Remarkably, singer Lana Del Rey seems to have stayed sober throughout the dramatic ups-and-downs of her music career so far, having begun—and quit—drinking way back when she was in her teens.
In 2010, she released her first album under her given name, Lizzie Grant. But after that record flopped, Grant, now 29, decided to reinvent and repackage herself as the sultry, Nancy Sinatra-style, old-school femme fatale chanteuse we’ve all come to know as Lana Del Rey.
In 2011, she first broke through to the public consciousness with the video for her breakout hit “Video Games.” The resulting hype and her 2011 EP built up immense anticipation for the release of her 2012 “debut” full-length album Born To Die—Del Rey was booked as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live before that record even hit the stands. According to All Music, the record climbed to number two in the U.S. charts and has since gone platinum several times over.
Del Rey’s initial failure at a recording career followed by a meteoric ascent into fame was undoubtedly a whirlwind experience—all the more so for a person with her history of alcohol problems.
“It’s been nine years since my last drink,” she candidly revealed in a 2012 interview with British GQ. Despite having been so young, Del Rey said that she quickly became a daily drinker, and that she almost exclusively drank alone. Many of the songs on Born to Die are about her time spent holed up with alcohol. “When I write about the thing that I’ve lost I feel like I’m writing about alcohol because that was the first love of my life,” she said. “Sure, there have been people, but it’s really alcohol.”
When I write about the thing that I’ve lost I feel like I’m writing about alcohol because that was the first love of my life…-Lana Del Rey
According to NME, Del Rey’s parents initially dealt with her drinking problem by sending her away from her home in New York City to attend a boarding school in Connecticut. That didn’t work, and eventually drugs other than alcohol also became a part of Del Rey’s story. It wasn’t long before she left school and went to rehab. According to the GQ interview, Del Rey eventually began working at an outreach program for addicts and alcoholics, and she continued to do this well into adulthood.
It’s certainly impressive that Del Rey was able to get sober as a teen, stay sober into adulthood and resist the constant temptations that come along with fame and wealth. She has also spoken out with notable honesty about some of the challenges of maintaining sobriety in the spotlight.
In an interview with Canada’s Fashion Magazine in 2013, Del Rey talked about how harsh criticism of her work makes her feel particularly vulnerable to relapse. “I feel like my work’s important, but I don’t always feel like I get respect for it,” she said. “When I feel like people don’t like this music and that the 10 years I spent making what I made was not for a good reason, that makes me want to drink again.”
But even if getting critically panned is a trigger for Del Rey, it seems that she did manage to weather the mixed reviews of her 2014 album Ultraviolence with her sobriety intact. And that alone should earn her plenty of respect.
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