Sia proves it’s never too late to be happy and successful, and the only love you need is from yourself
by Brian Moniz
With World Suicide Prevention Day almost here on September 10th, it’s important now, more than ever, to remind young kids out there it’s never too late for you.
It’s an all-too-common story that young people these days who, sadly, commit suicide, do it because they felt like they had nothing to offer the world, had no talents, no worth, and were going nowhere. They were too young, too broken, and too depressed to see any hope. I want to tell a story of a female singer who you might know today. She’s the international mega-star with the giant white bow over her head and wig that covers her face who gave us songs like Chandelier, Elastic Heart, and Cheap Thrills. Sia Furler, a.k.a. Sia, is one of the most successful and famous singers in the world today; despite the fame and fortune, Sia’s rise to fame came through a very dark, painful, depressing journey; one that you might relate to.
Born in Adelaide, Australia, Sia Furler began her career as a singer with very small success. Her first album, OnlySee, was released in 1997, and was a huge flop with no singles released and no global attention. That right there would make most aspiring singers call it quits and find a new career, but Sia kept going forward. In 1997, while traveling in Thailand, her boyfriend was tragically killed in a car accident in London. In 2001, she released her second album, Healing is Difficult, to minimal success with only one single reaching the top 10 charts only in the UK. In 2004, she released her third album, Colour the Small One. Despite also achieving minimal success on the charts, Colour the Small One had a single, Breathe Me, an extremely powerful, dark song about depression, loneliness, and the desire we all share to just be loved by someone else. Breathe Me first came into the spotlight when it was used during the dramatic finale of the hit TV show Six Feet Under. From there, Sia’s career as a singer/songwriter blossomed much bigger than it ever was, but it was still mediocre by celebrity standards.
The lack of huge success mixed with the death of her boyfriend glooming over her head lead to Sia relying on OxyContin, Xanax, and alcohol to get her through the pain each day.
Sia released album after album to mediocre success, but never really sank her teeth into the A-list like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, or Rihanna have. She continued to tour as a solo artist, but admitted she could only go on stage with the assistance of alcohol. She would literally have to be inebriated or else she would be unable to perform. In September of 2010, Sia contemplated killing herself and even wrote a suicide note. Her tour in 2010 had to be canceled due to poor mental and physical health. She reported having numerous panic attacks and was even diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and Graves’ disease. Her mental and physical health were so poor she almost announced her retirement from singing and songwriting altogether. It was at this point that Sia felt she was meant to be a failure and her life and career were over.
Worried she was a failure as a singer, Sia faded into the background and made a career for herself writing songs for other A-listers. Her resume includes, Pretty Hurts by Beyoncé, Diamonds by Rihanna, Loved Me Back to Life by Celine Dion, and she was featured as a guest singer on many other artists’ hits, including David Guetta’s Titanium, and Flo Rida’s Wild Ones. Her passion and talent to write beautiful and powerful songs soon took off and before she knew it, Sia had written more successful songs for other artists than she ever did for herself. Helping other singers garner fame and fortune was the proof she needed to know that she was capable of doing the same for herself. In 2014, she released her sixth studio album, 1000 Forms of Fear, which, with the help of extremely successful singles like Chandelier, Elastic Heart, and Fire Meet Gasoline, finally put Sia on the map. The album debuted at the top of the charts, and before she knew it, Sia songs were everywhere. With a long black-and-white wig covering her face (to help deal with the anxiety of fame and stage fright) and the dancing talents of fourteen-year-old Maddie Ziegler, Sia had become a global phenomenon of success, even earning eight Grammy nominations. She went from barely filling up small venues to selling out 25,000 seat stadiums around the globe. Sia has achieved success most other artists can only dream of and still not come close to, and she did it her way. She stayed true to herself, never sold out who she was, never used her body for “sex appeal” like many female pop-stars do, and never stopped loving herself. She writes songs that may not be the flashiest or the catchiest, but deal with true human feelings that strike nerves in most people and help others deal with their dark times as well as enjoy the good ones.
The lyrics of her songs are just as powerful as the beats or melodies themselves. Here’s a sample-list of hit after hit from her last album, This Is Acting, where almost every song has some theme of growth, accomplishment, and/or overcoming a dark past and becoming stronger because of it.
In Alive, Sia sings about the darkness she lived through over the last decade with lyrics like, “I had a one-way ticket to a place where all the demons go, where the wind don’t change, and nothing in the ground can ever grow. No hope, just lies, and you’re taught to cry in your pillow, but I survived. I’m still breathing, I’m still breathing…I’m alive!”
In her song Bird Set Free, she sings that because of everything she’s been through, she’s that much stronger today, “Now I fly, hit the high notes, I, have a voice, have a voice, hear me roar tonight. You held me down, but I fought back loud! /…/I don’t wanna die, I don’t wanna die! I don’t care if I sing off-key, I find myself in my melodies. I sing for love. I sing for me. I shout it out like a bird set free!”
Reaper is a song where Sia sings directly to the Grim Reaper about how she beat him (knock on wood!), and tells him to “get lost” because she’s happy now and he won’t need to see her again for a while. “You came to take me away, so close I was to heaven’s gates, but no baby, no baby, not today! You tried to drag me down, you followed me like the darkest cloud, but no baby, no baby, not today!”
One of the lighter, more positive songs on the album, One Million Bullets, is about her love life, and how she always dated the wrong person, but that was okay because she knew eventually the right one would come and make her forget about everyone else. “Under the moonlight, weathering your warm embrace. I feel so safe here, babe, you were worth the wait. I picked the wrong kind. Time after time, I, drank from the poison wine /…/but baby you’re alright, yeah baby, I’ve seen the light.”
Unstoppable is about the way Sia sees herself, today — unstoppable! “I put my armor on, show you how strong I am! /…/I’m unstoppable, I’m a Porsche with no brakes. I’m invincible, yeah, I win every single game. I’m so powerful, I don’t need batteries to play. I’m so confident, yeah, I’m unstoppable today!”
Today, thanks to her success, Sia is worth over $20 million, is known around the world, and her mental and physical health is doing better than ever, and all because she never gave up! She never quit, never gave into her feelings of depression and sadness, and never stopped loving herself. Sia is proof that you are never too late to start your life over! Most people think that if you haven’t “made it” or accomplished your goals and achieved your dreams by your early twenties then you never will, and you are a failure. Sia is almost forty-two. She was thirty-eight when her music exploded and made her a huge star. Her life and career are just starting. In a recent interview about her personal life, Sia tears up and admits, “I do spend a lot of time pinching myself, I have to say it’s been pretty amazing. I might cry. It’s been really amazing. The last couple of years have just been, since I’ve made the decision to just take care of my own sanity and serenity and stuff…my life has just improved so much, and I’m honestly surprised that things are working out so well for me.”
Stan Lee, creator of Marvel Comics, didn’t get his first comic book deal until his mid-forties. Colonel Sanders didn’t create his Kentucky Fried Chicken empire until he was in his late sixties, and by his eighties he was a multi-billionaire. Tina Fey struggled as a solo comedian and spent years in the background writing jokes for other comics and Saturday Night Live until she got her big break at thirty-six with her hit show 30 Rock. Vera Wang didn’t become a successful fashion and jewelry designer until she was forty, and that was only after decades of hearing “no” repeatedly. Octavia Spencer is a famous actress who spent her early acting career in tiny, minor roles in over thirty films before finally getting her big break in the 2011 film, The Help, which won her an Oscar at forty-one. Julia Child was thirty-six when she even started to notice her love of cooking, and by fifty she was publishing her own cook-books. J.K. Rowling spent her entire life in the lower-class, drawing sketches and writing short fantasy stories on napkins and journals in coffee shops in the U.K. and didn’t get her first Harry Potter novel published until she was thirty-six. Her success made her a billionaire in her forties! Alan Rickman, who played Snape in the Harry Potter films, didn’t get his first major film role until he was thirty-six. Even Hillary Clinton (71), Donald Trump (70), Bernie Sanders (75), and John McCain (81) were all well-known celebrities, but none of them achieved the type of superstardom they received in the political world until after they all ran for President in their own races, respectively, and all of them were in their seventies when they did it.
The point is you’re never too old to start living your life. There are passions, talents and ideas lurking inside of you that have not even been discovered yet, but you need to give them a chance to; and when you discover them, all of the drama, sadness, and despair being felt now will be a distant memory. To anyone out there who feels lonely, desperate, worthless, or hopeless…just think of Sia, or anyone else mentioned above. These stars were exactly where you are now. Everyone starts at the bottom. Some rise right away, and most others struggle and fail over and over again, but it’s those who stay strong and never forget to love themselves that find the light at the end of the tunnel. I speak for myself when I say, whoever you are, keep your head up, stay strong, and you have a friend in me and everyone else here who love and care about you. I know I can speak for Sia when I say she’d tell you she loves you, too. Keep your chin up and just remember that whether you are in your teens, twenties, or thirties, you haven’t even begun to start your life yet. Don’t lose faith that you will be happy very soon, never forget that you are loved, and the next time you feel the grim reaper breathing down your neck, turn around, look him straight in the eye, and tell him, “No baby, no baby, not today!”
Brian Moniz is a 29-year-old man from San Jose, Calif. He studied filmmaking and writing at San Jose State University from 2010–2013 and got his bachelor’s degree in Radio-TV-Film. Throughout his high school and college years, he worked as a music and movie journalist and critic. Having only recently come out of the closet himself in 2014, Brian enjoys writing about LGBTQ issues. His only regret when it comes to his sexuality is that he didn’t come out sooner. Read more by Brian here.