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The Globe and Mail

Singer Rita Ora on her ever-changing looks and the power of fragrance

As Rita Ora walks into the palatial Dome suite at the Café Royal hotel in London, the bright morning light streams in through the windows and casts a halo around her body, framing her like Michelangelo's David. That is, if David were wearing a black, form-fitting Donna Karan mini dress, sporting sparkling six-inch stilettos and doing a series of squats. "You've got to get them in while you can," she says cheekily, finishing her set (with perfect form) before sitting down.

From her Mona Lisa-like bleached brows (which she planned to dye bright purple the following week) to her 18 tattoos and constantly evolving sense of style, the British singer seems to relish in surprising people. "I'm not about stereotypes or trying to be a certain type of girl," she says. "Blond or brunette, girly or boyish, it's all just me."

In the midst of completing her second album, which launches later this year, the 23-year-old is set to make her film debut early next year in the much-anticipated Fifty Shades of Grey. She is also the new face of DKNY's latest fragrance, MYNY, a traditional floral blend of raspberry, pink pepper, Egyptian jasmine and patchouli. "It's ironic we met in London to talk about a fragrance inspired by New York, isn't it?" she laughs. "Oh, well, New York is a state of mind, after all."

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Your look is constantly changing. What's your beauty philosophy?

Well, I've always experimented with my beauty look. I've had every hair colour you can think of and I love playing around with makeup, though red lips are definitely my favourite. Growing up, I was a tomboy. I wore trousers low on my bum with boxers underneath and bandanas in my hair. When I discovered makeup, hair styling and dressing up, it was the only thing that made me feel feminine. For me, your beauty look should just be about what makes you feel good.

Speaking of memories, can you recall your earliest scent memory?

I used to be obsessed with the DNKY fragrance Woman; it was a fresh, citrusy scent. I would just cover myself in it – spray my palms, my hair, the back of my knees – literally everywhere! But it was my first fragrance and I remember wearing it the first time I ever kissed a boy.

What's the most important thing when it comes to choosing a fragrance?

I love the idea that you can make an impression with a fragrance. When someone meets you for the first time and they think you smell amazing – I love that feeling. I'm the girl who sprays a guy's pillow with my perfume – and I really spray it – so you know it's going to last a while. Basically, you have to find a fragrance that you want to give an impression of you.

Besides spraying pillows, do you have any other fragrance rituals?

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Well, I always have to put perfume on right before I go on stage. Obviously, I know no one can smell it, but I just feel better; it changes how I perform.

The MYNY fragrance is about people finding their New York story. What's yours?

My New York story was pretty intense, actually. I was 17, I had just been signed and I moved into an apartment in the middle of Brooklyn, totally alone. It was scary and exciting all at once. New York was really when I grew up and turned into a woman. It was the first place I recorded a song in a real recording studio and the first place I went shopping alone with a proper paycheque.

Do you remember what you bought with your first paycheque?

It was a vintage Celine Dion T-shirt. I'm obsessed with Celine Dion!

This interview has been condensed and edited.

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