After 14 nominations, SZA finally took home her first Grammy earlier this month as a featured artist in Doja Cat‘s “Kiss Me More.” The equally funny and heartwarming acceptance speech between her and Doja just solidified what we knew already: SZA is one of the most relatable and charming artists we’ve seen in a while. The daughter of CNN and AT&T executives, SZA got her start writing for some of your faves before dropping her debut album Ctrl in 2017.
Though music is her area of expertise, there is a lot more to SZA than chart-topping singles. Scroll on to find five things you likely didn’t know about the New Jersey-raised songstress.
1. She was a trained gymnast
In 2013, SZA revealed to Complex that she was a gymnast for 13 years, even earning the title of captain of her team. As a sophomore in high school, the “Good Days” songstress was even ranked number five in the nation.
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Speaking to Nylon in 2017, SZA explained why she eventually quit gymnastics.
“I just started caring about boys and other things. I think, before, I was very compelled by mystery, and I’m motivated by curiosity, and seeing how far things can go.
“I knew I couldn’t go to the Olympics. I knew that if I did go to college, I would have to take it really seriously, but then it wouldn’t be the level of serious that I really want, so it’d be just like taking gymnastics really seriously for leisure. But gymnastics was more than leisure to me. It was like the way I feel about music. I was very connected to it, to the growth.
“Learning new skills, being in the theater that I have in my body. It’s a very cool exercise to freak yourself out and then mind-over-matter yourself. But, once I got distracted with other things, mind over matter became super boring. I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do dumb s**t, let’s find boys.'”
2. The meaning of her name
Born Solána Imani Rowe, SZA’s stage name draws inspiration from her faith. As a practicing Muslim, the 32-year-old took letters from the Supreme Alphabet, which was created by Clarence 13X following his departure from the Nation of Islam.
SZA is actually an acronym from the Supreme Alphabet that technically means Savior Zig-Zag Allah. But she told Complex in the same aforementioned feature that having the S stand for Savior “didn’t sit right” with the songwriter, so she decided it stands for “Sovereign.”
“You have rulers like sovereignty over one’s self and the world around you,” she further explained.
3. She has worked with everyone from Beyoncé to Maroon 5
“I’m like, ‘This ain’t gon’ be nothing because this is just, I’m talking, what am I talking about? I’m talking about drugs and, just, pimp (stuff),'” SZA told the outlet about the song. “I’m just being silly. Like, I’m being silly.”
Looks like being silly paid off.
Another full-circle moment would come in 2017 when the St. Louis-born star penned another memorable single. “What Lovers Do,” which SZA co-wrote and performed alongside Maroon 5, reached No. 9 on the Billboard 100, making it her first top 10 song.
SZA told the Associated Press: “I listened to Maroon 5 since I was in (expletive) middle school. It’s like nuts.
“(Adam Levine) was so nice to me. He’s still so, like, ah, so chill. Like, such a dope human and his whole band is so (expletive) cool.”
4. She faced discrimination following the 9/11 terrorist attacks
SZA has always talked openly about her faith, and in a 2015 interview, she detailed the discrimination she faced in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The Oscar nominee, who was in seventh grade when tragedy struck, said classmates would call her “Arabian nights.”
The incessant bullying, along with other personal issues she was going through with her father, prompted SZA to remove her hijab.
“I was already getting picked on for other reasons and I just couldn’t take another, so I think I just kind of walked away from myself. I just wanted to blend in,” she emphasized.
5. There's only one other profession SZA would quit music for
We hope SZA doesn’t walk away from music anytime soon. But if she does, the Golden Globe nominee already has a plan B lined up. Speaking with Rolling Stone in 2020, SZA disclosed she’d be a marine biologist.
“The first time I decided to study marine biology was probably my sophomore year in college. And I still would quit my job to do that,” the “All the Stars” singer said.
SZA also divulged she nearly submitted her name to be an assistant to renowned wildlife photographer Paul Nicklen.
“I know that the ocean is changing in a rapid, permanent way,” SZA said in the video. “I would take six months off just to do entomology and categorize species in the Galapagos or Madagascar — it’s not even a question.”
It won’t be long until SZA graces our ears with new music. Her long-awaited second studio album, described as “probably my most unisex project yet,” was recorded in Hawaii.