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Dua Lipa Is Done Being a Mystery


I
am literally
getting thrown into life right now.”

Dua Lipa is thinking about her Saturn return as she says this. At 28, she’s deep in it now, but the astrology-loving star had been anticipating the foreboding planetary event for a while. It’s a cosmic coming of age, usually when people are at the cusp of 30, marked by tons of transitions and transformations and upheaval. Lipa — who’s about to start an entirely new chapter in her career — is feeling it all. 

“It drags you by your feet,” Lipa says in her North London lilt, relishing the chaos a bit. “I thought 28 was going to be so cute.”

We’re seated on the now-empty patio at Gjelina, a popular restaurant on Venice Beach’s trendy Abbot Kinney Boulevard. (She sheepishly admits that her love for the show Californication made her want to see this street before she ever visited Los Angeles.) Lipa pulled up to lunch alone, weaving through once-packed tables in her tweed car coat, T-shirt, jeans, and sunglasses. Her hair, dyed a deep, mulled-wine red, makes her stick out immediately — which might be why the owner, who knows her dad and is also of Albanian descent, sends over a free dessert. “Albanians everywhere,” she says with a shrug.

She’s slightly jet-lagged, having landed from London a few days earlier. Two days before her flight, she released her new single, “Houdini,” a neo-psychedelic dance-floor rager. The next morning, Grammy nominations were announced, and she found out her Barbie hit, “Dance the Night,” was up for two awards, including Song of the Year. “I didn’t even know they were coming out that day!” she says. She celebrated by going to her friend’s DJ set, and admits she was kind of hungover for her flight.

Dua Lipa photographed in Los Angeles on Oct. 23, 2023

Michael Bailey-Gates for Rolling Stone.

But in between such big moments and celebrations, Lipa has been figuring out a lot about herself. Her highly anticipated third album is due later this year, and it captures a period of major changes in her life, including the end of a relationship and her forays into dating. She also parted ways with the management firm that represented her for a decade and bought back the rights to her music. Beyond that, she’s been planting seeds and piling up projects that include her Service95 newsletter, movie roles, and a production company, plotting out exactly what she wants to do in the future. 

“I’m being thrown into learning lessons of resilience,” she says, “lessons of maybe not having to be so strong all the time and being OK with that.” She searches for the words a bit. “I don’t know.… I’m learning so much about myself.”

Lipa may have already been more resilient than she realized. Look no further than her origin story: At 15, she famously persuaded her family to let her leave Kosovo and moved back to London, where she was born, completely alone. She finished school, passed her A-levels, and began waiting tables and modeling while seeking out a team and label to get her music career off the ground. Before she turned 20, she was signed. 

In the years leading up to and following the release of her 2017 self-titled debut, Lipa hustled in the studio and on the road, playing festivals and opening for Troye Sivan, Bruno Mars, and Coldplay. The work paid off with hits like “New Rules” and a Best New Artist Grammy Award. Then, in 2020, her hyper-glam disco revival Future Nostalgia became a pandemic blockbuster that climbed the charts and launched her into main-pop-girl territory.

The album was a rebel yell for Lipa. It became an unlikely soundtrack for millions of people during lockdown, and made disco a ubiquitous trend in pop for the next few years. And with her warm, soulful voice, mixed with her undeniable self-assuredness, Lipa became the pop diva ready to meet an uncertain moment.

While she’s one of the most-streamed artists in the world, she’s also your favorite rock star’s favorite pop star: When Elton John isn’t calling her up for lavish dinners, Mick Jagger is busting a move with her at his Christmas party. “We had a full dance party, dancing with Mick Jagger in his living room,” she says, laughing. She breaks into a light impression of Jagger: “He’s like, ‘All right, babe! Let’s go, darling!’”

Last summer, Trent Reznor said that he found “Levitating” so “well-crafted” it made him tear up. (“That was too, too cool,” Lipa says, smiling widely.) Recently, for her Service95 book club, Lipa spoke to Patti Smith, one of her heroes. Smith shared that she had seen a picture of Lipa in a chain-mail dress at the Barbie premiere and instantly thought of Joan of Arc. “Sometimes when I’m talking about things like this, I’m like, ‘It feels weird that I am even talking about myself,’” Lipa says.

Lipa is everywhere, but many critics feel they have barely cracked the surface of who she is. She slipped so easily between genres that her sound, and personality, came off as inscrutable earlier in her career. Glimpses into her life outside of the spotlight would come in frequent but well-curated waves on her Instagram, the only social platform she runs herself. For her, music is a job — and her personal life remains just that. “I like to just live my life, do my photo dump, write my songs, and dip,” she explains. “I’m not interested in trying to be controversial or do something for a reaction.”

Coat and pants by Fear of God

Coat by Fear of God

Her poise and disinterest in drama often leads people to cast her as a guarded, too-perfect pop bot. Jokes and criticism that she’s not trying hard enough, not giving enough, have hurt her. In the middle of all this self-discovery, Lipa’s been figuring out how to create more distance from the noise around her.

“It’s always so easy with social media to get caught up in a negative spiral or people being mean, telling you what they think about you without really knowing you at all. It’s already so far-fetched, maybe, for some people to think that you have feelings or that you get upset,” she says. “For me, I think it’s just important to be able to take things with a pinch of salt.”

As unfazed as she may seem, some comments do sting. Take the reactions to something as innocuous as Lipa kicking back on vacation. After her Future Nostalgia tour wrapped in November 2022, Lipa spent the beginning of 2023 traveling the world with her family and friends. Fans dubbed her the “vacanza queen,” commenting about how she’s never home since her Instagram feed was full of photo dumps from places like Cannes and Ibiza.

“I think people are quick to forget,” she says. “I was on tour up until the end of December. I felt like I missed out on so much time with my family and friends. It shows how short our attention span is, which is why music comes out so much faster.”

And then for just a second, she bristles slightly, exhausted by how something so harmless has been getting picked apart. “Of course, I was going to fucking holiday and chill [during] the year that I was just going in the studio and had some time off. As long as I’m doing my job, hitting my deadlines, and getting my shit done, then I will find a way to relax, too. It’s really work hard and play hard. Why not?”

Lipa is working hard now. Her fans are eagerly awaiting her third album, which they’ve nicknamed DL3. She isn’t quite ready to reveal the actual title, but she shares that it’s a psychedelic-pop-infused tribute to U.K. rave culture. It’s heavily inspired by acts like Primal Scream and Massive Attack, staples for a London girl with a penchant for late-night drives around her city. Even her aesthetic is a total 180 from her last era, toning down the glam, sparkly bodysuits in an effort to evoke the “don’t give a fuck-ness” of Brit-pop acts like Oasis and Blur, more touchstones for her new music.

“This record feels a bit more raw,” she says. “I want to capture the essence of youth and freedom and having fun and just letting things happen, whether it’s good or bad. You can’t change it. You just have to roll with the punches of whatever’s happening in your life.”

But Dua is still Dua, and she hasn’t lost any of the command and drive that’s brought her this far, even with her Saturn return serving up new lessons every day. There’s a ton she’s planning right now, and she’s going to give her fans everything, even while taking things in stride. “I’m trying to move with a lightness, like ‘nothing is the end of the world,’” she says. “Whatever happens is exactly the way it’s supposed to be.”

JUST A WEEK EARLIER, before our lunch date in L.A., Lipa was at home in London. It was November, and the city was characteristically dreary, the sky gray and the streets dusted with intermittent rain. From the outside, her house looks like a foreboding, industrial-style warehouse, locked down, gated, and brick-walled. She settled down here in December 2022 and lives near her childhood home and teenage haunts — she fondly points out that there’s a club nearby where she saw J. Cole’s first U.K. tour.

Walking into her house feels a little like stepping from a black-and-white landscape into full Technicolor: It might seem like a fortress from the outside, but like Lipa, the interior is sophisticated and inviting, full of thoughtfully curated decorations and cozy furniture fit for the numerous dinner parties she hosts here. Oversize orange and white couches surround heavy granite coffee tables. Against one wall is a walnut cabinet accented with tchotchkes and a copy of Patti Smith’s M Train. A giant color wheel looms over her white record player, while on the same wall hangs a collage of the Muppets painted by the art collective FriendsWithYou. On the bench below, a crate of records has an Oasis bootleg perched at the front, alongside a few artfully placed vintage books that include William A. Emboden’s history of hallucinogenic botanicals, Narcotic Plants, and the screenplay for Paris, Texas.

Lipa is wrapping up a meeting with her team in another part of the house, but within minutes, she walks into the living room. She is in the middle of a promotional blitz that includes radio appearances, photo shoots, and social media content. Though she’s dressed down in jeans and a Palace Unitas sweatshirt, her eyes are done up in a heavy, smoked-out cat eye from an on-camera appearance that morning. Her red hair is down, except for two tiny, face-framing braids.

Lipa began working on new music in 2021, long before her Future Nostalgia tour started. At the time, it was still unclear if there would even be a tour, given all of the pandemic-related delays and health concerns. “I was like, ‘I might as well get back in the studio and start working on a new project.’ And for me, I just have to write a lot until I get my idea.” 

The album didn’t take shape until after the second leg of her yearlong tour was over. The exact date — maybe it was June? Lipa’s brow furrows as she tries to remember, and because she needs to be precise, she jumps off the orange couch we’re sitting on and walks toward the seemingly normal, white brick wall next to us. It turns out it’s actually a secret doorway to her bedroom. 

“It’s so heavy,” she groans, struggling to pry it open. But she returns holding a thick notebook that she purchased from CVS that’s covered in abstract, absent-minded Dua doodles. The pages are filled with notes and handwritten lyrics, and she flips to the date in question — July 2022 — which is when she first met Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker. “I was so nervous because I’m just such a fan of Kevin’s,” Lipa says.

Parker, she remembers, “was quite shy in the beginning.” She invited him to a session with three other people she had been working with that summer: her longtime collaborator Caroline Ailin, who co-wrote “Don’t Start Now” and “New Rules,” electronica auteur Danny L Harle (Caroline Polachek, Charli XCX), and folky-pop balladeer Tobias Jesso Jr. (Adele, Niall Horan). Putting these four disparate musical personalities together was a risky gamble that paid off.

“After a while, we all just loosened up together,” Lipa recalls. By the end of the first day at London’s 5DB, the group had “a really good” song. By the end of the week, they had three. “I remember thinking it was a genius move to get that combination of people together,” Parker says. “Like, hats off to her.”

Lipa refers to this particular group as her “band”; they ended up making eight of the 11 tracks on the album. Outside of Ailin, everyone was mostly new to her. She admits that she had been apprehensive about letting new people into her orbit: “As things get bigger, you get more scared to open up and be vulnerable and sit down in a room and just speak from the heart,” she says.

Part of that might be because Lipa was sorting out a bunch of stuff in her personal life — boundaries, breaks, balance. In December 2021, right as she was entering tour rehearsals, the tabloids reported her breakup with model Anwar Hadid (the brother of Bella and Gigi Hadid), who she dated for two years. She spent the following year tiptoeing back into single life. “Dating, I think overall, is just a little confusing,” she says, which is somehow both comforting and terrifying to hear from someone even Margot Robbie has said she has a crush on. “It’s either through friends of friends or people you trust where you can meet new people, because [dating] is not really so straightforward when you are, I guess, a public person.” (Lipa started a new relationship last year, but confirms she’s single again on a call in December.)

Coat by Fear of God

According to Ailin, they “always started with the truth.” Lipa would arrive to sessions with Ailin, Harle, Jesso, and Parker, armed with stories from the night before, chronicling the often-ridiculous ride that is dating in your mid-twenties.

The final product is uniquely and utterly Dua Lipa: confident dance pop full of witty Instagram-caption-ready one-liners. A lot of the songs are playful scenes from clubs or nights out with friends; the lyrics toggle from warnings that she’ll make a fast escape to optimism about what a first kiss could become. There are no sweeping ballads, though there is one good ballad fake-out that blooms into a more buoyant Carole King- and Fleetwood Mac-inspired moment. Mostly, this album is straightforward pop bliss, not unlike her approach to Future Nostalgia

Lipa doesn’t talk about her love life in depth. People will have to look to the music to get a sense of her private thoughts: One song juxtaposes light harmonies with a tumultuous portrait of a relationship coming to an end: “We call it love but hate it here/Did we really mean it when we said forever?” she sings. But another highlight — one of Lipa’s favorites on the record — is all about maturity and healing. The dreamy, midtempo track plays out like an updated take on Gwen Stefani’s “Cool.” In the lyrics, she compliments her ex’s new relationship, calling his new girlfriend “really pretty,” and she finds peace as he moves on: “I must have loved you more than I ever knew.… I’m not mad/I’m not hurt/You got everything you deserve.”

“When you have a feeling like that one, you feel really grown because you’re like, ‘Oh, whoa, I’m such an evolved human being that I can see my ex move on and feel good about it,’” she explains. For Lipa, writing about letting go without animosity was a new experience: “I think I’ve had breakups in my life where I felt like the only kind of breakup you could have was when things just ended really badly,” she says. “Things ending in a nice way was such a new thing.… It taught me a lot.”

For the sound on the album, she thought back to British club culture and the type of carefree abandon she feels when she’s on the dance floor. Lipa’s collaborators helped unlock that energy: She met Harle at “the afterparty of an afterparty of a show” through Andrew Wyatt, who co-wrote Lipa’s first single, “New Love,” as well as her Barbie hit. Wyatt and Harle had done stuff for Polachek, who opened for Lipa’s tour. They’d also worked with a less-expected collaborator that piqued Lipa’s interest: former Oasis singer Liam Gallagher. On Gallagher’s album, Harle was credited as a “rave consultant” responsible for the breakbeat element on the 2022 cut “I’m Free,” which he co-produced with Wyatt.

“Dua really enjoyed that,” Harle says. “Dua likes going to a rave.” (This is true: “I love being on the dance floor, and being the first on the dance floor if nobody else is dancing,” Lipa says.)

Other inspirations came from Lipa’s upbringing in London: The mixes that played late in the evening on Radio 1 were a huge guide; that’s where she first heard some of her favorite Primal Scream remixes, which eventually led her to their 1991 LP, Screamadelica. And in addition to Oasis and Blur, she found herself turning to more of the Nineties rock and electronica acts she grew up listening to, like Moby and Gorillaz.

I mention that some of those Brit-pop influences — Noel Gallagher and Damon Albarn in particular — haven’t always been very kind to female pop artists (both have taken shots at the likes of Adele and Taylor Swift, for example). I ask her if she’s ever met any of them.

“I haven’t had any encounters with them, actually,” she says. “Sometimes you have to separate the art from the person.… It’s more like the music element, the aspect of it that I’m really connected to. The way that [some Brit-pop artists] acted, the things that they’ve done, they’re obnoxious for sure. That’s their whole thing.”

They seem to represent a certain version of toxic rock masculinity, I say, and Lipa agrees, pondering what the world expected from rock stars in the past. “There’s so much toxicity in the way people wanted their artists or their musicians,” she says. “If they weren’t like that, they would’ve been seen as boring, and I think that’s such a bad way to see things.”

Sheer Top: Vintage Helmut Lang at morphine.online. Bra and Belt by Celine by Hedi Slimane. Denim by Calvin Klein

As raw and loose as the album sounds, Lipa’s process was painstakingly detailed. The collaborators call Lipa a “meticulous” editor who rewrote every line until she felt it was perfect. “Her editing is brutal,” Parker says. The lead single, “Houdini,” for example, took months to get right. “I’d kind of recoil in horror and go, ‘Oh, no, it’s a great verse!’” Parker says. “But then an hour later, we’d have something that I can’t imagine not being in the song.”

“I don’t think there’s a single song on this record that I didn’t go back and want to rewrite and perfect and change and work on it a bit more and dig a little deeper and see if we could go any further,” Lipa admits. But her method worked: Every single one of the collaborators raves about the chemistry and the cohesiveness Lipa engineered. 

“Everyone was going, ‘Is this normal? This feels too good to be true,’” Jesso says. “It’s the pinnacle of my writing career. There’s nothing you could get better than that.”

The truth is, you can’t be as ambitious and precise as Lipa is without giving a fuck. “I really care about how the fans respond,” she says. (After “Houdini” was released, she was frustrated that people said it still sounded “disco” when none of her influences come from there.) 

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care about what the critics thought.… When you put your heart and soul into something, you want people collectively to be like, ‘Oh, it’s changed sonically, and it’s been something different.’”

She’s noticed a pattern with all of her singles so far, how they don’t start at the top and “gradually grow” over time. “They take so long and never get to Number One, but they stay around for a long time,” she says. There’s no irritation or anger in her voice when she says this; while a Number One in the U.S. would be nice, the longevity feels like a hard-earned win. 

“As long as the songs stick around and people are listening to them, I’m cool with that,” she says.

When it’s time to leave, London is a darker shade of gray. Lipa walks me to the door, holding open my jacket for me to stick my arms into. She tells me about her dinner plans at BRAT, a Michelin-star restaurant in Shoreditch where she’s meeting up with a primary-school friend. After she recommends the negroni at the restaurant where I’m heading to meet friends, the gates close behind me. Like she promised, the negroni is delicious. 

LIPA CAN TRACE her meticulous nature back to when she was a child. As a kid, she ran a blog called Dua Daily, a Service95 prototype where she would share her style tips and recipes. And as the oldest of three, she’s taken her job as a big sister as seriously as she has taken her gigs as both tastemaker and pop superstar. Her siblings were in school when Lipa’s career started taking off, and are now forging their own paths; her sister wants to be an actress, while her brother is producing music. 

“It’s cool to just see them have their goals,” she says, grinning proudly. “I’d be like, ‘Oh, you guys want to come over?’ And they’re like, ‘Oh, no, I’m busy. I’ve got a studio session.’” Lipa sees their parents, Anesa and Dukagjin, as her blueprint: Anesa had been studying to be a lawyer and Dukagjin was both a musician and a dentist in Kosovo before they fled their homes in the early Nineties when the Bosnian war broke out. The couple completely started over in the U.K., where their three kids were born.

“My parents are really the people I look back on for everything,” she says. “While I was a kid, they never made me feel like anything was ever wrong. They know they tried to give me as normal of a childhood as they could, while at the same time just working so hard, and working in bars, and restaurants, and pubs, and all that.”

When Lipa was 11, her family moved back to Kosovo’s capital city, Pristina, after the war. It felt like heaven to Lipa, who got to stay out a little bit later and move more independently in the city’s streets, which, she says, were much safer than London’s. 

School was harder, though. “It was so much more advanced than in London,” she says, her eyes widening from the memory. Science, chemistry, and math were particularly tough. “The kids were learning shit that I thought I had time to learn. I was doing fractions in London, and algebra in Kosovo.”

Luckily, Lipa seems to like a challenge. She would make bets with her mom, like one where she could get her belly button pierced if she got an A in math. She got a tutor and, eventually, her piercing. 

“Maybe I thrive on being undermined, or maybe I thrive on people saying that I can’t do things,” she says. “For better or for worse, I throw myself into something so heavily to get it right and to make it perfect, make it good.”

Earlier in her career, her low-key demeanor was interpreted as a lack of personality onstage. The “Go girl, give us nothing” meme took off around 2018 after it was left as a comment on a video of Lipa looking either bored or tired while doing a lackluster hip-swiveling dance move. It’s something Lipa brings up during our interview, once without being prompted and another time after being pressed about how much it seems to have stuck with her. 

“I did find that really hurtful, and I found it really painful because I was like, ‘I’m finally getting to do something that I love to do, and I’m being shut down, that I just can’t seem to do anything right,’” she says. “Not only that, but I was also being thrown around the world. Lots of promos, lots of rehearsing, lots of everything, and not having really time to perfect anything.”

Lipa began rolling out “Houdini” on Instagram by playing with the illusionist theme of the song’s namesake, posting then deleting teaser photos until announcing the track’s release date. She also wiped away her past few years of Future Nostalgia and trips around the globe on the app. But, perhaps unwittingly, the theme played into ideas of Lipa as a slippery, hard-to-pin-down pop star: A viral thread on X posted a week after “Houdini” was released described her as a “mystery,” with indiscernible personality traits. “She’s everywhere and nowhere,” read a follow-up post. 

Lipa gets frustrated with the connotation, especially since it’s trailed her for a while now. “I think I’m British,” she offers. “I don’t think I’m here to spill my guts on a talk show because it’s going to be good for a news cycle or getting attention.… As much as people think they know the people they support, I actually don’t think they know anything about them anyway.” 

Most of the time, Lipa makes her business moves in silence. That’s why her fans were shocked when she quietly parted ways with her TaP management team in 2022. A friend of hers helped set up Lipa with TaP CEO Ben Mawson in 2013, when she was just a teenager waiting tables in London. After news broke that Lipa was leaving TaP, she signed on her father as her manager, flipping the way most management shake-ups usually go in pop music.

Long Sleeve top by Mowalola, Underwear by Miu Miu, Shoes by Maison Margiela. Tights by Wolford

“To be really quite honest, I can’t talk so much about the whole thing,” Lipa says, mentioning the litigious nature of the situation. (She says there was a settlement that allowed her to buy back the publishing rights to her music; a TaP spokesperson confirms that Lipa bought her publishing in 2023, a year after their management relationship ended.) Still, the experience reaffirmed how important it is for her to be as well-versed on the business side as she is with the creative elements of her career. “The creative side is the way that I express myself, but I think being able to also understand that this is my name, this is what I stand for, these are the things that are important to me, and how that actually goes hand in hand with the artistry nowadays.”

She offers a warning to younger artists: “Pay attention early on, especially in the business side of things…. I don’t think enough people tell young artists that. Everything feels so exciting in the beginning, and of course it is, but it’s good to have the knowledge, and good to take care of yourself.”

Lipa brings up “knowledge” often. She understands the way the general public looks at her and other female pop stars, refusing to believe that they are more than their looks or their hits.

“I don’t know if people believe that I like to read books, or people believe that these conversations are my own,” she says. She seems a little resigned — frustrated, even — at how limiting that perception can feel. “I think it’s a thing of what people want from their pop stars,” she says. “They don’t want you to be political. They don’t want you to be smart. Not that I’m trying to prove myself in that way, but there is so much more to me than just what I do.”

Lipa points back to the experiences of her parents and how it has shaped her worldview. “My existence is kind of political, the fact that I lived in London because my parents left from the war.” She doesn’t break eye contact as she says this, serious in her tone. “I feel for people who have to leave their home. From my experience of being in Kosovo and understanding what war does, no one really wants to leave their home. They do it for protection, to save their family, to look after the people around them, that kind of thing, for a better life. So I feel close to it.”

Lipa has found it hard to stay silent on many issues, especially those that feel similar to what her parents experienced during the war. That’s why she has long been an outspoken advocate for the Palestinian people. But in 2021, The New York Times ran a full-page ad from Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and the World Values Network accusing Lipa and the Hadid sisters of antisemitism for their support of Palestinian liberation. Lipa took to social media to condemn the organization’s accusations —  as well as the paper for running the ad. A year later, she invited former Times editor Dean Baquet on her podcast and asked him directly how the paper could publish something “so damaging and potentially dangerous.” 

Photographs by Michael Bailey-Gates

Coat by Ferragamo. Denim by Celine by Hedi Slimane

“Speaking to an editor was important for me because I felt like I was put in danger and I was put in a place where my core values were completely flipped on its head, and that really hurt because I feel like when I do want to speak about something, I hope that people will see it for what it is and that there is no malicious intent,” she says now.

More recently, she’s signed and supported a petition for a cease-fire to the Israel-Hamas war that has torn Gaza to shreds and displaced millions.

“My feelings on displaced people [are] very real and raw, and it is a difficult subject to speak about because it’s so divisive,” she says. There’s a somber shift as she carefully gathers her thoughts. “But there is a world where you can feel for all lives that are being lost. And I have to say this: I don’t condone what Hamas is doing, regardless of what [that advertisement in] The New York Times said [in 2021]. Every life is precious.”

As she continues, she points out how important it is for people to properly educate themselves on the crisis, especially in the face of rampant misinformation. 

“I feel so bad for every Israeli life lost and what happened on Oct. 7,” she says. “At the moment, what we have to look at is how many lives have been lost in Gaza, and the innocent civilians, and the lives that are just being lost. There are just not enough world leaders that are taking a stand and speaking up about the humanitarian crisis that’s happening, the humanitarian cease-fire that has to happen.” 

Like many, Lipa feels powerless in the face of the ongoing conflict. Her solution remains being as informed as possible while using her platform to encourage her fans to do the same. 

“It’s probably easier to be apolitical,” she says. “I think there’s no kind of deep discussion about war and oppression. It just is something that we’ve seen happen time and time again. I feel like just being a musician and posting about something doesn’t make enough of a difference, but hopefully, just showing solidarity, which is sometimes all you feel like you can do, is important.”

“DO YOU SMOKE?” Lipa asks, standing on the private balcony of her suite at the Chateau Marmont. She brings over two Parliaments, lamenting that the hotel doesn’t have her usual Marlboro Lights; in the new year, Lipa will announce that she’s quitting smoking altogether. She sits down carefully in the structured, leather Jacquemus dress she has on for the night. (It’s a lot easier to maneuver in than the dress she wears to the Golden Globes in January; she posted a video of herself struggling to sit in her tightly corseted custom Schiaparelli gown after the show.) She strikes a match and lights both cigarettes while staring out at the sea of billboards on Sunset Boulevard. 

Lipa likes coming to Chateau when she’s out in Los Angeles, with its spooky vibe and the chance of running into people she knows downstairs at the exclusive, celebrity-filled restaurant.

“If these walls could talk, I wonder what the fuck they would say,” she says before taking a drag of her cigarette. Above the quiet hum of the traffic below, she talks about the ghost stories she’s heard about this place. “I wouldn’t go into Bungalow Three,” she says, referring to where John Belushi died. Her paranormal curiosity is reserved for the secret tunnels that she’s heard about beneath Harry Houdini’s estate in Laurel Canyon. We’ll be heading there soon for the second of three “Houdini” fan events she’s hosting.

Back inside her suite, her glam team is going through racks of designer clothes, organizing what they can. In two days, Lipa will jet off to Tokyo for another fan event, then return to Los Angeles for Barbie promos ahead of award season. In between, she’ll go back to London, then to New York a couple of times, and even fit in a girls’ trip to Copenhagen. She’ll end the year in India with her family, a quick break before she begins volleying herself across the world again for more of the same. 

Though her career as a singer is the priority, she wonders if there’s a future where her path changes, comparing pop stardom to “a hamster wheel.”

“You make the album, you promote it, you go on tour, you do the same thing, and that’s so amazing, but I think there’s going to come a point where maybe I want to take just a little bit longer [in between],” she confesses. “I have all these other things that I can also do that really interest me.”

Lipa established her own production, publishing, and management company, Radical22, with which she’s making her passion projects come to life. This includes a documentary on her beloved London neighborhood of Camden that she’s executive-producing with Disney+. She’s been enjoying the process of booking interviews with artists like Little Simz, who will appear in the doc, and other names associated with the area’s music and arts scene.

Following her cameo as Mermaid Barbie in Barbie, she will play a suave spy in Matthew Vaughn’s comedy Argylle, which comes out this year. “It was a lot of fun, but a massive learning curve,” she admits. “I remember when Matthew reached out for me to do a part in this, I [thought] I should go and do some acting lessons.” Vaughn persuaded her not to, hoping she’d just be herself on camera. “If she was nervous, she hid it well,” Vaughn says. He sought out the star after seeing her don a sparkly fringe Valentino dress on The Graham Norton Show. (“It sort of looked like a Christmas decoration with legs and arms,” he says. “She looked amazing.”)

As Harle sees it, Lipa is the last of a dying breed. “I think she is going to be one of the last superstars of pop music,” he asserts, pointing out how “pluralistic” culture is now because of how algorithms have changed music discovery.

“The younger generation won’t break through culture on all levels of culture. The idea of the superstar will change in the future, and Dua will be one of the final ones. It’s an absolute honor to get to work with her in that respect.”

There’s other stuff Lipa wants to accomplish: She could see herself moving outside of the U.K. one day, maybe to Barcelona, or Madrid, or Paris, or Mexico City. She’s been learning Spanish and French; by 35, she wants to be more fluent in both, as well as Italian. “I want to know all of them,” she says. “I get so jealous when people are speaking in French, or Spanish, or Italian, and I’m like, ‘Fuck.’ I just want to respond. I think I can pick them up fairly easily because of Albanian, although it’s quite different.”

She’s started to pick up guitar, recently learning “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” Maybe in a few years, she’ll take some college courses, too. “I started working so young that I just feel like there’s going to be a little moment where I do some more sharpening of my knives,” she says.

Before long, it’s time for her to head to the Houdini Estate, where fans are taking advantage of the open bar, free tacos, and dance floor. Lipa makes a grand entrance, descending a spiral staircase and joining the DJ behind the booth. She dances and sings along to two spins of “Houdini,” grabbing people’s phones to take a few selfies and videos.

She comes and goes as quickly as promised. She jumps into one of three Escalades transporting her crew around the city. Once she’s in the car, she climbs out of the window to give me a hug goodbye. Then she’s off, heading back toward the Chateau and its ghosts — and wherever else the night takes her.

Produced by RHIANNA RULE for PALM PRODUCTIONS. Photography Direction by EMMA REEVES. Styling by LORENZO POSOCCO. Hair styling by PETER LUX at THE WALL GROUP. Makeup by NINA PARK for KALPANA. Tailoring by DIANA AGHAJANYAN. Videographer: MAC SCHOOP. Production Manager: ALEXIS BOOKER. Styling assistance: RAE HAYDEN and LP STUDIO. Hair styling assistance: ALLIE ELLIS. Makeup assistance: YUKARI BUSH. Production assistance: JACK CLARKE and MIKEY DE VERA. Photographed at SMASHBOX STUDIOS

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