepting the award for Best Pop Act (she was also nominated for Song of the Year and British Artist).

From the circle seats of London’s huge O2 arena, I watch a tiny figure on a big screen – and an even bigger stage – commanding the room, giving her unsuspecting fans a few more clues to her upcoming album, one of the most anticipated releases of 2024.

"You guys give me this radical sense of confidence that I can do anything… and all the love and the support and the optimism is what inspires me." A couple of months later, Radical Optimism – Lipa’s third album – is sitting pretty in the upper echelons of the UK and US charts.

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When I finally see Lipa a touch closer, she’s comfortably curled up in the corner of a cavernous function room of an east London hotel – the kind that could double as a dance studio for rehearsing one of her blockbuster routines.

"Tracksuit bottoms on, and hair pulled back from a face that adorns ad campaigns from Versace to Puma, she’s relaxed, collected, confident and snacking on some almonds – while wearing her own merch – a football top emblazoned with Radical Optimism. What else?

Everything about the campaign around Lipa’s latest album shows that, some 10 years after setting out on the road to superstardom, she’s very much at the top of her game when it comes to handling Brand Dua Lipa.

This is, after all, a 28-year-old with more than 40 billion (not a typo) streams under her belt, a song (Dance the Night) and an acting credit in Barbie (one of the most successful movies of all time), 37 weeks at the top of the UK AirPlay chart… Oh, and this weekend, she’s headlining the biggest festival in the world. "It’s gone all right," she smiles.

On the day I meet her, it’s announced that her company, Radical22, has signed a publishing deal with Warner Music. This comes at what feels like a turning point for solo female acts: Beyoncé in a creative purple patch, Ariana Grande reclaiming her narrative, Billie Eilish calling the shots and making the best album of her career and, above all, Taylor Swift reigning supreme with her music and business savvy.

Is Lipa attempting to out-Taylor, Taylor? "Nooooo! But it’s so important for artists to take ownership and control of our own music."

She talks about learning the hard lessons of pop music’s past, from the Beatles to Britney. "We’re in a world of artists being airy fairy and wanting to be creative and not thinking about the business side – because we only really want to focus on making the art, not the background thing. But we have to be knowledgeable about that side of things as well."

This savvy is reflected in how she released her latest singles – Houdini, Training Season and Illusion – in the build-up to Radical Optimism, all with huge gaps between them, with a very long lead time ahead of the album. Was this, I speculate, anything to do with giving her fans time to learn the new lyrics ahead of a certain festival? She leans in, wearing a conspiratorial smile. "Exactly."

Ah, yes – a certain festival. In what was one of the most open secrets ahead of the official announcement, it was finally confirmed in March that Lipa would be one of Glastonbury 2024’s Pyramid Stage headliners. It’s not her first time at Worthy Farm – she has performed on the John Peel Stage (now called Woodsies) on a couple of occasions – but it’s easy to glean from our conversation that her career has been building to this point.

"That’s always been my barometer for any music I’ve ever made that has gone on any album – 'What is this going to sound like at Glastonbury?' Because that is the pinnacle for me."

The headline news is a (sort of) secret she managed to sit on for a long while, however. "I got asked to headline in November 2022. I’m very good at keeping secrets, and it’s also been the best secret, so I’ve kept it very happily. I just got the email, 'You’ve been offered to headline Glasto on Friday night.'"

Dua Lipa at the 2024 Met Gala in an elaborate black outfit
Dua Lipa at the 2024 Met Gala. Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty Images

And when did she come off the ceiling? "For ages I was just a complete puddle… like, jet lag delusion in the moment. That was at the end of my Future Nostalgia tour, and then I was still writing my new record, so I had in the back of my mind, 'Oh my God, I’m going to be performing some of these songs at Glastonbury!'"

Radical Optimism leans into everything that has made Lipa a success so far – glamorous, ethereal, bass-driven, dancefloor sparkle, throaty – but with very few clues to her personal life. It’s in contrast to the kind of intimate, subtext breadcrumb lyrics laid by the likes of Taylor Swift and Beyoncé, and Lipa largely refuses to trade on her private life in exchange for streaming numbers. But that’s not to say that she doesn’t have a hell of a story.

Lipa was born in London to her Kosovo Albanian parents who had fled the civil war in former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. After failing to make it into her primary school choir, she began attending the Sylvia Young Theatre School at weekends.

"I had a teacher there called Ray, who I just absolutely loved – but he was the scariest teacher and he would make me get up in front of the class and sing," she recalls with a smile.

"I remember singing in front of a class my age – I was about nine – and he said, 'Right, I’m changing your class,' and put me in the 9am class with the 14- and 15-year-olds. That really boosted my confidence. When I moved to Kosovo, I really missed those classes."

Dua Lipa in a black outfit holding a microphone
Dua Lipa. Rosalind O'Connor/NBC via Getty Images

The family’s return to a newly independent Kosovo came when Lipa was 11. She loved the country of her roots, but felt the pull of showbiz London, convincing her parents at 15 that she should go back and live in a flatshare. What drove her to believe she could succeed at such a young age? "I just loved it… I didn’t know how I was going to do it, I definitely didn’t know things would get as crazy as they did, but my love of it was my driving force.

"I just had this fire in my belly, this determination that it was the only route I could take. No fallback. No plan B. For me, it was my only option.

"I was working nights at La Bodega Negra [a buzzy Mexican bar in London’s Soho], going to the studio in the mornings – that, on a loop, until I got signed," she says casually. "When that happened, I took everyone for my signing drinks, and then I think I did one more shift."

Something that strikes me throughout my time with Lipa is her self-assurance – constant eye contact, knowing her own mind and taking a beat to consider her answers. She’s very aware of the weight that her words hold – her views and politics have often landed her at the sharp end of the internet.

Just recently, she was referenced in a Israeli drill rap song that called for violence against public figures who have expressed pro-Palestinian views. She also added her voice to the widespread condemnation of the Israeli bombing of Rafah refugee camp.

Does she find the more well-known she gets, the more she has to check what she puts out there – for her own safety and sanity, more than anything? "When I speak about things that are political, I double-, triple-check myself to be, 'OK, this is about something that is way bigger than me, and it’s necessary – and that’s the only reason I’m posting it.' That is my only solace in doing that.

"It’s always going to be met with a backlash and other people’s opinions, so it’s a big decision. I balance it out, because ultimately I feel it’s for the greater good, so I’m willing to [take that hit]."

Surely she was only ever in this to be a musician and performer, though? "[Speaking up is] a natural inclination for me, given my background and heritage, and that my very existence is somewhat political – it’s not something that is out of the ordinary for me to be feeling close to."

Glastonbury is taking place the weekend before the general election, and it wouldn’t be out of character for Lipa to weigh in on proceedings, especially when most other people her age are being vocal on social media about the current government.

Will she express her views publicly? The biggest pause yet. "Um… for me, over the past three or four years, I’ve kind of decided that standing behind a certain political party leader is probably not the route I want to take.

"I’ve always supported Labour, so that’s where I’ll always stand, but I don’t think I’ll be publicly going for or against anyone… because politicians overall just have a way of letting you down."

We move on to musical politics. For the first time, Glastonbury has two female headliners: Lipa and US singer/songwriter SZA. "It’s so great to be part of the wave of women artists, and we’ve got to keep applying the pressure.

"There’s something to be said about different albums and different cycles, but right now it seems like the heaviest influx of albums by female artists – Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift. We’ve just got to keep going."

Can she tell me anything about her plans for Friday night, beyond turning the Pyramid field into a 150,000-strong nightclub? "The one thing I can tell you is that this will be a one-off – it will only ever happen at Glastonbury and that will be it. I think that’s what makes shows at Glastonbury so special."

She’s collaborated with one fellow headliner before: Coldplay’s Chris Martin featured on Homesick, from her debut album. Might we see him playing piano at some point during her show? For the first time she doesn’t hold my gaze, as a wry smile spreads across her face. "Err… there are no plans for… that!" she says, looking away. I expect Friday night at Glastonbury might turn Yellow…

In person and in her music, Lipa strikes a fine balance of giving just enough of herself away to keep the world interested, but holding sufficiently back to keep her sanity. In many ways, she’s an old-school kind of pop star – glamorous, just out of reach, polished and with a touch of mystique. But my word, she can get people dancing.

No matter who she brings on to join her, come Friday night it will be Lipa who is holding the crowds at the Pyramid Stage in the palm of a steady, assured hand, as Worthy Farm dances the night away.

Dua Lipa on the Radio Times cover in a white T-shirt, jeans and a red jacket
Dua Lipa for Radio Times magazine.

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