Lana Del Rey Was Not Always Lana Del Rey: A Look at Her Earlier Life

Lana Del Rey

Songstress Lana Del Rey set fans buzzing at the Coachella music festival by debuting her newest single, West Coast, and then immediately releasing it online for fans to listen to the next day. West Coast is the first single from her upcoming album Ultraviolence and it is the first glimpse Lana Del Rey fans are getting into the follow-up to the immensely popular album Born to Die, which was released in 2012. While fans have found themselves entranced by Del Rey’s signature hypnotic, haunting vocals, they may not realize that Del Rey wasn’t always the Del Rey they know now. In fact, the name she uses isn’t even her actual birth name, but it is one of many that the singer has tried out.

Born Elizabeth Grant, Lana Del Rey grew up in Lake Placid, New York. After a stint in boarding school, she moved into New York City to attend college, looking to study metaphysics, and quickly began performing in small venues throughout the city. Lana Del Rey was not the first stage name she tried out. She first went by her nickname, Lizzy Grant. At various points during those early years, she and her band also tried out the name Lizzy Grant and the Phenomena. The name Sparkle Rope Jump Queen also came and went. Under yet another name, May Jailer, she released an album called Sirens in 2006, which featured an entirely acoustic sound, a far cry from the style of the tracks that would eventually become Del Rey’s signature.

With that album not finding success, and after toiling in the club scene, she finally managed to sign a small recording contract and began work on her first album in 2008 back under the name Lizzy Grant. Unfortunately, like many upstart first albums, after it was recorded it never saw the light of day. The independent label producing the record could not afford to fund the actual release of the album, and aside from a  quick run on iTunes, the album was never formally released. Lana Del Rey completists can find the album in its entirety on various websites on the internet, including YouTube.

Many musicians struggle for years before getting their break, and Lana was no exception. She needed a fresh start and chose to reinvent herself. She wanted to reshape her image, and was looking for a new name to go with it. At the time, she had been frequenting Miami and speaking Spanish with many of her friends. The name Lana Del Rey emerged from those conversations. She liked the name because of what it conjured, it reminded her of ocean-side glamour. So the artist as we know her to be was born.

Since making that change, her success has skyrocketed. She managed to record an album, and preemptively released the single Video Games online. The song caught on like wildfire, becoming a viral sensation and racking up over 20 million views on YouTube alone. The rest, as is said, is history. Her songs have been heard both on mainstream radio and in huge films like The Great Gatsby. With another album looming, it seems that Lana Del Rey is here to stay.

Opinion by Alex Warheit

Vogue Interview