Today, Lizzo is one of music’s most-beloved new stars — but two years ago, she was ready to give up on her dream.
“It was a long road,” the 31-year-old twerking rapper-singer-flautist says of her career in the new issue of PEOPLE.
Indeed, Lizzo (real name: Melissa Jefferson) has been hustling to make a name for herself for 10 years.
Born in Detroit and raised in Houston (where she trained to become a classical flautist), Lizzo moved to Minneapolis in 2011 to pursue music. She quickly became a local celebrity in the city’s hip-hop community — and was even a protégée of Minnesota native Prince, performing at Paisley Park and recording with the icon before his death.
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Lizzo’s big break came in 2016, when she signed a major label deal with Atlantic Records. Nearly a year after releasing her acclaimed Coconut Oil EP, Lizzo dropped her rowdy breakup bop "Truth Hurts" in September 2017. But she was devastated by the initial response — or lack thereof.
For all the details on Lizzo’s journey to stardom, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
“The day I released ‘Truth Hurts’ was probably one of the darkest days I’ve had ever in my career. I remember thinking, ‘If I quit music now, nobody would notice. This is my best song ever, and nobody cares,'” Lizzo recalls. “I was like, ‘F— it, I’m done.’ And a lot of people rallied; my producer, my publicist and my family, they were like, ‘Just keep going because this is the darkest before the dawn.'”
Sure enough, nearly two years later, Lizzo — who is on tour promoting her major label debut album, Cuz I Love You — scored her first Top 10 hit with “Truth Hurts,” which currently sits at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. The empowerment anthem garnered renewed attention in April, when it appeared in the Netflix rom-com Someone Great starring Gina Rodriguez.
“Who would have thunk?” Lizzo ponders. “What a moment in a movie can do for an artist is crazy. I had everything else: the hard work, the good music, touring — but then there’s that extra-special magic that nobody really knows what it is that can really change your life.”
Adds the star: “Now the song that made me want to quit is the song that everyone’s falling in love with me for, which is such a testament to journeys: Your darkest day turns into your brightest triumph.”
EVERYBODY GON HAVE SUMN TO SAY BUT I BEEN BUSTIN MY ASS FOR 10 YEARS MAKIN MUSIC.. TOURING-BLOOD SWEAT TEARS.. WHEN I DROPPED TRUTH HURTS I WAS SO DEPRESSED I ALMOST QUIT MUSIC CUZ NO ONE CARED- IDGAF THIS MY TESTIMONY MY HARD WORK PAYIN OFF A REMINDER TO NEVER GIVE UP! THANK U! https://t.co/7JRVDeFHzN— |L I Z Z O| (@lizzo) July 21, 2019
In a Monday tweet, the artist opened up about her journey, tweeting, “EVERYBODY GON HAVE SUMN TO SAY BUT I BEEN BUSTIN MY ASS FOR 10 YEARS MAKIN MUSIC.. TOURING-BLOOD SWEAT TEARS.. WHEN I DROPPED TRUTH HURTS I WAS SO DEPRESSED I ALMOST QUIT MUSIC CUZ NO ONE CARED- IDGAF THIS MY TESTIMONY MY HARD WORK PAYIN OFF A REMINDER TO NEVER GIVE UP! THANK U!”
Despite her overwhelming success, Lizzo still deals with depression, as she revealed on Instagram last month. Over the years, the star has worked on how she manages her health, though.
“I practice self-love. I look in the mirror and say, ‘I love you. You’re beautiful. You can do anything.’ Tell yourself that on your happy days so that you have the strength to tell yourself that on your darker days,” she says of her mental health.
Lizzo adds: “Reaching out to people when you’re depressed is really hard; I would shut myself away from friends and family. So I’ve been working on communicating with the people who love me.”