How Dua Lipa Kept Levitating to Become Pop Music's Golden Girl

Dua Lipa is nominated for four 2021 Billboard Music Awards, and after a year in which she released Future Nostalgia and strengthened her relationship with Anwar Hadid, things keep going up.

By Ryan Gajewski May 19, 2021 4:00 PMTags
Watch: Dua Lipa's Road to the 2021 Grammys

If you've noticed that Dua Lipa is among the few individuals to somehow have found a way to thrive amid the pandemic, you're not alone. 

When comedian John Mulaney visited Jimmy Kimmel Live on Dec. 1, 2020, host Jimmy Kimmel started off their conversation with, "John, I feel like you and Joe Biden and maybe Dua Lipa are the only people who had a good 2020." The comment led to a hearty laugh from the Big Mouth voice actor. (The interview took place before reports surfaced later in December that John had checked into rehab.)

While Dua Lipa might not be leader of the free world (not yet, anyway), there's no question that over the past 12 months, her career has kept, well, levitating. The pop superstar, who picked up the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album earlier this year, heads into the 2021 Billboard Music Awards ceremony with four nominations, including such coveted prizes as Top Female Artist and Top Hot 100 Artist, not to mention Top Radio Song for "Don't Stop Now."

Certainly, the 25-year-old London-born performer had experienced her share of success before 2020. After all, she won Grammys in both categories she was nominated for in 2019: Best New Artist and Best Dance Recording.

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Success for her 2017 self-titled debut album was a slow build, but it ultimately went platinum in the U.S. and double-platinum in the U.K., with breakthrough single "New Rules" becoming downright ubiquitous.  

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Even with that momentum, there's always fear of the fabled "sophomore slump" following a much-loved debut. Making things even more daunting was the fact that her latest album, Future Nostalgia, was scheduled to drop April 3, 2020 but moved up seven days due to leaks, meaning it was released just weeks after the nation had gone into lockdown with no sign as to what the future might hold.

So, how did she manage to defy the odds and release a universally beloved, disco-focused album that spawned an array of hits including "Don't Stop Now," "Break My Heart" and "Levitating"? (Also, the fact that "Levitating" hasn't yet been used in an airlines commercial proves the world can be a confusing place.)

Dua told Elle magazine for a May 2020 cover story that she considered pushing the album's release date due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the leak solidified that the date was meant to be. After all, she explained that she hoped to "bring you some joy, especially at a time like this."

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She continued, "The way I write my music, I'm always very open, and I allow myself to be vulnerable. And I feel now, more than ever, that it's brought me closer to my listeners. I think it's important to talk about your emotions and to be vulnerable and to show that you're human."

It's not just her professional life soaring to new heights. She's been happily dating model Anwar Hadid since mid-2019, although it might not be overly obvious from the notoriously private couple's social media accounts.

Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

"We'll only show you as much as we want you to see," she said in the February issue of British Vogue. "It's a little bit of give and take, trying to find the right balance of being so excited and being in love, and wanting to share that with the people around me, but at the same time not wanting to put too much out there."

Despite all the glamour, Dua has maintained a loyal fan base, in part because her fans still feel so connected to her. Thankfully, even as her life keeps getting more exciting, she has no plans for that to change.

"I'm so lucky that my hobby is my job," she told CBS This Morning on March 10. "And I get to do all these incredible things. But when I go home, it's very different. I'm just like, I'm just Dua."

Click here for our full coverage of the 2021 Billboard Music Awards, airing Sunday, May 23 on NBC.

(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)