Who is SZA? Glastonbury headliner's net worth, beating the bullies, and breast implant fears

SZA performs during the 2024 Dreamville Music Festival at Dorothea Dix Park on April 6 in Raleigh, North Carolina
-Credit: (Image: Astrida Valigorsky/WireImage)

American R 'n' B singer SZA will take to one of the music world's most high-profile stages when she headlines Glastonbury's Pyramid Stage on Sunday, June 30.

The Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter was announced as a headliner - along with Coldplay and Dua Lipa - last March. It came after she played four sold-out shows at the O2 Arena in London.

The 34-year-old has been steadily making a name for herself for more than a decade now. Her music career started in 2011 and she has co-written songs including “Consideration” for Rihanna's 2016 album Anti. Her net worth is now £47million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

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Read on to find out more about SZA.

SZA's real name, early life and experiencing Islamophobia

SZA's real name is Solána Imani Rowe and she was born on November 8, 1989. She grew up in the suburb of Maplewood in New Jersey.

Her father Abdul Mubarak-Rowe and mother, Audrey Rowe, are both media executives and worked for CNN and telecommunications company AT&T. Her mother is a Christian and her father is Muslim, and she has spoken of how she wore a hijab through elementary school and middle school, deciding to remove it after experiencing Islamophobia following the September 11 attacks.

She said: "I stopped covering after 9/11. I was in Middle school, and I regret so much being afraid of what people said about me - that I let somebody dictate how I was.

"On a direct scale, someone threw a brick in my dad’s mosque. And that was very weird. Getting chased home by children at school and getting my hijab snatched is also weird.”

She has spoken of feeling regretful that she "always let somebody dictate" wearing the hijab, saying: “I did start covering again in high school, and then they were like, “What is this? You don’t live your life properly. You’re not really Muslim. Shut up.” I always let somebody dictate how I was."

Start of music career and dropping out of university

SZA's parents spotted her talents from an early age. Mum Audrey told the New York Times:. “She had a voice from very young years" but said she had to talk the future star into going on stage for the middle-school talent show she'd signed up to.

Her parents drilled in her the importance of going to college and SZA was briefly a student of marine biology at Delaware State University but says she spent much of her time there working behind the bar and as a dancer at nearby clubs. She recalled in an interview with the New York Times: "I drank Malibu and smoked weed every day. And slept.”

She dropped out and spent a summer at the Fashion Institute of Technology before her music career took off, interning at Pharrell Williams-founded fashion label Billionaire Boys Club and streetwear brand 10.Deep. At the latter, she had to deliver 10.Deep gear to Top Dawg Entertainment in New York.

A friend was playing some of her mixtapes, and her voice caught the attention of Top Dawg Entertainment co-president Terrence “Punch” Henderson. Although she didn't sign to the label straight away, they kept in touch.

And her mum says now: "It’s so hard to follow your own dreams. 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.”

First music releases and stardom

After dropping out of college, SZA independently released critically acclaimed EPs See.SZA.Run in 2012 and S in 2013. They won her a record deal with Top Dawg Entertainment in 2013, making her the label’s first female artist.

She started out making guest appearances on tracks by other artists, including Jill Scott for Divinity in 2014, going on to co-write and perform on Rihanna's “Consideration” in 2016.

But her rise to fame really began with her signing a joint recording contract with RCA Records and the release of debut studio album Ctrl in 2017 and single Love Galore with Travis Scott. Sophomore album SOS topped the US Billboard 200 for ten weeks, spawning singles including Kill Bill and Used.

She has collaborated across genres with the likes of Doja Cat, Drake, Phoebe Bridgers, Justin Timberlake, Maroon 5 and Lizzo and has received multiple Grammy nominations. In 2023, she was named Billboard’s Woman of the Year.

SZA accepts the "Best R&B Song" award for "Snooze" onstage during the 2024 Grammy Awards
SZA accepts the "Best R&B Song" award for "Snooze" onstage during the 2024 Grammy Awards -Credit:Getty

SZA has become known for her brutally honest lyrics about the rawest of human emotions - including in Kill Bill, in which she fantasises about murdering her ex. But Variety reports that she told the crowd at one concert: "I just want to say that I don’t intend for anyone to go to hell — no one should inspire or aspire to do that. And don’t kill your exes!”

And she doesn't like labels, telling Fader: "People grapple with labelling me as hip-hop, R&B or pop, and it's interesting to me. I'm just making music.

“I listen to Stevie Nicks. I love classical jazz. I love folk. I love rap. I love Modest Mouse. I’m making an album with Tame Impala and Mark Ronson. When you try to label it, you remove the option for it to be limitless. It diminishes the music.”

Plastic surgery and having breast implants removed

SZA has spoken of how she had her breast implants removed over health concerns. On an episode of the “She MD” podcast, she said getting breast implants was not advisable due to her increased risk of breast cancer and excess fibrous tissue.

She said: “They ended up hurting me. I got way too much scar tissue because my breasts are too dense, and I'm not supposed to have breast implants. And I ended up getting extra fibrosis … and I didn't feel good and it was painful. So I took them out, and now they're just my boobs.”

In a May 2023 interview with Elle, she said she underwent a Brazilian butt lift. She had hinted at the cosmetic procedure in the intro to album SOS.

She said: "I treat my butt like a purse. It's just there to enhance whatever else. And that's why I paid for it, because it works all by itself."

However she stressed that her decision wasn't down to the pressures of fame, adding: "I succumbed to my own eyes in the mirror and being like, 'No, I need some more…'"

Drake and other romance rumours

SZA has managed to keep her private life mostly out of the spotlight but is thought to have had a fling with rapper Drake. She was also once engaged to a partner she dated for 11 years, saying only that they were eight years older than her and helped her financially.

In an interview with Zane Low in December 2023, she said: “[I] really only did music to prove a point. When I started making music, it was to my ex-fiancé, because he was paying for everything.

"My food, my clothes, where I lived - and he was eight years my senior, so I was so co-dependent."

She told Hot 97 she wrote the song "Nobody Gets Me" about the mixed emotions she experienced following their split. She said: "This particular song in entirety is a story about my ex-fiancé and how we went through all these arguments, and we broke up.

"And when we first broke up, it was like terrible, and I just felt like I was gonna be doomed to be in hell for the rest of my life because nobody understood me the way he did, and nobody motivated me the way he did."

What does SZA mean and how do you say it?

SZA will play Glastonbury for the first time
SZA will headline Glastonbury for the first time -Credit:PA

SZA's stage name is pronounced “sizza". It comes from a division of Islam’s supreme alphabet, which assigns meanings to letters of the Roman alphabet.

She told InStyle: “It’s an acronym derived from the Supreme Alphabet, if you’re familiar with Wu-Tang and RZA. So each letter stands for a different ideology and theme.

"The S stands for Sovereign or Self, Savior; the Z stands for Zig-Zag-Zig, which is enlightenment and acknowledgement of one’s self; and the A stands for the most high of all [Allah]."

Asked for the strangest pronunciations she has heard, she said: “You name it. Like anything ‘Zah.’ Anything, like ‘Zzzz,’ stopping at the ‘zzz’ or going over it."