Photo: Will Heath/NBC via Getty Images
  /  01.05.2023

In the latest issue of PEOPLE, SZA opened up about being bullied during her high school years in New Jersey. According to the Top Dawg Ent. artist, her maladroit demeanor had much to do with her unfortunate encounters as a youth:

“I was bullied because I wasn’t quiet and I was awkward at the same time. I wasn’t this tiny sad victim, but I was more so attacked just because it was giving ‘What is wrong with you?’ energy. I always thought, ‘Oh my God. I’ll never have the approval of anyone in life, this must be my defining factor, this must be the bottom line.'”

In reflection, it’s become clear to SZA that she is who she is as a result of those very moments:

“I realized that all the things that made me feel so lame were actually what made me into who I am. It’s like, I didn’t go to prom because I didn’t have any friends and I had no one to go to prom with… It’s so weird that my life turned into [having] a bodyguard while traveling to parties.”

She continued: “All these things, if I had such a fulfilling existence and experience in high school, I would’ve felt validated to the point where I didn’t need to do anymore. [So] I just had to do more, I had to be more because I was like, ‘This s**ty experience can’t be the end of it because if it is, I am cooked.'”

Last month, SZA liberated her long-awaited sophomore LP, SOS, which consists of 23 songs and additional features from Don Toliver, Phoebe Bridgers, Travis Scott, and the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard. The project quickly became one of 2022’s most successful, skyrocketing to the top of the Billboard 200 and crossing the gold-certified mark shortly after its arrival.

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