TDE artist SZA recently released her highly anticipated second album SOS in the fourth quarter of 2022. The album quickly rose in the charts, and she became one of the world’s bestselling recording artists. This success was something she’d never dreamed of but for which her younger self had prepared her.
SZA has had quite the year, ultimately resulting in her presentation at the 65th Grammy Awards and a run at the top of the Billboard 200 chart. However, in a new profile for The New York Times, the “Kill Bill” singer revealed she wasn’t always so sure of her life’s plan.
The 33-year-old star said her journey to stardom began not with a record deal but rather with a failed attempt to earn a degree in marine biology from Delaware State University. Although a college degree was something her parents always anticipated of her, SZA didn’t spend a very long time in school.
“I drank Malibu and smoked weed every day. And slept,” People magazine reports.
Soon after, SZA quit school and moved back to her hometown in New Jersey, where she lied about her age to work as a bartender and occasionally as a dancer at strip clubs in New York and New Jersey. The Grammy winner admits she was “easily working 14 hours a day” before her older sister Panya Rowe found out and informed their mother, Audrey Rowe.
“My sister got my ass. [At the strip club] there was a banner of me with, like, a bottle of Hennessy, next to a pole. It was bad … My sister is a cretin,” SZA said.
No longer considering attending college, SZA was at a loss for purpose and decided to move out to find it. People magazine reports that the haziness and confusion that followed served as SZA’s inspiration to launch her music career, which took off with her debut album Ctrl in 2017.
“When I wouldn’t do the college thing they wanted, my mom kind of insinuated that I had to, like, get out,” she said. “I started staying on people’s couches and vibing aimlessly. That sent me into a crazy depression but also lit a fire under my ass,” she explained.
Audrey admitted to The Times that the arts would not have been her preferred choice for her daughter’s career path, but she now appreciates SZA for defying convention and going against the flow.
“I wish I knew then what I know now about listening to what your child has a passion for, and supporting that, whatever it is. It’s so hard to follow your own dreams,” Audrey said. “So many of us abandon it very young, especially if the people that we respect and love and trust think we could or should be doing something different. I’m so glad that she didn’t listen to me.”
SZA, who shared the Grammy Award for best pop duo/group performance with Doja Cat for “Kiss Me More” in 2022, spoke to People in January about her new album, SOS, and how she’s only recently learned to accept who she truly is, even if that signifies being a “b***h.”
“Right now I’m just entering my era where I am accepting that I might be a b***h, and that’s OK,” she shared. “Not all the time, but I’m not a bubble gum sweetheart and that’s OK. I’m OK with also being the villain, I’m OK with speaking my mind and just being who God designed me to be.”
“I can’t be sad just ’cause I’m not a sweetheart. I feel like I’m multifaceted, I can be really sweet, I can be really vengeful, I can be violent,” she added. “I can be nurturing and all these things.”