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The story of Dua Lipa and Albania

Honour: Dua Lipa has been granted Albanian citizenship for her role in spreading Albanians' fame internationally through her music

Dua Lipa has been granted Albanian citizenship by Albania’s president for what he said was the British pop star’s role in spreading Albanians’ fame internationally through her music.

The 27-year-old songstress was born in London in 1995 to Kosovar-Albanian parents who fled conflict and political instability in the Balkans.

She has often proudly referenced her Albanian origins on Instagram and in interviews with press. She also enjoys family trips to the nation – and takes part in traditions such as balancing a glass on her head while dancing. 

Dua was granted citizenship ahead of Albania’s 110th anniversary of independence from the Ottoman Empire, with President Bajram Begaj saying he considered it an honour to do so because the singer has made Albanians famous throughout the world.

Honour: Dua Lipa has been granted Albanian citizenship for her role in spreading Albanians' fame internationally through her music

Honour: Dua Lipa has been granted Albanian citizenship for her role in spreading Albanians’ fame internationally through her music

Humble beginnings: Born in London to Kosovar-Albanian parents who fled conflict and political instability in the Balkans, Dua has realised a childhood dream of becoming a star

Humble beginnings: Born in London to Kosovar-Albanian parents who fled conflict and political instability in the Balkans, Dua has realised a childhood dream of becoming a star

Dua enjoys family trips to the nation

...and takes part in traditions such as balancing a glass on her head while dancing

Dua enjoys family trips to the nation (left) – and takes part in traditions such as balancing a glass on her head while dancing (right)

‘I will be an Albanian with papers too,’ Dua said before taking her citizenship oath in the capital at Tirana city hall.

‘It is an indescribable great joy with such acceptance, love and everything,’ she added. The artist then took a passport photo, was fingerprinted and signed an application form for an identity card and passport.

Dua will wrap up her annual concert tour in Tirana’s main Skanderbeg Square on Monday to commemorate Independence Day.

At just 27 years old, the stylish songstress has firmly established herself as one of Britain’s biggest pop stars – realising a dream that started when she was a primary schoolgirl in Camden.

Proud parents: Born in London in 1995, Dua is the eldest daughter of Dukagjin Lipa and his wife, Anesa, who is of Bosnian and Kosovan descent

Proud parents: Born in London in 1995, Dua is the eldest daughter of Dukagjin Lipa and his wife, Anesa, who is of Bosnian and Kosovan descent

Young love: Dukagjin was training to be a dentist and Anesa a lawyer before leaving Kosovo but they gave up their professions to flee their home country in search of somewhere safer

Young love: Dukagjin was training to be a dentist and Anesa a lawyer before leaving Kosovo but they gave up their professions to flee their home country in search of somewhere safer

Big sister: Dua Lipa is big sister to Rina, now 18, a model, and Gjin, 16. Pictured, with younger sister Rina as a little girl

Big sister: Dua Lipa is big sister to Rina, now 18, a model, and Gjin, 16. Pictured, with younger sister Rina as a little girl

Born in London, Dua attended a small state primary school and had her first taste of performing while taking Saturday classes at the world-renowned Sylvia Young Theatre School.

After spending a few years in Pristina after her father’s job as a marketing manager took them back to his native Kosovo, Dua bravely decided to return to the UK alone at the age of 14 in pursuit of her dreams of pop stardom.

In 2014, after achieving 4 A-Levels at a Camden all-girls sixth form college, the talented teenager had signed with Warner Bros. Records.

Now, just eight years later, she has toured the world with a No.1 album, picked up three Grammy awards, and six Brit awards.

Away from the spotlight, Dua remains close to her family.

Finding fame: Dua has taken home a total of three Grammys. Pictured, at the 2019 awards

Finding fame: Dua has taken home a total of three Grammys. Pictured, at the 2019 awards

Dua, who says she feels both Kosovan and British, co-founded the Sunny Hill Foundation with her father Dukagjin Lipa, who now heads up Republika Communications Agency, based in Bucharest.

The Foundation has given away 100,000 euros to charities and cultural events in Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, and runs the Sunny Hill Festival, which was headlined by Dua Lipa in 2018.

Speaking to Line Of Best Fit, she said: ‘I feel very proud to be from both places and I feel like I represent both places.

‘In Kosovo, the second that you do something and you’re making these moves around the world, you’re instantly a key person there.

‘So if someone’s like ‘oh, where’s Kosovo?’ people say ‘it’s in-between Italy and Greece, but Rita Ora’s from there, Dua Lipa’s from there.’

Close family: Dua with her mother Anesa, brother Gjin, sister Rina and father Dukagjin in 2019

Close family: Dua with her mother Anesa, brother Gjin, sister Rina and father Dukagjin in 2019

Family: Dua Lipa, left, with her parents and younger siblings in New York in 2019

Family: Dua Lipa, left, with her parents and younger siblings in New York in 2019

‘They start talking about it and it’s a thing that you become proud of. You instantly feel responsible about the image you portray and the way you represent your place.’

‘We want to give people a sense of belonging, of European living and the idea that we are part of Europe,’ Dukagjin told the Observer ahead of the Sunny Hill Festival opening.

‘This is the greatest way to promote Kosovo as a peace-loving and music-loving country that welcomes all our neighbours and all visitors who want to have fun.’

In August 2022, Dua was made an Honorary Ambassador of Kosovo in a ceremony at the Office of the President in Pristina.

Sharing images from the event to her Instagram at the time, the pop star wrote: ‘Yesterday afternoon I was awarded the title of Honorary Ambassador of Kosovo by our Madame President.

‘It’s an honour and a privilege to be able to represent my country all over the world and to continue my work and efforts globally to see that we leave our mark and make a difference.

'An honour and a privilege': Dua Lipa was made an Honorary Ambassador of Kosovo in a ceremony at the Office of the President in Pristina in August 2022

‘An honour and a privilege’: Dua Lipa was made an Honorary Ambassador of Kosovo in a ceremony at the Office of the President in Pristina in August 2022

Hometown hero! A mural in Pristina celebrating Dua Lipa's continued success

Hometown hero! A mural in Pristina celebrating Dua Lipa’s continued success

‘The youth of Kosovo deserves the right to visa liberalisation, freedom to travel and to dream big. Thank you.’

Dua also shared an image of a letter she had received from the President, in which she was described as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime musician’ who had continued to make the country ‘proud’ as she travels the world with her tour. 

Dua is the eldest daughter of Dukagjin Lipa and his wife, Anesa, who is of Bosnian and Kosovan descent.

Dukagjin, a former rocker who shares his daughter’s love of music, is the son of well-known historian Seit Lipa, who served as head of the Kosovo Institute of History.

Dua Lipa sparked controversy with tweet linked to extreme Albanian nationalists 

In July 2020, Dua sparked controversy with a tweet linked to extreme Albanian nationalists.

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She posted an image of a map which showed the nations of Albania and Kosovo, as well as slices of neighbouring countries, on a red flag emblazoned with Albania’s eagle emblem. 

The banner, which advocates Albanian expansionism across the Balkans, was flown during a 2014 football match between Serbia and Albania, sparking a mass brawl.

The tweet was accompanied with the word ‘autochthonous’, which means the original inhabitants of a country, opposed to settlers. It suggests that Kosovar-Albanians are indigenous to the region, a claim that is refuted by Serbs.

In July 2020, Dua posted an image of a map which showed the nations of Albania and Kosovo, as well as slices of neighbouring countries, on a red flag emblazoned with Albania's eagle emblem

In July 2020, Dua posted an image of a map which showed the nations of Albania and Kosovo, as well as slices of neighbouring countries, on a red flag emblazoned with Albania’s eagle emblem 

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, becoming Europe’s youngest country, over a decade after NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia.

Albanian nationalists claim they settled the country before the Serbs, so to them, Kosovo is a country of ethnic Albanians.

According to the BBC, fans and critics accused Dua of advocating Albanian expansionism, which involves creating a Greater Albania, to be home to all indigenous Albanians.

Serbia and Russia do not recognise Kosovo, but most other countries do.

The controversial tweet came shortly after social media users began to circulate a petition calling for Apple maps to include Kosovo as a singular entity.

A day earlier, Dua shared a similar story on her Instagram, which read: ‘Why Kosovo is not & will never be Serbia’, while demanding that Apple put Kosovo and Palestine on their maps. 

She later spoke out on the controversy, saying: ‘My previous post was never meant to incite any hate, It makes me sad and angry that my post has been wilfully misinterpreted by some groups and individuals who promote ethnic separatism, something I completely reject…

‘We all deserve to be proud of our ethnicity and where we are from. I simply want my country to be represented on a map and to be able to speak with pride and joy about my Albanian roots and my mother country…

‘I encourage everyone to embrace their heritage and to listen and learn from each other. Peace, love and respect to all.’

‘Once the Serbians came in, they wanted a lot of the historians to rewrite the history of Kosovo,’ Lipa told the Observer in 2018.

‘To change it – that Kosovo was always part of Serbia and never part of Yugoslavia.

‘And my grandfather was one of those people who wouldn’t, so he lost his job, because he didn’t want to write a history that he didn’t believe to be true.’

He was an acquaintance of Besim Sahatçiu, the late grandfather of pop star Rita Ora, who was born in Pristina. In 2021, Dukagjin shared a photo of the two men enjoying lunch together in the 1960s.

Seit died of a heart attack in 1999, the year the Kosovo War ended. Besim died in 2005.

Dukagjin was training to be a dentist and Anesa a lawyer before leaving Kosovo but they gave up their professions to flee their home country in search of somewhere safer to raise a family.

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They settled in Hampstead, north London. After Dua, whose name means ‘love’ in Albanian, came daughter Rina, now 18, a model, and son Gjin, 16.

To earn money, Dukagjin and Anesa picked up jobs waiting tables at cafes and bars. Her father took night classes in business and Anesa retrained in travel and tourism.

‘I’ve seen my parents work every day of my life,’ said Dua, who attended Fitzjohn’s Primary School, a local community school. ‘While I was going to school they were going to school.’

When Dua was 11, Dukagjin finished his business course and was offered a job in Pristina as a marketing manager.

The young family moved to the Kosovan capital where Dua, who spoke Albanian but could not read or write, initially struggled with her studies.

It was in Pristina that Dua also truly fell in love with music, particularly the US hip hop that was so popular in the city.

She began writing and recording songs but believed she needed to move back to London if she wanted to break the international market.

Showcasing extraordinary maturity, at the age of 14 Dua returned to the UK with her parents permission, moving in with an older family friend in Camden who was studying for a master’s degree.

Dua enrolled at Parliament Hill School, a comprehensive all-girls secondary school and sixth form where she achieved four A-Levels in Politics, Psychology, English and Media Studies.

Despite the distance, Dua remained close to her family and her mother even flew to London for parents’ evenings.

Alongside school and the odd modelling job for ASOS and Topshop, the teenager was taking weekend classes at Sylvia Young Theatre School, whose alumni include Billie Piper, Amy Winehouse and Keeley Hawes, and filming covers of pop songs for YouTube and SoundCloud.

Eventually her videos caught the eye of Ben Mawson at Tap Management, which represents Ellie Goulding, Lana Del Rey and Little Mix’s Leigh-Ann Pinnock.

Her original song Hotter Than Hell, which appeared on her self-titled debut album, led to her signing with Warner Bros. Records in 2014.

She released her debut single New Love in August 2015, the same month she turned 20. It was followed by Be The One, which went platinum in Australia, and Hotter Than Hell, which reached No.15 in the UK Singles Charts.

Remarkably, Dua’s first No.1 came just four years ago with catchy summer pop anthem New Rules, which was turned down by a number of acts including Little Mix before being brought to Dua.

The song was from her 2017 debut album which reached No.3 in the UK Album Charts.

The following year the singer became the first female artist to be nominated for five BRIT Awards at the age of just 22. She won two.

The awards kept on coming. Her 2018 single One Kiss with Calvin Harris peaked at No.1 in the UK and won her the 2019 BRIT Award for Song of the Year.

In March 2020 Dua released her second album Future Nostalgia, which topped the charts in 15 countries including the UK. Dua has also won three Grammy Awards.

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