Amala Ratna Zandile Dlamini was born on October 21, 1995, into an artistic family in the Tarzana neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. Her mother is a Jewish-American painter. Her father, Dumisani Dlamini, is a South African actor, composer, and film producer of Zulu descent best known for starring in the 1992 musical film Sarafina!. According to Doja Cat, she never met her father growing up. Her father has denied this claim, stating that he has a "healthy" relationship with his daughter.
Amala Ratna Zandile Dlamini (born October 21, 1995), known professionally as Doja Cat (/doʊdʒə/), is an American rapper, singer and songwriter. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she began making and releasing music on SoundCloud as a teenager. Her song "So High" caught the attention of Kemosabe and RCA Records, with which she signed a joint record deal at the age of 17, subsequently releasing her debut EP Purrr! in 2014.
Soon after her birth, Dlamini and her mother moved to New York City, where they lived for five years. Her family later moved back to California in Oak Park, where her mother enrolled her in ballet, tap and jazz lessons from the age of five. Her aunt, a singer, gave Dlamini singing lessons to help her get into a performing arts school. Her family then moved near the Sherman Oaks neighborhood of Los Angeles when she was 11 years old, where they lived in an ashram in the mountains of Agoura Hills and practiced Hinduism for four years. It was here that Dlamini wore head-covering scarves and sang bhajans at temple, and American jazz musician Alice Coltrane (under the Sanskrit name Turiyasangitananda) was the swami. She claims that she lacked interest in school from then on, instead taking a liking for dance. While at the ashram she had been dancing the style of Indian classical dance called Bharatanatyam. As she grew older and moved away from the ashram, she moved onto breakdancing classes and joined a professional poplocking troupe with whom she competed in dance battles throughout Los Angeles while still attending high school. She also frequently skipped school to participate in online chatrooms. She eventually dropped out of high school at age 16 while in her junior year.
In August 2014, Doja Cat released her debut EP, Purrr!, described as "spacey, eastern-influenced R&B" by The Fader. "So High" was repackaged and released as her solo commercial debut single prior to the EP's release, and was later featured on the Fox series Empire in the third episode of the show's first season. In mid-2015, Doja Cat signed to OG Maco's label, OGG. Following the signing, in late 2016, Maco and Doja Cat collaborated on the song "Monster", from Maco's 2017 mixtape, Children of The Rage.
In 2018, Doja Cat sparked controversy on social media when her Twitter history revealed the usage of the word "faggot". In a tweet from 2015, she used the word to describe hip hop artists Tyler, the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt. Doja Cat initially defended her past remarks. She stated, "I called a couple people faggots when I was in high school in 2015 does this mean I don't deserve support? I've said faggot roughly like 15 thousand times in my life. Does saying faggot mean you hate gay people? I don't think I hate gay people. Gay is ok." Later that day, Doja Cat issued a series of apologies for her words and has since deleted her tweets. As a result of the controversy, Doja Cat was declared the Milkshake Duck of 2018 by NME.
The song "Need to Know" was released alongside a music video as the first promotional single from Planet Her on June 11, 2021. Doja Cat wrote that it was released in anticipation of the "more important" second single, which was confirmed to be "You Right" with Canadian singer The Weeknd. Doja Cat officially announced the release of Planet Her and revealed its tracklist and album art via social media a few hours before the release of "Need to Know". The album was released to generally positive reviews, and opened at number two on the Billboard 200 where it remained for another two weeks, becoming the first album to spend its first three weeks at number two on the chart since The Pinkprint (2014) by Nicki Minaj in January 2015. Elsewhere, it topped the charts in New Zealand, and landed in the top 5 in countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Norway and Ireland. Doja Cat guest starred as the temporary romantic interest of American rapper and comedian Lil Dicky in season 2 of the TV series Dave, which premiered on June 16, 2021. On September 10, she was announced as a Pepsi ambassador and starred in an advertisement in which she performs a modern reenactment of the song "You're the One That I Want" from the musical film Grease, as part of a campaign celebrating the launch of the Pepsi-Cola Soda Shop. Her first-ever gig as a television presenter, Doja Cat hosted the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards ceremony, where she also performed the songs "Been Like This" and "You Right". She won the awards for Best Collaboration (shared with SZA for "Kiss Me More") and Best Art Direction (shared with Saweetie for "Best Friend"), among nominations for Artist of the Year, Video of the Year and Best Visual Effects. It is the first time in history where a nominee in the Video of the Year category hosted the ceremony in that same year. Doja Cat was praised for her presenting abilities, with Pitchfork noting that she "reinvent[ed] award-show hosting". She was featured on the song "Scoop" from Lil Nas X's debut studio album Montero, which was released on September 17.
In February 2018, Doja Cat released the promotional single "Roll with Us". The following month, she released the single "Go to Town", which was released with an accompanying music video on the same day and would become the lead single from her debut album. "Candy" was released as the album's second single that same month. The track would become a sleeper hit after a "dance challenge" on the video-sharing platform TikTok went viral in late 2019. Consequently, the single charted in countries such as Australia, Canada and the United States, with the latter having the song peak at 86 on the Billboard Hot 100, making this her first solo entry on the chart. On March 30, 2018, her debut studio album Amala was released, including the three singles. She later claimed to have been under the influence of marijuana for most of the production of the album. NPR described the album as a "manifesto of a young woman striving to take ownership of her craft, her image and her sexuality, mixing genres like dancehall, trap, house and R&B with a healthy dose of sass and humor." At the time of its release, the album was largely ignored by critics and failed to chart in any market. The album would later peak at number 138 on the Billboard 200 in late 2019.
In August 2018, Doja Cat uploaded the completely self-produced music video for her song "Mooo!", a novelty song with absurdist lyrics in which she fantasizes about being a cow, on YouTube. The video garnered attention and viral success as a meme. Due to popular demand following the music video's viral success, she released a single version of "Mooo!" later that month. In February 2019, she released the single and accompanying video for "Tia Tamera" featuring Rico Nasty, which preceded the release of a deluxe edition of Amala.
Doja Cat is relatively closemouthed about aspects regarding her personal life, noting in September 2021 that the general public should "not to expect to hear who she’s dating until they’re married". She has not yet formally come out or made a definitive statement about her sexual orientation, but has stated that she "like[s] both. I like dicks and I also like, um, I like people that I can have sex with. You can kind of have sex with anybody, right?" She has also alluded to her queer sexuality in the song "Naked" on which she raps that she "like[s] bananas and peaches". In August 2019, she began dating indie pop musician Jawny, although the pair split up in February 2020. In July 2021, Doja Cat went out on a date in Los Angeles with British singer and rapper Bree Runway and tweeted "I have a girlfriend and I’m going public", yet it is not fully confirmed whether or not this statement was made in jest.
The re-release of the album included three new songs, including "Mooo!" and "Juicy". A remix of "Juicy" featuring Tyga and its accompanying music video were released in August 2019, as the lead single from her second studio album. . Following the release of the remix, the song debuted at number 83 on the Billboard Hot 100, marking Doja Cat's first entry on the chart, and ultimately peaked at number 41. The song would eventually be certified Platinum in the United States. It led to Amala debuting for the first time on the Billboard 200 album chart in August as well.
In October 2019, Doja Cat released "Bottom Bitch", the second single from her second album. This was followed by the release of the single "Rules" alongside the announcement of her second studio album Hot Pink. Hot Pink was released on November 7, 2019 to generally favorable reviews. The album would eventually peak at number 9 on the Billboard 200. She later released the single "Boss Bitch" as part of the soundtrack for the 2020 film Birds of Prey.
In January 2020, "Say So" was sent to radio to become the fourth single off of her album Hot Pink. The song was originally released alongside the album in November 2019, but gained wider popularity through the video-sharing platform TikTok. She performed the song on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in February 2020. The next day, she released the music video for the song, directed by Hannah Lux Davis. The solo version of "Say So" peaked at number five on the Hot 100, becoming her first top-ten single, and was the most streamed song of 2020 by a female artist in the United States. In May 2020, following the release of a remix of "Say So" featuring Nicki Minaj, the single topped the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the first number-one single for both artists. The remix also marked the first female collaboration since "Fancy" by Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX as well as the first ever female rap collaboration to peak atop the chart.
In March 2020, Doja Cat received backlash after saying on Instagram live that COVID-19 was only a "flu" and that she was not scared of it. Later that October, Doja Cat was criticized for participating in Kendall Jenner's Halloween and birthday celebrations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In March 2020, Doja Cat was set to embark on the Hot Pink Tour in support of the album, before it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In May 2020, a 2015 song by Doja Cat titled "Dindu Nuffin" resurfaced. "Dindu Nuffin" is an alt-right term used to ridicule African-American victims of police brutality who claim they are innocent. After apologizing, Doja Cat said that although the song was intended to flip the term's meaning, it was a "bad decision". Doja Cat denied that the song was a response to the death of Sandra Bland, calling the allegation "one of the most awful rumors that I've ever encountered." She took to Instagram to address multiple accusations and past actions after footage began circulating of her on Tinychat in a chat room saying "nigger" to members of the alt-right/incel community. She apologized to those offended and said she should not have been on certain chat room sites, although she maintained that she had never been involved in any racist conversations. Frequent users of the chat room later came forth and revealed that the nature of the chatroom was not specifically racist, also saying that Doja Cat never said anything discriminatory in her conversations.
She was featured on a remix of Canadian singer The Weeknd's single "In Your Eyes" in May 2020, as well as on the single "Shimmy" by rapper Lil Wayne from the deluxe version of his 2020 album Funeral. In June, she was featured on the single "Pussy Talk" by the rap duo City Girls. She released the music video for her single "Like That". She also uploaded the demo song "Unisex Freestyle" to SoundCloud in late June 2020. At the 20th BET Awards, Doja Cat was nominated for two awards, Best Female Hip Hop Artist and Video of the Year.
In June 2020, Doja Cat donated $100,000 to the Justice For Breonna Taylor Fund, in support of Taylor's family.
In August 2020, the song "Freak", which had been on SoundCloud since 2018, was officially released on digital platforms. She won the award for Push Best New Artist at the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards, where she also performed a medley of the songs "Say So" and "Like That". She was credited as a lead artist on the remix for Chloe x Halle's song "Do It", which also featured City Girls and Mulatto, the following month. She was featured alongside Australian singer Sia on the track "Del Mar" from Puerto Rican singer Ozuna's 2020 album Enoc, also released in September. The "Juicy" remix featuring Tyga was nominated for Top R&B Song at the 2020 Billboard Music Awards. Doja Cat was featured on American singer Bebe Rexha's single "Baby, I'm Jealous", the lead single from Rexha's upcoming second studio album, in October 2020. She performed a burlesque-themed medley of "Juicy", "Say So" and "Like That" at the 2020 Billboard Music Awards, inspired by Chicago and Moulin Rouge. That same month, Doja Cat performed both "Baby, I'm Jealous" with Rexha and "Del Mar" with Ozuna on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel Live!, respectively. Doja Cat was featured on the album track "Motive" from Ariana Grande's 2020 album Positions, which peaked at number 32 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming both her highest debut and second-ever top 40 entry.
On December 24, 2020, Doja Cat released a series of videos on her YouTube channel named "Hot Pink Sessions" where she performed three songs twice with two different "looks". On December 31, 2020, Doja Cat performed "Say So", "Like That", and "Juicy" at the annual Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve show.
On January 7, 2021, Doja Cat was featured on the single "Best Friend" by rapper Saweetie, and appeared in the accompanying music video. The following week, Doja Cat appeared alongside Megan Thee Stallion on the remix of "34+35" by Ariana Grande. Following the release of the remix, the song reached a new peak of number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. In early 2021, Doja's song "Streets" became a sleeper hit after live performances of the song went viral on TikTok. TikTok also spawned a viral challenge which uses a mashup of "Streets" and "Put Your Head on My Shoulder" by Paul Anka. This caused the song to enter the Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked at number 16. Doja Cat was nominated for three awards at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards, namely Best New Artist, and her single "Say So" being nominated for Record of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance. In 2021, she was placed on "Time's 100 Next" list, which highlights 100 emerging figures, with her write-up being penned by American recording artist Lil Nas X.
Doja Cat officially revealed the title of her third studio album, Planet Her, in a March 2021 interview with V. On April 10, the song "Kiss Me More" featuring SZA was released alongside a music video as the lead single for the album. It received critical acclaim, and commercial success, spending nineteen consecutive weeks within the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, breaking the record for the most weeks in the top 10 by a female collaboration. The song peaked at number 3 and became Doja Cat's third top 10 hit. Later that month, Doja Cat performed the songs "Best Friend" with Saweetie, "Rules", "Streets" and a solo version of "Kiss Me More" at Triller's inaugural Fight Club event. On April 23, 2021, Doja Cat launched an NFT marketplace titled "Juicy Drops". In May 2021, Doja Cat won the award for Top Female R&B Artist at the 2021 Billboard Music Awards, where she performed "Kiss Me More" with SZA. Later that month, she performed a solo version of the same song in a medley with "Streets" and "Say So" at the 2021 iHeartRadio Music Awards, where she won the award for Best New Pop Artist.
Doja Cat has described life after dropping out of school as "messy", claiming that she slept on the floor and spent "all night and day" browsing the internet, looking for beats and instrumentals from YouTube which she downloaded and used to create her own music. She taught herself to sing, rap and use GarageBand while at home without a job, frequently making music and uploading it to SoundCloud. She got her stage name from one of her cats as well as her favorite strain of marijuana, stating, "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." In late 2012, "So High" became the first permanent upload on her SoundCloud account, and soon caught the attention of Dr. Luke, who signed her to Kemosabe Records, RCA Records and publishing company Prescription Songs when she was aged 17. This deal also came with a temporary artist management partnership with Roc Nation.
In early 2021, Doja Cat bought a home in Beverly Hills, California, for $2.2 million.