Lizzo Talks About Her Struggle in College and Why She Once Quit the Flute

Singer, rapper, and actress Lizzo has truly obtained celebrity status. With her chart-topping hits like “Truth Hurts,” “Juice,” and “Good as Hell,” the Detroit-born star is making her mark on stage and on screen, with a recent turn in the Jennifer Lopez film Hustlers.

One of the many reasons fans love this rising star is her aura of self-confidence, though the singer has admitted she hasn’t always been this accepting of herself. Lizzo also revealed that she gave up her beloved flute (nicknamed ‘Sasha’) at one point in her life.

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A long history with Sasha

Lizzo, whose real name is Melissa Viviane Jefferson, was raised in Houston by her Pentecostal, gospel-music-loving family. She connected to the flute at a young age

“I started playing flute in intermediate school… like, fifth and sixth grade. We had a really cool band at Youngblood Intermediate,” she told CBS News with a laugh. “My band director, he would make us play all the songs on the radio, and we would dance… it was like a concert. So, everybody wanted to be in band.”

Lizzo saw that once her classmates were moving on to junior high, they were also moving on from band. “All of a sudden everybody left in, like, middle school, high school. But I stayed in it,” she shared. “You get the stigma, like, band geek or band nerd. And people start to drop out and get other extracurriculars. A lot of people who were in band with me in fifth grade, a lot of the dudes became athletes. They played football.”

The rapper chose to keep her focus on excelling at her instrument. “I remember in the fifth grade, I just wanted to be really good… It’s a very difficult instrument. I became, like, obsessed with being good… I had, like, dreams of being in a symphony.”

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Struggling in college

The “Juice” singer went on to reveal that she had a difficult time adjusting in college. “I think with high school identity and who you are in the world is a little bit more narrow. And I think that you’re at the mercy of your peers more so in high school and what they think of you,” Lizzo noted. “Versus, like, when you’re dumped into a university or you’re dumped into this place with all these people from all over the world, your identity becomes a little bit more broad. And it gets a little harder to find your footing and find yourself… you don’t have those people that you grew up with to lean back on. And I was insecure about that.”

Lizzo shared that being a part of a bigger band where she wasn’t looked at as number one was a challenge. “I had to sit back. And I had to listen to people who I’d never met before. And I had to take orders… It is a community,” she said.

Breaking up with Sasha, then reconciling

The Hustlers actress experienced several life changes in college, including her dream of playing in a symphony shifting to other goals, and eventually deciding to leave school. “I left college. I basically had to choose between flute or this other lifestyle that I was chasing, where I was up super-late with my friends, goin’ to parties, tryin’ to rap at shows, and and then waking up early, gettin’ to the band hall, rehearsing, being on the field, taking math class, which was torture,” Lizzo said.

Her father also fell ill during this time, and her mother had to move in order to make enough money to support the family financially, leaving Lizzo without an emotional support system. “I think I just kind of froze. I left music. I left flute, which was the most embarrassing, most shameful thing that I feel like I could have ever done,” she shared.  “‘Cause flute was my whole life. And I kind of just disappeared… when I gave up on flute and when I stopped talking to my friends, I feel like, that life just vanished.

After a few months of soul searching, Lizzo auditioned for a band she found on Craigslist. Honing her love of singing, she began to gain a self-acceptance and confidence of herself. Lizzo revealed she started incorporating the flute back into her music as a singer, starting with a song dedicated to her father. “I played the flute in honor and tribute to him. And people went crazy…. And it made me feel close to him.”

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Lizzo credits her father for helping her see her talent. “He always told me that the flute was the way. And I always told him that it was not cool,” she said. “It took me so long. When you hide who you are, it makes it harder for people to get to know you and to love you. But as soon as you are unashamed of who you are… as soon as I showed the world all of me, that’s when they started to fall in love with me.”

Thankfully for her fans, Lizzo apparently will not be separating from Sasha anytime soon!