On Wednesday, Rolling Stone released the cover photo of its March “Women Shaping the Future” issue starring SZA, Megan Thee Stallion and Normani. But one of the musicians wasn’t happy with it, evidently. Late in the afternoon, SZA tweeted she wouldn’t do another interview, video or photo shoot for the rest of her life, appending “lol don’t ask.”
It’s still not clear what sparked the singer’s declaration. There’s been a lot of speculation about SZA’s mental health or a potential beef with Rolling Stone. She looks confident and incredibly fit on the cover, shot by British fashion photographer Campbell Addy. The reactions to the photo on social media were mostly jubilant. Sure, they were peppered with some nasty comments from trolls. But that’s par for the course for a woman on the internet in 2020…
In a subsequent tweet, SZA gave a shout-out to Megan Thee Stallion and Normani, writing she was “honored to be apart [sic] of ANYTHING w the two of those BLACK QUEENS.” Both artists promoted the Rolling Stone cover on their respective Instagrams shortly after it dropped, but SZA hasn’t shared the photo on any of her accounts.
Responding to lots of hand-wringing and pleas for new music from fans (SZA is expected to drop a new album this year; her lauded debut, Ctrl, came out nearly three years ago, in 2017), SZA pointed out that, frankly, whatever anxieties and concerns are plaguing her mind are nobody’s business but hers.
Tons of artists throughout history have struggled with the demands of celebrity. It’s the reason so many legends have perished of accidental overdoses over the years. But that didn’t stop some people from dismissing SZA’s transparency as “annoying.”
But SZA’s self-care should be applauded. It takes a lot of strength to guard your own wellbeing — even when you’re not famous. When your cultural relevance and your livelihood partly depends on working the press circuit to stay in the zeitgeist, it’s that much harder to say, “Nope, I’ve gotta make space for me. Sorry.”
Adam Driver asserted the same sort of protective self-care when he stormed out of a radio interview with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. (The host played a clip of the actor singing “Being Alive” in Marriage Story; Driver had been clear with her previously that he really, truly hates listening to himself, so he got up and left!) As I wrote in December, nobody was in Driver’s head when he excused himself from Fresh Air. He could’ve been on the verge of a panic attack for all we know, which would be understandable for anybody promoting three blockbuster films at once. But hey, that’s just speculation.
Similarly, we can’t be sure what prompted SZA’s announcement that she was done with the press unless the star tells us herself. And she’d have to break her embargo to do so, if she didn’t tweet the answer, of course. Fans will probably just have to wait till March 3, to read the issue of Rolling Stone for themselves, excavating the articles within for clues about their queen’s displeasure.
Maybe she’ll sing about it on the forthcoming album… From what SZA has shared since this whole thing, it seems she’s back in the studio, delightfully, with Rugrats playing on a TV in the background. That’s some joyful, creative self-care. We love to see it.