The Untold Truth Of Doja Cat

Doja Cat's journey from niche internet queen to mainstream pop megastar has been something to behold. Take her Coachella trajectory, for instance. For the 2020 event, Doja's name was in the bottom half of the day three lineup, several lines below headliners like Frank Ocean and Philadelphia rapper Lil Uzi Vert. After the festival was canceled in 2020 and again in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers had to reshuffle the roster and find new acts. When Coachella returned in 2022, Doja was billed as the biggest name behind day three headliner Kanye "Ye" West — who later dropped out. During her set, Doja brought out other major artists like Tyga and Rico Nasty for guest spots, performed hits like "Say So" and "Kiss Me More" on an elaborately designed stage, and showcased her ability to seamlessly weave in and out of music genres. "Don't give up, don't quit, believe in yourself," she told the crowd, Billboard recapped.

While it's great to see Doja get the success she dreamed of, the artist hasn't had the smoothest route to the top. Fortunately, her quirky personality and ability to craft catchy tunes helped turn her into one of the hottest stars in the music industry.

This is the untold truth of Doja Cat.

How Doja Cat chose her name

Doja Cat was born Amalaratna "Amala" Dlamini. Her 2018 full-length debut, "Amala," is a reference to her real name. 

So, where does her stage name come from? First thing's first, the Doja part of her moniker is a reference to cannabis. "I 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," she told Dazed in 2018. And as for how she landed on Cat for the second half of the name? "I always loved cats and I grew up having many and I love to adopt a feline aesthetic," she said in Hypebae

Though Doja Cat is a catchy name, she's considered changing it in order to distance herself from the whole weed element. "My image was the pothead hippie girl, and I'm not that," she explained to Rolling Stone. But she's stuck with the name, even though she isn't totally on board with it or the jokes that come with it. As Doja told the publication, she wasn't exactly flattered when "Saturday Night Live" said her name sounds like a Pokémon character.

Doja Cat lived in an ashram as a kid

Doja Cat was born on October 21, 1995 in Tarzana, California, a neighborhood of Los Angeles. Clearly, artistic abilities run in the family: Mom Deborah Sawyer is a painter and graphic designer, and dad Dumisani Dlamini is an actor and dancer who has worked in movies and on Broadway. "I took a little bit of everything from both of them," Doja told Dazed about her parents. However, she said her father was not around much when she was growing up due to his career. "I felt confused, a little bit," Doja said of her father's absence in Rolling Stone. "It's a little strange to see everybody else with their dad, and you didn't even really have one."

As a kid, she moved to New York with her mom and brother, but after some time, they headed back to the West Coast. Per Rolling Stone, they stayed in an ashram in Santa Monica led by Alice Coltrane for a few years before moving into Oak Park, an area just outside of Los Angeles. The ashram era wasn't really young Doja's thing. As she said to Fader, "It was just really, like, constricting for me, even though it was beautiful and there was a lot of nature, I felt like I couldn't be a kid."

She's always been into the performing arts

Literally following in her father's footsteps, Doja Cat became interested in dance at a young age. At the age of five, the future pop star began learning the Indian classical dance Bharatanatyam, according to Billboard.

Doja went on to explore other styles of dance, including ballet, tap, jazz, and breakdancing. "I danced in a crew and competed around Los Angeles in organized underground cypher/battles," she told Dazed. Doja also got into songwriting when she was still in elementary school and discovered early on that she had a natural talent for rapping. "That was the first thing I knew in my heart I could do," she told Rolling Stone. What's more, Doja's aunt, a vocal coach, taught her how to use her instrument. 

Per Rolling Stone, Doja attended and dropped out of performing arts school. Thanks partly to her friend's encouragement, Doja began to make her own music. "I started teaching myself to sing in my room, and would make songs on GarageBand with my desktop computer on the floor on a mattress," she recalled to Dazed.

Doja Cat is the queen of virality

Doja Cat learned from a young age how to promote her personal brand online. As a teen, she remembered devouring YouTube videos and she began to record music at her house with both rapping and singing. After sharing the music with her brother, Doja would take it to the World Wide Web, telling GQ that she'd upload her work on various platforms. Though she was self-conscious about her music, Doja said the positive comments from people online kept her motivated to keep creating.

Her big breakthrough happened in 2018 when she released "Mooo!", a song about being a cow that she, according to Dazed, wrote in just a few hours. "It was a joke between me and my fans," Doja told the outlet. "We started it on Instagram Live, just me and 60 other people, and we all had fun coming up with puns and metaphors."

Doja then landed another viral hit with "Say So." The song took off on TikTok thanks in part to a catchy dance created by Haley Sharpe. "I can't believe it. It's crazy," she said in GQ of the rapid success of the single. In a nod to the viral moment, Doja recreated the TikTok dance and featured Sharpe in the music video.

Comments about her past relationship started drama

When Ash Riser died in 2021, Doja Cat's connection to the producer and musician was called into question. On the "No Jumper" show, co-host Lil House Phone said Riser and Doja dated and alleged she once deleted Riser's hard drive that had a ton of his original music on it. In addition to accusing Doja of using meth in the past, House Phone claimed, "His whole life got derailed, starting from this Doja Cat ... dating her."

Riser's estate denied all these claims. On Riser's official Twitter account run after his death, the account manager tweeted, "Ash's subsequent breakup with Doja did not send him into drug abuse nor did it have an effect on his career. This is defamatory to his life and legacy and needs to be removed." A Twitter user who said they are Riser's mother also denied the claims, writing, "Absolutely not true. I've never even heard of this kid spreading these salacious rumors. He should have more respect for people instead of passing himself off as someone in the know."

In a subsequent episode, House Phone backtracked and maintained his comments were taken entirely out of context by people who don't like Doja. "I was basically just comparing, like, look at how two people who used to be together, look at how their lives can go in different ways," he said. "I wasn't directly relating his death to Doja Cat."

Why Doja Cat said she wanted to leave music

Prior to her performances at the 2022 Coachella festival, Doja Cat was scheduled to take the stage alongside big names like the Foo Fighters and Machine Gun Kelly at the Asuncionico festival in Asunción, Paraguay. Miley Cyrus was also scheduled to perform but as she shared on Instagram, she wouldn't be able to make it after her plane was struck by lightning on the way to the country. Bad weather ultimately canceled the first day of the festival. After Doja posted on Twitter about Brazil, a fan commented that they were upset to not see Doja post any photos or stories about Paraguay. After initially apologizing, more fans started to comment on Doja and the singer finally said, "I'm not sorry," the Los Angeles Times recapped.

Doja temporarily changed her Twitter name to "i quit" and posted, "This s*** ain't for me so I'm out. Y'all take care."

In a previous interview, Doja explained how she sometimes missed the early days in her career when she would create music for the fun of it. "I just mean, make music like, willy nilly, have fun and just jam and make some s***," she told NME. "I haven't done that in maybe five years it feels like," the singer added. Doja realized she now had to perform less glamorous tasks to promote her music. Instead, she felt with much of her time, "I'm doing all this s*** that I don't f***in' wanna do."

Who is Doja Cat dating?

Doja Cat is especially interested in personal relationships. "Being a Libra, I'm romantic and I'm heart eyes all the time," she once told XXL. The singer also confessed she isn't afraid to be R-rated when it comes to talking about her love life, noting that she enjoys getting creatively explicit when writing lyrics. 

Her past romances include a relationship with musical artist Johnny Utah, also called JAWNY. In a 2019 Instagram Live video that was reposted to Reddit, the pop star said that though she wasn't into his song "Honeypie," she was drawn to his style. So, she commented on one of his Instagram posts after some social media flirting, the two started dating. By February of 2020, Doja revealed during another Instagram Live video that she and Utah were broken up, viaPopBuzz.

Following Johnny Utah, Doja has been more secretive about her romantic partners. Take, for example, when a Twitter user reposted an Instagram Live clip where Doja looked shocked when a man off camera called her "babe." Or how about her 2021 Rolling Stone chat where she left readers scratching heads when she said she was and wasn't single ... only for her manager to tell the outlet that she was indeed with someone at the time.

Chat room drama with Doja Cat

Though Doja Cat successfully navigated the internet using social media to help blow up her music career, her behavior online has also sparked controversy. But as The New York Times Magazine noted, those controversies haven't taken her down.

Her early internet antics bubbled back up once Doja Cat became famous. She said her online personality developed after years of taking part in online chats. "People would pick on me and use horrible, horrible language, just the worst, and I just didn't understand why people were so crazy on there," Doja said to Paper. As a result of the cyber bullies, the singer created a unique way to counter attack. "So I became the person who would make offensive jokes and do things sort of out of the box," she said. In 2020, she landed in hot water again when a video of Doja hanging out in a reportedly alt-right chatroom leaked. 

"My friends on Tinychat aren't white supremacists. They love me. I love them. They're loving and that's it!," she said in an Instagram Live, via the Daily Mail. In another video, Doja appeared intoxicated in a chat room feed where she also said, "s*** my d***" before using a racial slur, Vulture recapped. "I shouldn't have been on some of those chat room sites, but I personally have never been involved in any racist conversations. I'm sorry to everyone I offended," she posted on Instagram, via Page Six.

The singer's had some close calls

While vacationing in Mexico in 2020, Doja Cat had a close call while out on the water. She shared on Instagram, "Almost died on a jet ski cuz I had my period and fell in the water and I swear to god b**** the sharks were en route." Even so, she was happy she got a chance to meet actor Meagan Good while she was in Cabo. As for her future with recreational vehicles in the water, Doja said, "f*** jet skis."

Doja had another frightening incident while working. In the video for the song "Best Friend," she is behind the wheel of a car while Saweetie dances on the hood. Though it appears to be a CGI background, the car was actually moving while filming the scene. In an interview for "A Little Late with Lilly Singh," Saweetie revealed that performing her own stunts almost backfired. "Doja was driving. I actually fell off the car," the rapper said. "Yeah, she almost killed me," Saweetie added, while admitting she didn't wear a harness for the stunt because "YOLO."

Doja Cat's connection to Dr. Luke

Music producer Lukasz Sebastian Gottwald, who goes by Dr. Luke, has been behind the scenes for some of the biggest hits in pop music, including smashes like "Party in the USA" by Miley Cyrus and "Since U Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson. Though clearly gifted at crafting songs, Gottwald developed a bad reputation in the industry. A number of artists spoke out against Dr. Luke's alleged behavior, the most famous case being Kesha, who accused Gottwald of abuse. A lengthy legal battle began, and in the wake of the "Free Kesha" movement, many wondered if Gottwald's time in the industry was fading.

Except he began using pseudonyms as a producer. As Variety noted, Gottwald is credited on Doja Cat's songs "Say So" and "Juicy" under the name Tyson Trax. Gottwald and Doja actually go back to 2013 when she signed a deal with both RCA Records and Dr. Luke's label Kemosabe Records. 

A representative for Gottwald told Rolling Stone, "Luke is very proud of Amala and the work they have done together." When asked about teaming up with the disgraced producer, Doja said, "I think it was definitely nice of me to work with him." What's more, while he did play a part in some of her biggest hits, she also felt some of his involvement was minimal. Either way, Doja declared that she was likely done with Dr. Luke. "I don't think I need to work with him in the future. I know that," she said.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Doja Cat's online drama with other artists

Doja Cat's online interactions with other artists have made waves. In 2015, she once used a homophobic slur aimed at rappers Tyler, the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt. Per Pop Crave, Doja originally defended herself by saying that she wrote the tweets in high school, had used the slur a bunch of times before, but is not homophobic. "I don't think I hate gay people. Gay is ok," she concluded in the since deleted post. She posted and subsequently deleted a second apology before issuing a third that said she regretted using the derogatory terms.

Later, Doja found herself in an online battle with the Barbz, aka fans of Nicki Minaj. Sticking up for her own fans against Minaj's fanbase, Doja called Barbz "scum," Vulture recapped. This sparked the "#DojaCatIsOverParty" hashtag. However, there seemed to be no bad blood when they teamed up for the remix of "Say So," which reached the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100

Around that same time, Lana Del Rey took to Instagram to share her thoughts on her place in the music industry. In a since deleted post (via The Hollywood Reporter), she mentioned several female artists, including Doja Cat, who, as she put it, "have had number ones with songs about being sexy, wearing no clothes." Per NME, Doja replied, "gang sunk that dunker." According to BuzzFeed, Del Rey clarified that she harbors no ill will, writing, "I f***ing love these singers and know them. That is why I mentioned them."

How fame affects Doja Cat

Like so many mega famous public personalities, Doja Cat needs her down time out of the spotlight. According to Rolling Stone, she's an introvert who doesn't necessarily enjoy the interview process. "[But] if you just want to chill out and just, like, f***in' vibe all day, and then you have to get out of bed to go somewhere and have people ask you questions that you've been asked, it's a little exhausting." she told the outlet. In a since deleted post on Twitter, Doja admitted to feeling run down. "im not happy ... i wanna be alone," she wrote, via The Shade Room.

"I really hesitated on posting that in the first place, because I don't really need people feeling bad for me and s*** 'cause I'm really fine," she said of her tweets in Rolling Stone. Doja didn't regret venting but conceded that perhaps Twitter wasn't the ideal outlet, especially for the concern it caused her fans.

Even things that Doja once loved turned out to be more difficult with fame. For example, she is especially fond of fashion. Doja told Enfnts Terribles that she is inspired by many different eras and regions when it comes to getting dressed up. Yet, getting dressed up for photoshoots and what have you isn't always her idea of a good time. "I don't wanna take f***ing pictures ... I feel pressured to do s*** like that," she said in Rolling Stone.

Doja Cat quit weed once and for all

Doja Cat's first big song to gain attention was the 2014 track "So High." In line with her stage name, which refers to marijuana, the song lyrics talk about using weed and other drugs, per Genius. "I was smoking a lot of weed when I did the EP where 'So High' is on," Doja said in Enfnts Terribles. She went on to share that she cut weed out entirely around that time, and it's a lifestyle change that, in her opinion, has helped her become a stronger songwriter. 

"The only challenge I ever had was addiction," Doja once said to Billboard. Fortunately, she was able to cut back on her weed smoking as she became more famous. In a 2019 interview with Hypebae, the singer said she hadn't smoked pot in two years.  

Eventually, Doja switched to a tobacco vape. "I don't crave many things other than this stupid thing," she told Rolling Stone in 2021 about her smoking device. "That's pretty much it. Chocolate, sex, and vape."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

The philanthropic side of Doja Cat

Known for her eclectic personal style, Doja Cat teamed up with the clothing resale platform Depop to help others in January 2020. "I'm selling some clothes on Depop and donating my proceeds to a charity working to end sex trafficking," she posted on Instagram. Doja also teamed up with the similar site Poshmark and put 13 of her own items up for sale. This time, all proceeds went to the Musicians On Call organization to provide music in healthcare facilities. All items in the collaboration sold out in just an hour, according to Fashion United.

In June 2020, Doja, like many other celebrities who donated during national protests against racial injustice, used her platform and pocketbook for good. She shared on Instagram that she'd pledged $100,000 to the Justice For Breonna Taylor Fund. "I am inviting you all to honor and celebrate her with me by donating whatever you can and signing her petition," Doja said in the post. "We are all in this together and together is the ONLY way to demand change for a better world."

A year later, Doja took part in the Global Citizen Live concert event. In a tweet, she asked her fans to take action and linked to a site where they could find ways to help end the world's hunger crisis.

Here's how much Doja Cat is really worth

Doja Cat hasn't been in the music industry long compared to veteran artists like Beyoncé, but she's wasted no time in establishing herself as a force to be reckoned with. In October 2021, Doja became the rapper with the most monthly listeners on Spotify, according to XXL. In February 2022, seven months after Doja dropped the album "Planet Her," the four lead singles remained in the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. And like Queen Bey before her, she's landed in her very own Pepsi ad. "I remember that iconic Britney and Beyoncé commercial, and it's just crazy that they approached me for this," the singer told Rolling Stone about working with Pepsi. "I feel like it really means something when you are cast for this."

All the brand deals, airplay, and record sales have helped Doja amass an impressive bank account for such a young artist. As of 2022, she's worth an estimated $8 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

With some of this money, she upgraded to some impressive living arrangements. The pop star bought a stunner of a $2.2 million house in Los Angeles in 2021, according to Dirt. The property, which is nestled in the hills of the Beverly Hills Post Office neighborhood, includes a sparkling pool, lots of natural light, and a sprawling primary suite. Needless to say, Doja Cat's well-appointed abode looks nothing short of purr-fect.