Esquire’s Ed­i­tor MATTHEW BAX­TER-PRIEST on the ever-chang­ing land­scape of to­day’s man


“If I’d have known it was a py­jama party, I’d have dressed ap­pro­pri­ately”

SHE OPENS THE DOOR IN A BATHROBE. I’m a lit­tle taken aback. It’s not nor­mally how you ex­pect an A-list celebrity to greet you. Wear­ing an im­mac­u­lately-cut Hugo Boss suit and my lucky Gom­mi­nos, all of a sud­den, I’m the one feel­ing self­con­scious.

I quickly try to style it out, quip­ping:

“If I’d have known it was a py­jama party, I would have dressed ap­pro­pri­ately.”

She looks at me, laughs, and wel­comes me in.

The ‘she’ in this sce­nario is Rita Ora, the multi award-win­ning Bri­tish singer, and I had ob­vi­ously not read the memo (do we still send those?) and came to her ho­tel room all decked out. Al­though, as Os­car Wilde said: “a man can never be overdressed.” To­day, more than most, I’m cling­ing to that.

In her de­fence, she had just wo­ken up from a jet­lag-in­duced nap and was get­ting ready for her star­ring per­for­mance that night at the Esquire 100 party — an event to cel­e­brate pub­lish­ing one hun­dred is­sues of Esquire Mid­dle East. For weeks af­ter the in­vites first went out we were fend­ing off pro­pos­als (in­de­cent and other­wise) from peo­ple ask­ing to be al­lowed to come to the party and meet her. What peo­ple weren’t aware of was that Ora would also be grac­ing the cover of this newly re­vamped is­sue — Is­sue 101.

Why Rita Ora? Well, be­ing the only men’s mag­a­zine in the re­gion to reach

100 is­sues, I felt it was time for a change. The last time a woman graced our cover — Mad Men’s sassy se­cer­tary Christina Hen­drix — was nearly eight years ago! Since then men have changed, in our tastes, in our at­ti­tudes and, most im­por­tantly, in our un­der­stand­ing of our place in the world. In the priv­i­leged po­si­tion that we have here at Esquire, it is our duty to steer the con­ver­sa­tion and cul­ture to­wards a pos­i­tive and all-in­clu­sive di­rec­tion, one that cel­e­brates the achieve­ments of peo­ple re­gard­less of gen­der.

For Esquire, Rita Ora is a per­fect ex­am­ple of an em­pow­ered woman. Strong, stylish, suc­cess­ful and con­fi­dent, some­one who is re­shap­ing the world around her. That is some­thing well worth cel­e­brat­ing.

De­spite flee­ing Kosovo for Lon­don as a refugee, her sen­sa­tional mu­si­cal tal­ent rock­eted her to world­wide fame by her early twen­ties. How­ever, fol­low­ing a bizarre spat with her record la­bel, her mu­sic ca­reer stalled. So she turned her hand to act­ing (Fifty Shades of Grey, South­paw), TV pre­sent­ing (X-fac­tor, Amer­ica’s Next Top Model) and fash­ion (where she is a reg­u­lar on Fash­ion Week front rows). Each ven­ture, a suc­cess. She is adored by her 13.8 mil­lion In­sta­gram fol­low­ers, ob­sessed over by the tabloid press and is in the midst of a cam­paign to com­pletely re­shape the fu­ture of the mu­sic in­dus­try with the up­com­ing re­lease of her long-awaited se­cond al­bum, Phoenix. As she says in ‘A Su­per­star Aura’

(p104), “Be­ing a woman doesn’t limit me, but we need to be more out­spo­ken about what we have done, and not about what we don’t have.” We couldn’t agree more.

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