SZA capped off an astonishing run of critical acclaim and commercial success by accepting the Woman of the Year award at the 2023 Billboard Women In Music ceremony, taking the stage to accept the trophy from Coi Leray on Wednesday night (Mar. 1).
After Leray called SZA an “amazing soul” and then introduced a pre-recorded congrats from SZA’s “Special” remix pal Lizzo (“You are the real deal! Such a genuine human being,” Lizzo said), SZA took the stage to rapturous applause, and was beaming as she accepted her trophy. After thanking God, her parents, her team and label, SZA revealed that she wanted to keep her acceptance speech as natural as possible.
“I didn’t write anything, but that’s also not who I am,” SZA said. “I’m a very off-the-dome kind of person, and I guess what I wanted to say is like, there’s so many women in this room right now that I respect so deeply. This could have been any of us in this room.”
SZA proceeded to shout out several of the 2023 Women In Music honorees, from Doechii to Lana Del Rey to Latto, and then talked about how appearing ultra-confident is often a misconception projected upon artists. “I used to feel like I didn’t belong,” SZA admitted, “but I realized that the key is to stay open and available for whatever the universe or God wants to do with your life.
“I really just want my life to be more than music,” she continued, “to be more than an artist. I want to serve others, I want to serve people, I want to be open and available for whatever God wants for me, and saying yes to everything that’s scary, to everything that feels like it’s not for you or where you don’t belong, is really the only way where we walk through those doors.”
SZA concluded with a powerful affirmation: “You just have to say yes to the possibility,” she said. “And thank y’all for saying yes to me.”
The Woman of the Year honor arrives during a week in which SZA’s sophomore album, SOS, spends a 10th nonconsecutive week atop the Billboard 200, becoming just the eighth album since 2010 to notch double-digit weeks at No. 1 on the chart. The blockbuster full-length has also spawned SZA’s biggest solo hit to date — “Kill Bill,” which has peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100 chart — and has turned the R&B star into an arena headliner, with her tour in support of SOS kicking off last month.
“It really scares me,” SZA told Billboard during her Woman of the Year interview, when asked what the award means to her. “But I really want to do something with my time in the sun right now. There’s so much I want to do for other people. I need to do something to deserve that in a way that has nothing to do with me, something that’s selfless and uplifts other women, people, period. It makes me feel more responsible than I was before. I feel like I owe everyone so much more than just smiling and getting onstage and waving. Part of it I know is just letting God use me and be myself and letting that be part of the work. But I know that there’s something more that I have to do.”
SZA was previously given the Rulebreaker Award at Billboard Women In Music in 2018. She now joins recent Woman of the Year recipients like Olivia Rodrigo, Cardi B, Billie Eilish and Ariana Grande.