What’s wrong with this picture (above)? We see SZA, Megan Thee Stallion, and Normani, three brown-skinned, black leather-clad rising queens of the music industry in a photo evoking the height of Vibe magazine’s iconic covers—but this time, for Rolling Stone (shot by Campbell Addy, notably the first black man and only second black person to shoot the cover, by his account). But apparently, singer-songwriter SZA (on the left), feels differently. On Wednesday, the musician tweeted a cryptic message many presumed to be in response to the trifecta cover (which she notably also didn’t promote on her social channels).
Listen...we’ve been there, as has everyone who’s ever been included and tagged in a posted photo they never would’ve approved, even if asked. Granted, Rolling Stone ain’t been beating down our door in recent memory, so we’re not sure we’d have been brave enough to risk offending one of the music industry’s biggest magazines (or the rising star that is Campbell Addy) just because our team presumably didn’t fight for photo approval. (Or—dun-dun-dun—had SZA initially been promised a solo cover?) That said, while she may not have been thrilled with her cover shot, SZA is nevertheless still a big fan of her fellow cover stars, and we’re here for any and all sister-love.
But not everyone was here for SZA’s (presumed) response to her cover...after all, the trouble with a massive fanbase is they can turn on a dime and almost always feel entitled to an artist’s best moods and constant creative output.
Say what you will, but what we’re also not going to do is discredit SZA’s feelings...especially since she’s one of a rising tide of artists who is transparent about the realities of anxiety, depression, and the attendant insecurities that inevitably ensue. And even in the midst of her own angst, she did so again on Wednesday, making it clear that the demons she battles aren’t social media trolls, but those of her own making...and man, oh man, do we relate.
If your thoughts don’t sometimes “hit different,” God bless you and yours. But we’re not going to act like celebs aren’t humans (just like us!), or like SZA is doing anything new or novel. She’s part of a broadening conversation about mental health—one that IG-happy celebs and influencers should be taking a part in normalizing and de-stigmatizing. Trust, it’s a good thing.
So, for those who think SZA should just “stick to singing,” the truth is, she currently seems to, as well. But still, let’s never discount the necessity for transparency about mental health or advocacy for our own self-care. And all that aside, if we can’t talk about our discontent with even petty shit (like Rolling Stone covers), social media isn’t the equal opportunity data dump we all treat it as, no? (Because no one really cares about your 1,537th avocado toast or chicken and waffles with bottomless mimosas, anyway.)