SZA stole the show at this year’s Billboard Women in Music ceremony after being named Woman of the Year.
Following a pre-recorded video of fellow singer-songwriter Lizzo congratulating SZA on her success, rapper Coi Leray presented the R&B singer with the award, calling her an “amazing soul.”
And almost immediately, SZA proved her point. Despite her myriad of artistic successes, she noted in her speech, she wants her life to be about more than music.
“I want to serve people,” she said. “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.”
Though she didn’t have a speech prepared – describing herself as a “very off-the-dome kind of person” – she opened up with grace by recognizing the other honorees, including Lana del Rey and Doechii, by saying, “This could have been any of us in this room.”
But as mentioned, SZA has been setting herself apart from the start. The singer first emerged on the popular music scene with her 2017 debut studio album, “Ctrl,” for which she received the Rulebreaker Award at Billboard Women In Music in 2018. However, it was the release of “SOS” that propelled her into a new level of stardom.
Now reaching its 10th nonconsecutive week atop the Billboard 200, “SOS” is just the eighth album since 2010 to top the chart for double-digit weeks. On top of this, SZA’s hit song “Kill Bill” peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
As the first woman signed to Top Dawg Entertainment in 2013, the 33-year-old has firsthand experience saying “yes” to things that are scary. Even receiving the Woman of the Year award — with previous recipients including Olivia Rodrigo, Cardi B, Billie Eilish and Ariana Grande — is scary for her, she told Billboard, because it makes her feel more responsible.
“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.” She continued, “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, who will embark on her first-ever arena tour this spring, has been vocal in the past about her struggles with debilitating anxiety and mental exhaustion. She concluded her speech by urging audience members to say “yes” to new possibilities – even when they feel like they don’t belong.
“And thank y’all,” she added, “for saying ‘yes’ to me.”