Tequila. A drink that's fun, delicious, and when you get to know it better, has more to it than meets the eye.
These are all attributes you can also apply to Rita Ora, she of 16M Instagram followers, four UK #1 singles, roles in Fifty Shades of Grey and Fast & Furious, and Spotify's most-streamed EDM female artist of 2020. And now chief creative partner and shareholder of an award-winning tequila brand, Próspero, which she's created in partnership with master distiller Stella Anguiano.
For Ora, this is much more than a collaboration. Próspero and its three expressions – blanco, reposado and anejo – are a story of female empowerment.
The brand pays tribute to Anguiano's heritage and her skills, not to mention Ora's own career success – and went straight in the top ten at this year's World Tequila Awards, putting Ora alongside George Clooney, Ryan Reynolds and Jay Z.
Ahead of Próspero's UK launch, we chat to Ora about smashing it in a male-dominated industry, turning 30, and her secret ingredient in a margarita.
So why tequila?
Próspero was something that I never really had thought about at first. It was definitely a suggestion from someone in my team and I thought, "Yeah, OK", but then what really sealed the deal for me was the inspiring story of my business partner Stella [Anguiano], who was an artist in her own right and still is, actually, but her spirit and her story really made me want to get involved. Her drive, her authentic artistic pursuits and her approach to the brand – I really loved how it was coming together.
So when she was telling me her history with distillery farms and how tequila gets made – because I flew to Tequila in Mexico myself to meet one of the distillers – and I met her and that's when it really all clicked.
She was really involved in it and wanted to own the fact that she's been a part of this heritage for so many years. It comes from her blood and it's something that she was raised in.
I trusted her and that was it, that's how it started. And now we have this really cool brand called Próspero.
If I was going to be involved in it, it had to feel like the truth and I didn't want it to just feel like a collaboration – I got my teeth stuck in
We have such a delicate logo that we thought really hard about. I definitely wanted it to have that feminine approach, especially as it's such a male-dominated industry. I really wanted it to feel like it was a true story of this incredible woman Stella, and also if I was going to be involved in it, it has to feel like the truth and I didn't want it to feel just like a collaboration.
It was more than being the face of the brand; I really wanted to get my teeth stuck in and learn about how to craft the bottle and how to make it.
We have three different flavours at different price points. Launching in the UK on the 25th November is just so exciting, it's one of my most exciting markets.
We've done America, so coming home is really cool. I wanted all my fans and friends to have a taste of it and Selfridges have been kind enough to launch it on the 25th, especially in time for Christmas and a day before my birthday so I really feel like it's all lining up.
How involved were you as creative director?
I was really involved. The team were amazing, they taught me a lot. They taught me how to be patient and taste all these different tequilas and sipping on it and learning how to drink it. Unlike when you're younger and you have no idea what you're doing, it was really nice to be able to enjoy the taste of a tequila shot.
Jokes aside, everyone that knows me knows I love hosting parties and doing dinners, I love getting people comfortable and offering drinks. So now I can say, "Hey, do you want to taste my tequila?" and show them how to taste it. It's so cool! And be like here, try this cocktail. I'm not a professional bartender, but I learned a lot of different ways [to drink it].
Are you proud of the results?
You've got to send off the tequila before it comes out and we've won all these amazing awards from the World Tequila Awards and we beat everyone! Seeing the top ten list of all the biggest spirits from last year and it was Ryan Reynolds, Jay Z, George Clooney and all these well-established huge people and then there was me, and I was the only female in the top ten list and I thought, this is bigger than just me, I really want to do something that proves we can win in this field.
It's rare to see women unless it's like a prosecco or a wine or something more delicate... Spirits are more challenging for women and everyone knows I like a challenge.
If you've seen my career over the past 10 years, I've done a lot in TV and music and fashion. I always want to keep pushing and pushing. This is another thing to add on that I'm super proud of. We worked really hard on it.
The three Próspero expressions:
This was another tick on the list. I've never thought of doing something like this. The spirit business is such a big industry and it's an amazing outcome if it goes really well.
It's a patient game just like any other business, it doesn't just happen overnight, but there's more that I'd love to do.
I'm only going to be turning 30 and I feel like it's just starting. There are so many other things that I've got in the pipeline.
Music, I have to be honest, is my first true love and I will never stop putting out music. But I think the world right now has so many more opportunities that you can do to connect to people in so many different ways, through clothes or tequila or whatever it is. Why not be able to do it all?
I think that's what that world is coming to, it's really cool.
How are you feeling about turning 30?
It's weird, isn't it? I don't really know how to feel. I think that you can't stop it.
Last night I was in bed and I didn't have a panic attack, but I sat up and thought, 'Gosh, it's really happening!' I kind of feel like I'm not really thinking about it.
I don't feel any different and I hope I don't look different. Imagine if you hit 30 and suddenly everything starts drooping!
It's an exciting time. All my friends who have turned 30 have said they have never felt more confident in their own skin, and I feel like you know what you want more and you feel sexier in yourself just because you know yourself more.
What are you doing to celebrate?
My mum said she'll cook me a meal, bless. My mum, dad and sister are the only people in my bubble. So I had my 10th birthday and now I'm having some 30th with the same family members.
So I feel like, 'Where is the evolution?' I guess I can be like 'Guys, I have my own tequila' and three people will cheer and that's it.
Have you had any cool London takeaways during lockdown?
I've had a few amazing companies send me fresh things to make with recipes that were really interesting.
Last night I made Korean chicken wings and all the ingredients came in the box and you didn't need anything else – everything was in there with a step-to-step guide.
For someone like me who isn't the best cook, it was pretty cool to be able to do something like that.
So you're not much of a cook?
Not really. But I don't want to say that and then next year I'll do Rita's Cooking! And come out with a range of saucepans.
No, I feel like everything I do has to stay true to me. That's why this tequila makes sense – I've always been a tequila drinker.
I love to have a drink when I've finished work. So I thought I would see how it goes and it's been going really well, so I really hope people enjoy it.
Everything I do has to stay true to me. Which is why this makes sense – I've always loved tequila
Have you got any tequila tales?
I think when you're young everyone occasionally has those days when you wake up and think, 'What have I done to myself?'
There's many a time where you may or may not regret waking up and you've got a banging headache. But this isn't one of those tequilas.
Now that I'm an ambassador for a spirit, I'm more aware of drinking responsibly and making sure that everything is really in order, because it can be really dangerous.
It's interesting because as you grow up you learn what works for yourself and your body, and really tequila works really well for me. But I guess everyone's different.
How do you drink it?
I like it clean with a splash of lime and some ice. I'm really getting good at margaritas, that's my cocktail of choice. I've had plenty of time to practise making them in lockdown. So I use the syrup – and I don't really do salt because I don't really do that for myself – and I love to drink it really cold, loads of fresh lime juice, soda water and sometimes instead of soda I use ginger ale for something slightly sweeter. That's my little trick.