Doja Cat’s Transformation Is Turning So Many Heads

Multi-hyphenate Doja Cat has made a name for herself with her unique style and stage presence. Born to creatively artistic parents in California, Doja Cat (whose real name is Amalaratna Zandile Dlamini) moved to New York City for five years before relocating back to the Los Angeles area in her youth (via Dazed).

Doja Cat’s journey of becoming a pop star began when she started dancing at 11 years old and eventually dropped out of high school to pursue music. Her stage name was created out of her love for marijuana and cats, explaining to the outlet that she was “heavily addicted to weed and weed culture, so when I began rapping I thought of the word ‘doja’ and how it sounds like a girl’s name.”

Part of Doja Cat’s appeal is her ability to connect with fans, as Dazed noted. Fans would engage with her through her Instagram Lives, where she’d write songs, freestyle, and play snippets of unreleased tracks. Her video for the viral hit “Mooo!” has garnered over 83 million views on YouTube since its release in 2018 and was created on the photo-sharing platform. “It was a joke between me and my fans,” Doja Cat told Dazed. “We started it on Instagram Live, just me and 60 other people, and we all had fun coming up with puns and metaphors.”

While Doja Cat’s popularity has risen in recent years, it turns out that she’s been in the business longer than most people think.

Doja Cat started making music when she was a teenager

According to The Fader, Doja Cat began making music when she was in her teens, and she was inspired by Rihanna, Amy Winehouse, and others. Like many indie artists, she made music in her bedroom before mustering up the courage to share it with others. “I think I wanted to sing, but I just couldn’t because I was so shy,” Doja Cat told the outlet. “I didn’t really know how to begin that other than like, singing in my room, locking the door, and trying to sing kind of quietly. I knew my mom would want to listen and she would probably bug me about it.”

Eventually Doja Cat uploaded her songs to SoundCloud in 2014 where she gained traction. “I got like two likes but it was the craziest thing ever. I think I cried. It was insane,” she told The Fader. One of the songs she uploaded in 2012 titled “So High” was an immediate hit on the platform and made record executives take notice of her. The song was reissued as an official single a year later and was featured on the hit show Empire during its first season (via IMDb). Shortly after, she signed with RCA records and its imprint Kemosabe Records and recorded songs for her debut EP called Purrr!

Doja Cat became a viral sensation on TikTok

Although Doja Cat was signed in 2014, she did not become a pop sensation overnight. Her first few releases were not well received, as per NPR, but she persisted and waited for her moment. The singer-songwriter’s moment came when her song “Say So” went viral on the social media platform TikTok after a fan created a choreographed video to the chorus of the song (via Insider).

The dance turned into a viral challenge and catapulted the song — and Doja Cat — into a mainstream success. “Say So” earned Doja Cat her first Top 20 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart in March 2020, as per Forbes, and reached number-one in May of that year thanks to a remix featuring Nicki Minaj (via Billboard).

The song’s success wasn’t without any controversy, though, as critics pointed out Dr. Luke’s involvement with Doja Cat. Dr. Luke, who signed Doja Cat to his music imprint, wrote on “Say So” and many tracks on her second album Hot Pink under the pseudonym Tyson Trax (via Variety). He has been accused of sexual assault and abuse by singer Kesha (which he’s repeatedly denied) and has been in a lengthy court battle with her since 2014, according to the outlet. As of this writing, Doja Cat has yet to clarify her relationship with Dr. Luke.

Doja Cat has had her fair share of controversies

Besides her silence on Dr. Luke, Doja Cat has also been called into question for her online behavior. A week after “Say So” hit number-one on the charts, an online forum started a thread on Doja Cat about her being involved in an online chat room, Vulture reported. Users on the thread began circulating videos of Doja Cat allegedly making racist remarks and comments about foot fetishes. Video evidence of her behavior and old songs where she seemed to have supported police brutality quickly became trending topics on Twitter with users calling for her cancellation.

Upon seeing how much controversy the chat room generated, Doja Cat issued an apology on May 25, 2020. “I’m sorry if I hurt you or made you feel in any way upset,” she told fans in an Instagram post (via BBC). “I’ve used public chat rooms to socialize since I was a child.” Doja added that she “shouldn’t have been on some of those chat room sites,” but clarified that she “personally have never been involved in any racist conversations.”

In true Doja Cat fashion, she also hopped on Instagram Live after posting the statement, and discussed the allegations against her. She explained that the narrative of engaging in those activities were incorrect. “I’ve been targeted by [online harassment] and I know it’s controllable,” Doja Cat said. “I’m not perfect. I shouldn’t be doing dumb s**t.”

Doja Cat is still a certified hitmaker

Despite her controversial past, Doja Cat shows no signs of slowing down her reign on the top of the charts. The singer-songwriter’s second studio album Hot Pink — which was released in November 2019 — is still a hit on the charts. Billboard reported in February 2021 that the seventh single from the album titled “Streets” has become Doja Cat’s second Top 20 Hit on the Billboard Hot 100 as a lead artist.

Additionally, she has been featured on other artist’s tracks, including Ariana Grande’s remix for “34 + 35” with Megan Thee Stallion. Music for Doja Cat is about experimentation. “I’ve always wanted to try things. I commend artists, like you, who stick to something. It feels pleasing aesthetically and very driven,” Doja Cat said to SZA in an interview with V Magazine. “For me, I want to try all these things, but I’m starting to learn what I’m falling into is a lot of the house, disco, vintage-y essences—that’s where my heart kind of lies. But I still am doing s**t that I don’t understand. It’s still really fun!”

Doja Cat is proud of her accomplishments

Doja Cat’s enthusiasm for her craft is infectious, and she’s not afraid to say that she’s proud of her accomplishments. She did not feel any added pressure when “Say So” hit number-one on the charts because of how much she liked the song.

“I feel great about ‘Say So.’ I’m glad I like the song. There are songs that I’ve made in the past that I don’t really like that much because it’s more of me finding out what I want to do and it just happened to be released to the public,” Doja Cat explained to V Magazine. “But with “Say So,” I feel great. Thank God. I’m so happy that Nicki was a part of it [Minaj guested on the “Say So” remix] and just seeing it do well makes me happy, cause I’m proud of it.”

But Doja Cat has more goals she wants to accomplish, telling the outlet that she wants to create her own sound. “I can do the kind of stuff that’s pop and simple,” Doja said. “…but my dream is to really get into doing things that feel more experimental and more in that abstract production world.”

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