Born on October 21, 1995, in Los Angeles, California as Amala Ratna Zandile Dlamini, Doja Cat has emerged as a dynamic force in the music industry. Growing up primarily in a household with a Jewish-American mother, the multi-talent’s exposure to a diverse range of musical influences laid the groundwork for her unique sound. Initially gaining attention through self-produced tracks on SoundCloud, she blends R&B, pop and hip-hop elements. Her breakout moment came in 2018 with the viral single, “Mooo!” before the 2019 hit, “Say So” propelled her to global stardom.

Beyond music, Dlamini is celebrated for her bold fashion choices and unapologetic self-expression, making her one of her generation’s most influential and dynamic artists. Her parents, Elizabeth Sawyer and Dumisami Dlamini, have played a significant role in their daughter’s range while also providing a foundation for her sense of musical style. Ahead, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about Doja Cat’s parents.

How Did Doja Cat’s Parents Meet?

Doja Cat Parents pictured: Doja Cat
(Axelle/Bauer-Griffin via Getty Images)

Sawyer and Dlamini crossed paths in New York while he was performing in Sarafina! on Broadway, sparking a brief relationship in the 90s according to Rolling Stone. Dumisani moved to the USA from South Africa at the time to pursue acting but ultimately found passion too. Doja and her brother, Raman Dalithndo Dlamini, were born as a result though the family unit ultimately split when their father returned to his home country.

Amala and Raman spent their childhood in the care of Deborah, who brought them from Rye, New York to the Sai Anantam Ashram in Santa Monica, California when Doja was eight. “It was very restraining,” she once said of her time spent there.”My brother liked it. He had a lot of friends. But I didn’t have many friends. For me, it was just like, ‘I can’t eat what I want to eat. I can’t really do kid stuff.’ Like, God forbid you don’t have a scarf on your shoulders.”

On the bright side, jazz icon Alice Coltrane was the community leader, exposing Doja to more creative talent from a young age. “That was incredible for me to be around at such a young age,” the Planet Her hitmaker shared with Billboard. “She would sing, and it was captivating.”

Deborah Elizabeth Sawyer’s Love for Painting Inspired Her Daughter

In a 2020 interview with VladTV, the blonde beauty shared that her mother, Sawyer, also pursued a career in the arts. The family matriarch ignited her daughter’s passion for creativity, enrolling her in various performing arts schools and fostering her involvement in a dance crew, where she engaged in breakdance battles. As an intimate testament to their artistic connection, Doja Cat revealed that she wrote her first song for her mother when she was only eight years old. “I don’t remember how it goes. I mean, I kind of do, and I’m definitely not telling anybody what the lyrics were. I’m, like, kind of ashamed. I don’t know why. It’s too mushy for me,” she told Billboard.

Dlamini also credits Sawyer with putting her on to good music from an early age. “I’m Jewish, my grandma’s Jewish, she’s white, and she was never exposed to music like that until she started meeting people. And then she was like, ‘Wow, like, I really love this,” the 28-year-old explained. “She would play a lot of Erykah Badu, a lot of Fugees, and Jamiroquai and Seal, Earth, Wind & Fire, John Coltrane, a lot of stuff like that.” As fate would have it, Alice Coltrane was actually the community leader of the ashram where she lived in her youth.

Sawyer’s Restraining Order Against Her Son

Not a lot is known about Doja Cat’s parent’s relationship with her older brother, but in early 2024, some harrowing details came to light. People obtained court documents of Sawyer filing for a temporary restraining order against Raman for her and her daughter. The family matriarch alleged that her son was abusive toward them on numerous occasions, making them feel “unsafe and traumatized.” Specifically, Raman was accused of damaging his sister’s belongings and threatening to take Sawyer’s life; both she and Doja have had temporary restraining orders in place since 2017, though they’ve since expired.

Dumisani Dlamini’s Dancing and Acting Skills Landed Him on Broadway

Apart from being one of the world’s biggest pop star’s father, Dlamini is also known for his acting career. His most famous role was in 1992’s Sarafina! with Whoopi Goldberg, although he has 30 years in the entertainment industry under his belt. “I think it will be Celemba in eHostela,” he told GQ South Africa of the role that’s been most honorable for him to play. “When I was given a role in eHostela, I found myself getting to another level of acting. It got to a point where I received my first SAFTA nomination. I said, ‘Thank God that I’m not gonna die without being nominated for an award.” The most recent project you might’ve seen Dlamini in is a 2021 TV series called Reyka, in which he played Bra Yule. On Instagram, Doja’s dad has amassed over 19K followers, advertising himself as a stage and TV actor, MC/host and motivational speaker in his bio.

What Has the Sarafina! Actor Said About Doja Cat?

While they’re not close, the Grammy Award winner has respect for Dlamini’s work. “He’s an incredible dancer and a great actor. But yeah, I don’t know him very well,” she said in a 2019 Radio One D.C. interview. The Broadway performer shot down these claims shortly after to Power Talk, asserting that he and Doja communicate via WhatsApp. The status of their relationship remains unclear in more recent years, with the fashionista telling Rolling Stone in 2021 that it was confusing for her not to have a present father figure.

Childhood friend Gabrielle Hames corroborated this, reflecting on how Doja leaned into denial in her youth. “She would always think her dad was coming, and he didn’t come. She’d say, ‘My dad is gonna come, he lives in Africa, he’s just performing,’ and he wouldn’t come.” In 2023, Dlamini praised his second-born to the press, telling them, “I’m so proud of her for what she has achieved. I’m not surprised, because it’s in the blood.” Though he doesn’t post consistently, the actor also shares photos and videos of Doja Cat on social media, cheering her on from afar.

In May 2024, the recent Coachella headliner appeared to throw shade at her dad online, claiming that his roll as a “deadbeat” parent will be the inspiration for her “next project.” In a since-altered post, she wrote, “Dad, lemme know when/if you need me to re-up your makeup cabinet cuz you a b**ch.” The same caption later declared, “I’m gonna turn you into my next project, and [you’re] gonna have to listen to it for the rest of your God-forsaken life.” However, as Rap-Up reports, Doja Cat’s parents might not have to worry about facing her wrath as she gave one final update around midnight on May 28th: “[Just kidding]. Love you. I was mad,” she apologized.