SZA may be a Grammy winning, Billboard 200 chart-topping artist now, but it was no easy journey getting here.
The star was the subject of a New York Times profile published this week, in which she details her rise to fame — which all started with her short time at Delaware State University, where she was planning to major in marine biology.
“I drank Malibu and smoked weed every day. And slept,” SZA said of her time in college, noting that she soon dropped out and moved back home to her hometown in New Jersey. She then lied about her age so she’d be allowed to bartend and sometimes dance at a number of strip clubs in Jersey and New York City.
However, her older sister Panya Row found out about her job and told their mother, Audrey Rowe, who insisted that SZA leave the family home and figure out what her life’s direction will be.
“When I wouldn’t do the college thing they wanted, my mom kind of insinuated that I had to like, get out,” the 33-year-old singer 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 a–.”
In hindsight, Audrey says that she is grateful that SZA followed her dreams. “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,” she told NYT. “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.”
The singer is fresh off the release of her long-awaited sophomore album, S.O.S., which immediately debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, her first chart-topper. With more than 400 million streams in the U.S. during release week, S.O.S. became the second-largest streaming week for a female artist and third-largest of 2022 among all albums.